Friday, September 15, 2017

Summertime Gladness

It's been quite a while since my last blog post, and what first started out as guilt for not writing eventually turned into straight up avoiding it. What can I say? In part, I've been a little busy enjoying the heck out of summer in Michigan. But alas, I finally felt it was time to flip the switch back on and start writing, especially after reading an article that gave me the motivation to do so.  I decided it was time to push myself a little harder to get back to writing and I'll get to the reason why in a bit.

First, I want to briefly cover the past couple months. Summer sped by as usual, and I continued my pledge of making a conscious effort to take advantage of having time off, and appreciating every day. I spent a lot of my time exploring different parts of Northern and Western Michigan with family and friends; places like Pentwater, Ludington, Grand Haven, my family's cottage in South Branch. And I've also found fun nearby, trying paddle boarding on Walled Lake and visiting Detroit's Eastern Market. We've also gotten the chance to take trips to the Pittsburgh area, where Jason has family, and I most recently made a trip to Chicago to see old friends and explore the city as if I were a tourist. It's been a blessing to have this time for myself, to travel, to visit with loved ones, to focus on being present in the moment and totally recharge my health.

So...last I left things, we had honored and celebrated the life of our Elle Jay on her anniversary of becoming an angel, and we experienced something extra special that night. After a nice dinner at home we said a few words about her,  released 17 balloons into the sky (1 for each week of my pregnancy) and sat on our front porch, listening to music and enjoying the moment, waiting for the sun to set. Less than a half hour later some dark clouds rolled in and it started to lightly rain, but in the distance there were patches of blue sky and I could see the sun peaking through. We got up from our seats to look up at the sky and sure enough, we saw a rainbow had formed over our house. It was a truly special moment for us. We both felt as if our angel Elle Jay was sending us a sign that she was okay and we'd be okay, too. Little did we know it may have even more meaning than that...
During this time I had been in the middle of my 'official' 28 day detox as part of the holistic program I was apart of. I was eating cleaner than ever and feeling amazing as a result. I had always figured eating clean and wholesome foods would have an impact on how my body looked and how much I weighed, but I didn't realize until I experienced it how much of an impact what you put in your body can have on the way you feel, both physically and mentally as well. All the symptoms that had been ailing me for years had faded away. I had lots of energy, my heartburn and indigestion had almost  completely vanished and in combination with all the exercise I'd been doing, I felt stronger and better than ever! I was feeling great about myself and the choices I made to get me to that point.

Meanwhile...
That month ended up being significant in many ways. Three weeks in to the detox, and a few days after celebrating Elle Jay's anniversary we were overjoyed to find out via an at-home test I was pregnant again! It was the most pleasant news we could have received or expected. Within two weeks though, everything I had been so focused on during the detox started to change. I started feeling a difference in my body while exercising, like I wasn't able to do as much as easily as I had before, and I started to get sick when thinking about eating all the foods I had relied so heavily on during the detox. So much for avoiding gluten and bread!! My diet flipped to bagels and crackers everyday!

Since confirming we were pregnant back in June,  there were many weeks I was feeling disconnected from my writing. If I had to guess why I'd say it could be that my mind felt scattered and all over the place. As many women know and can relate, the first trimester can often feel like a four to six week hangover (without the fun parts of drinking included), and between feeling much less than my ordinary self and trying to cope with all the emotions I was experiencing, it was a lot like living in a fog.
But here I am, marking 17 weeks in my pregnancy today and feeling better and thinking clearer than I have in several weeks (besides those moments of extreme hormonal mood swings ;) ).  17 weeks is also a significant marker for me for obvious reasons. I won't deny that our previous loss has been heavy on my mind the past few days and especially last night. I found myself waking up throughout the night, feeling some discomfort in my abdomen and worry of what could happen, praying for the best, and trying to hold onto something positive. Every day I wake up feeling good I'm thankful and I'm sure that will continue every day I have ahead in this pregnancy. Whenever my thoughts start to wander down worrywart lane, I do my best to stop and change direction, focusing on the positive. And I often remind myself how lucky I am to be experiencing this miraculous process of growing a little person inside me. We have so much to be thankful for and we are so looking forward to holding this baby in our arms, come February!

<3j



Thursday, June 15, 2017

In memory of Elle Jay ~ 6.15.16

Grief is a tricky thing. It often has a mind of its own and works mysteriously, appearing to be more mischievous than anything at times. It can hit you hard and all at once; it can fester just below the surface, close enough to creep up and rear its ugly head in moments you let your guard down; or it can be stuffed down deep, hidden from anyone to see, tucked away in a place almost as though you've locked it up with a key. I thought I was ready to take on this significant day in good stride. But once again grief showed me who's boss. I woke up this morning feeling like a heavy weight had been dropped on my chest. Right over my heart. I literally felt like my heart hurt and I was not ready to get up and start the day. I would never choose to start the day cranky and angry, but I've learned I must accept these feelings and let them wash over me in order to get passed them, and in hopes to find peace once again. Today it's been one year since we lost our baby girl, Elle Jay, and this is the story surrounding her short-lived but largely-loved life. 

My husband Jason and I got married in August of 2015. We both wanted kids and being that he’s a few years older than me, we had a “we’re not getting any younger” mentality about it; so we stopped using forms of birth control the month we were married and decided ‘let’s just see what happens.’ Life got busy, six months flew by, and without making calculated attempts, I found myself “late” and then pregnant, much to my surprise. I really couldn’t believe it at first. I remember thinking I didn’t “feel” pregnant, not that I even knew any specific feelings you’re supposed to have that soon. Not completely trusting the at-home tests, I even made an appointment with my primary doctor to get tested and hear the official words from her that yes, I was pregnant.  
So here I am pregnant, a little bit shocked and very excited, of course, but also nervous of what could happen. I was always trying to keep myself in check until we reached what I called the “safe zone”, also known as the second trimester. I didn’t know as much then how truly common miscarriages are, but I had an inkling that it could happen early on and I wanted to prepare myself for the possibility of it, as if somehow knowing it could happen would it make it less hard if it did happen (which I realize now is so NOT the case).
I started telling immediate family and a couple of my closest friends when I was only about 6 weeks along, knowing I wouldn’t be able to hide it—I’m a horrible liar—plus we were excited! I also made them all swear they wouldn’t tell anyone until I made an announcement, and I knew it was too early for that. By the 9-10 week mark it was becoming harder and harder to keep it a secret though, between morning (all-day, really) sickness, two upcoming bachelorette party trips I’d committed to in Florida and Nashville, and even my quickly-approaching 30th birthday. It was getting difficult to pretend to drink at parties and apparently I wasn’t doing a very good job of disguising it. So usually when it became awkward or obvious that I was totally sober in instances everyone else was drinking, I told those around me the truth and everyone was always so sweet and excited for me.  

By mid-May, I was 3 months in; I’d had 2 ultrasounds that were perfectly normal, and I’d been tested for chromosomal disorders that came back normal as well—which had also allowed us to find out the sex of our baby…a GIRL!! It was finally starting to become more real that this was really happening and I was starting to feel more safe and secure. By this point I had bought the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting and started filling out a pregnancy book, tracking everything happening to me and our growing baby girl.
Once I passed the 14-week mark, I felt it was safe we put out an announcement we were expecting via social media, relieved to finally share the news with extended family and friends.  The news was well received of course, and things were looking up. The morning sickness had subsided once I got into the second trimester and I was feeling like a pretty normal human being again.
Fast forward 3 weeks. Jason and I have a stupid fight one night about something I can’t even remember now, and he leaves for his weekly soccer game; we’re both not in a great place. Something I regret to this day. I went and grabbed crappy Mediterranean food from down the street and met up with an old friend who needed help for a bit. Later that night we worked out our little quarrel and went to bed.

The next morning I’m woken up extra early to abdominal pain and an upset stomach. At first I’m thinking it’s gas cramps and/or something I ate making me sick (like that crappy Mediterranean), so I let my work know I’ll be coming in late and I get back in bed to rest. Every hour that passed that morning, though, the pain became worse and soon I notice a spot of blood when I’m in the bathroom. The blood concerns me but at this point I’m convinced I’m just really sick with some sort of flu or maybe food poisoning. By this point, my husband had already left for work and I’ve tried calling the OBGYN’s office, only to get their machine, because they aren’t open yet. Two hours in, the cramps and pain have continued becoming more intense. The next trip to the bathroom I see a lot more blood and I become immediately alarmed. So I call the emergency number at the office and they page the OBGYN on call. A quick conversation on the phone with him and he tells me not to panic, that this could be normal but I should come in to get checked out, so I set up an appointment. Within the next hour, the pain has gotten so unbearable that I can barely move from the bathroom and I’ve started throwing up on top of it all. I’m pretty much terrified now, sick with worry, and my husband rushes home because I’m not in any shape to drive myself to the doctor.

The whole way to the doctor I'm crippled over in pain, and while stepping into the elevator, I feel a rush of fluid start running down my legs. My husband and I see blood and he runs ahead to the doctor's office to alert them of what’s happening while I slowly make my way there. They rush me into a room and check the baby and tell me she's still alive but I need to go right to the hospital, which is luckily connected to their building. After being wheeled into the delivery wing and poked and prodded by a number of doctors/nurses/attending physicians, I find out all morning the pain I was having were contractions and that the rush of fluid was my water breaking. This meant my body was preparing to go into labor...way too soon. And since my water broke, there was no longer anything protecting our baby, and no way to reverse that. They gave us a few horrible options of how to proceed, none of which I wanted to hear. Since it was a Catholic Hospital, they couldn't do anything to move the process along because that could potentially harm the baby, even though they told me there was no way she could survive outside the womb at this stage.  The only way they could act was if my own health became in danger. She was still alive, but it was only a matter of time. So we waited.  At this point I don’t think I was ready to face the hard facts of what this all meant. It was as if my mind went into cruise control, not ready to let my heart accept we were going to lose her.
They monitored me and our baby closely and checked on us all throughout the night. The last time I remember the nurse coming in to check, our sweet little girl  still had a heartbeat.
Early the next morning I delivered her on my own. Jason called the nurses in, but by the time they cut the cord and got ahold of her she no longer had a heartbeat. We decided to name her Elle Jay, since “LJ” had been her nickname when she was in my belly. The nurses cleaned her up so we could hold her and say our goodbyes. Shortly after they put me under for a D&C procedure to retrieve the placenta. And a bit later a gentleman from a funeral home nearby came in to discuss end of life options and services for Elle Jay. 
Needless to say, it was an awful, traumatic experience. Running back through it now I still can't believe all of that actually happened to us, and that it’s been a whole year since it did.  
In the beginning, I was in shock. I don’t think my brain was ready to process what happened. It felt like it had been an out-of-body experience; it couldn’t have really happened to me. I tried my best to get back to life as usual. To find a new normal. I think I got so focused on moving forward for a while that I was subconsciously trying to block all my feelings out. But, living as if it didn't happen could only keep the pain at bay for so long. Eventually it caught up with me.
And then for some time the pain was unavoidable and overwhelming. At that point I tried to face the grief head on, the best I could and decided I needed to start seeing a counselor. I was lucky to find a lady with a lot of experience with this kind of loss. She helped guide me through the storm of emotions and armed me with tools to better handle the hard days.  I learned it’s okay to feel anger and sadness, to accept how I am feeling on any given day, without having shame for it. And also not to worry about making others uncomfortable by talking or not talking about my loss. I am the one who should take control of the situation and tell others how they can support me or what I need from them. Most of all she helped me learn to communicate better with Jason; to acknowledge Elle Jay with him and find ways to honor or celebrate her. Leading me to be in a much better, stronger place. In fact I'm planning to plant a tree in her memory later this year, so we'll have a place to visit that we can acknowledge and celebrate her. 


As far as wanting another baby, I've been back and forth between trying and not trying to get pregnant again ever since. I know people are always wondering, what’s next, and when. I tried to take a little time off right after, per the doctor's orders, but it's always been hard to avoid trying when I sense there could be some chance--right? And I often get trapped in the endless cycle of trying then waiting and hoping, then being let down when my period arrives. I realized months ago though that getting pregnant and having another baby wouldn’t replace Elle Jay or make up for what happened. And that the important thing is giving myself time to heal from losing her.
Looking on the bright side, this experience has strengthened my marriage and myself. It’s also connected me with a lot of other women who have had similar experiences or losses.  Connecting with others who can relate to what you’ve been through has got to be one of the most powerful ways of making you feel comforted and less alone.

For anyone who’s had a miscarriage or is struggling to get pregnant, I wish there were words of comfort I could give to take away your pain, help you heal faster or make your struggle go away, but I know from first hand experience that there isn’t an easy way, there aren’t always the right words to say and there is no time limit on how long it takes to heal. It breaks my heart to know the pain others like me are feeling, and know that there may not be a way to give everyone a happy ending to their stories.  I feel like saying “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough, and I don’t know what is the right thing to say, especially since we all handle grief, loss and struggle differently.
I guess if there’s anything I could offer someone going through a tough situation tied to pregnancy loss or the struggle to get pregnant it’d be a big hug, a reminder that you are so strong and amazing for enduring everything you have (GIRL POWER!), and to lend an ear for you to share however it is you’re feeling about your situation, good or bad or AWFUL. You are totally allowed to feel however it is you are feeling. Whether that’s frustrated, hopeless, depressed, exhausted, anxiety-ridden, etc. etc. I’ve found for myself that a lot of the time I just need to hear what I’m feeling is normal and justified. Sometimes I need someone to tell me what I went through was awful or traumatic and that I should be angry/mad/sad before I can let myself feel the sadness that’s been lingering there for awhile.  I shouldn’t be looking for validation from others, but it’s something I’m working on.

Every day is different but my faith is strong things will be okay and we'll be able to grow our family some day. Until then, I try to stay focused on living in the present as much as possible. Not worrying about what's to come, and finding peace with what's already past. So today I keep her memory alive by sharing her story. Love you Elle Jay!


If you are reading this and can relate or are feeling that you could benefit from connecting with other women who can relate to what you’re going through or have gone through, I’d love to tell you more about support groups that are out there, and put you in touch with someone that could help. Leave a comment or email me at mcnama65@gmail.com.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Taking Time Off Doesn't Mean Not Working

Lately I've been catching some grief from others, even my husband on occasion, for not having a job. Most people assume since I'm not working I have it so "easy". I'm sure they think I can do what I want, when I want, all day--lay out in the sun, watch TV, read, etc. etc.--and life is a piece of cake. But just cause I'm taking time off work doesn't mean I'm not "working" at all. 
Yes, it may be "easier" in ways since I don't have to get up and go into an office to sit at a desk for 9-12 hours every day any more, dealing with all the stress that comes with the job like my previous position did (putting it that way and I am so thankful I don't!). But I do still have to get up every morning and get things accomplished in order for me to feel like I'm contributing to my adult life, my marriage, and humanity! ;) I still 'go to work' only on chores in my house, errands outside of the house, and most importantly the task of working on and improving myself.  With my health at the focal point of each day, preparing all my meals, exercising, getting outside for some fresh air and taking a few moments to rest and reflect along the way takes up a good amount of the normal work day. I'm not comparing that to someone's full time job and trying to say it's just as hard by any means...MORE POWER to the people that are able to work full-time AND find the time to do all the things I listed to take care of yourself. This is just what is helping me work towards achieving my goals. 
And that's not to say I don't face any challenges; I do.  Every day I'm trying to take advantage of having this time for me and appreciating it by putting it to good use. I'm able to get tasks completed that may have been on a list for weeks or months, try new things (especially cooking, which I love), improve at others, and listen to what my mind/body are telling me it needs. Which could range from going on a walk outside to meeting a good friend for lunch or taking a break to stop, and address those pent up emotions. Some days don't always go to plan, like I talked about in my last post, and some days I have an off day. 
I certainly don't go and lay out at a pool all day. I haven't done that once yet actually. Not on a week day. I don't sleep in or nap every day. I could do these things, but that's not how I choose to spend this time. I get more accomplished the earlier I get up and get moving. The other day someone asked me, have you been working on any projects since you've been off? And my answer is that really the big project I'm working on is me. The most important one of all.But I realized in some ways I've been feeling guilty for that. Especially because I know many others don't necessarily have the opportunity. to do the same. I've been feeling bad for feeling good, and that doesn't seem right. I decided I've got to stop feeling that way. I have to keep the focus on me and my quality of life. This time I'm taking is for me, and it was my decision.  I don't need to worry about what others think of my decision, because it's for me to be concerned with, not them. I'm feeling good about myself, my health and how my life is shaping up, and I shouldn't feel bad about that. The whole point of this was to be a happier healthier me, so that then I can be a better me for others. And to anyone out there wanting or wishing or hoping or praying for your life to get better, this is what I'd tell you. 
YOU are in charge of your life, which means in a lot of ways, you can determine your own destiny. Hoping and praying and wishing for something isn't going to make it happen. Most of the rewarding things in life require putting in hard work, day in and day out.  So if you want your life to get better, look at what would need to change to do so and how you'd go about it. Maybe you don't have the means to stop working or take a nice long break like I am. But I'm sure you could take a few days or a couple weeks vacation to take time for yourself?! Or take some time off or use a weekend to plan out what you'd rather do that will get you towards your goal, like switching jobs or eating better, losing weight, improving a relationship.  There's gotta be something YOU can do or change that will improve your life and make you happier and healthier. Then the rest is easy ;) Set your mind to it and do it. Ain't nothin' to it but to do it, as they say! 
Okay, so maybe it won't be easy, but keep your "why" at the center of all you do, it'll help you stay on track on the hard days and if you keep at it and stay consistent, I promise the way you'll feel will reward you in a way that you won't want to look back.  We all have this one body to get take us through life. Listen to what it needs and take care of it, so you can live your life to the fullest!

And here's an added treat for the day. I recently stumbled upon making a new smoothie recipe that's healthy and well-thy that I love and thought I would share. Although I may not be the first to throw this combo together, I'm naming this concoction of mine the "Sweet Dream Smoothie". Because it will satisfy the sweet tooth and it tastes like a dream :)

Ingredients:

  • Unsweetened (organic) almond milk, chilled, about 8 ounces
  • 1 frozen banana (using one that's frozen is key)
  • Cacao powder, two teaspoons
  • Cashew butter, one tablespoon
  • Raw honey, 1 teaspoon
  • Cinnamon, a pinch or two, deepening on how much you like;
  • Vanilla extract, a small drop or two
Blend these all together and you've got yourself a delightful treat, that doesn't have any added sugar!
Enjoy and have a great rest of your day!


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Breaking Out of Rut-City.

Welp. It's been over two weeks since I've posted. Sorry for being MIA to anyone out there actually following along :) I've been pretty good at making excuses for not sitting down to reflect and write more, like being too busy, too tired or just plain not getting my thoughts organized together enough to make much sense of them. Truth is I have been feeling guilty for not getting an entry written lately but I've found the more I try and force it, the more it just falls flat and I don't get very far writing. So this morning I finally took some time to myself to let everything on my mind surface and put a pen to paper to see where it would go--hoping it would lead me to break out of this rut!

First up, a little houskeeping. To quickly recap the past couple's weeks events...our Denver trip was amazing and action packed! I'll have to do a separate post on that trip alone to provide all the details of where we went and what we saw/did. In short, that is one awesome place! My husband and I enjoyed it so much we talked about moving there someday if we could make it work...or at least entertaining the idea of moving there :-). There's just a very relaxed, friendly vibe that comes from Denver, and even the surrounding areas we visited. More to come on that another time! 
Oh, and if you were wondering how this strict diet went while on vacation, I must admit that I fell off the wagon quite a bit during the trip. I had spoken with my holistic doctor shortly before going and asked about what the main things are that I should really try to avoid if I couldn't avoid everything I'm supposed to and she said to try and stay gluten- and dairy-free. Well I can honestly say I tried  hard and I made the right choices...maybe 80% of the time. But also, I am human and we were on a trip we will probably not get to do again for a long time, so I did indulge at times! That's what vacation is about, right? And I knew as soon as I got back it would be back to eating clean again. I tried not to take it too seriously, so I could really enjoy the time we had there. And while on the subject, the gluten-free pizza at Mellow Mushroom was DEE-licious. Can't wait to start trying more GF alternatives down the road. 

Besides that, I've been keeping busy with all sorts of things and trying to get some sort of routine down for weekdays (since I'm not currently employed). Which sounds like it could be easy, but it's been a bit tricky for me. The past week or so I've been having more angst than usual about getting things done on my to-do list. 
Every day (sometimes the night before) I'll make a list of things I want to get done that day, but I'm finding that some days when I wake up, my body or my heart is pulling me in another direction, wanting to do something else that keeps me from my list. Or while attempting something on my list I run into a bunch of other things around the house that need to get done too and I get distracted from what I started off doing. Soon enough, I'll look at the clock and be surprised to learn how late in the day it is and how little it seems I've been able to get done, even though I hadn't been sitting around. I thought I had been busy that whole time! And just when I think I've got everything about done, a few more things come to mind that need doing. It can seem never-ending! 
I mentioned earlier I'd been good about avoiding sitting down to reflect/write. That had been on my list all week, but I've put everything else ahead of it and justified it by thinking, "it's so nice outside, how can I sit inside, I need to get out there and be active" or "I need to get these other chores/errands/tasks done because they feel like I'll have more to show for myself." Can't it wait until tomorrow? Sure, so it gets put off. But even so, I still felt the guilt creeping up all week, lingering like the feeling you get when you have a project due or a test you need to study for and you can't really enjoy whatever else it is your doing, because you're dreading that less enjoyable task you're obligated to do.
While reflecting on that, I noticed that I tend to do the same thing with my feelings and emotions. If I am upset, sad or mad about something that happens whether it's shaming myself for making a mistake, feeling sad when I hear bad news or am reminded something sad,  I quickly shift the focus to something else and those feelings get stuffed somewhere else. Then I end up carrying around that frustration, hurt or shame and find myself redirecting  it later in a unique situation or worse, at a person I care about that crosses me at the "wrong" time. 
First I know I need to work on not feeling guilting for not getting something done I had planned on or for making a mistake. For me, the rationale I was giving myself for having that shame is when I was working I at least had more 'concrete reasons' for not getting everything done since I had a lot less time and work often left me feeling exhausted. But now that I'm off I do have more energy and I am doing more around the house no doubt but I still don't feel like every day I've done it all. There's always more I could have worked on or prepared for. But life doesn't always go to plan, and things are always going to come up and interfere along the way. Plus, if your heart isn't in something, you probably shouldn't be doing it, or forcing yourself to try to be into it at that moment.

As far as making mistakes goes, that's a bit harder to blow off. It seems we can all often feel ashamed of our flaws or mistakes we make. For me, some of that stems from the fear of disappointing or letting down the ones I love. When you do make a mistake, it's easy to jump to the defense, justifying your actions and shifting the blame to the other person... like, "well I did that because you told me to, or because you made me feel that way, so it was only right that I reacted this way". We do that because it's easier to shift the blame or the shame onto someone else, rather than step up and take it ourselves. It's more difficult to say, "You know what, you're right, I'm sorry, I screwed up and I shouldn't have done that. I'll do better next time." I bet if I took a moment to collect my thoughts before reacting in a situation of conflict, I'd rather take the more difficult route if I knew it would lead to a better outcome afterward. Your significant other, friend or family member can't expect you to be perfect.  Addressing that you are flawed and make mistakes only makes you human. And taking the effort to see how changing your thoughts or actions a bit to avoid the conflict that arose, or reacting differently in the heat of the moment, will greatly benefit you down the road. There's always going to be conflict, but maybe you won't have to keep having the same ones, or you'll learn how to better handle certain ones. 

So remember, you are human and you are flawed. But that's okay because you are also lovable and capable of doing wonderful things. And as long as you are striving to do better next time or being more forgiving of yourself or others, you are heading in the right direction. That's what I'd like to think anyway. :-)

Ciao for now!


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Treat yourself how you want to be treated. Wait. What?!


Treat others how you want to be treated. That's how the old saying goes. We've all heard it before. But what about treating yourself how you want to be treated by others, or as you do treat others...?!
Why is it that we have no problem being kind, understanding and forgiving to our friends and family members but we have a hard time doing the same when it comes to ourselves? At least for me, that is the case. I'm the first to offer someone reassurance, support or kindness in an effort to soothe their pain or anger, but yet I'm so much harder on myself in similar situations.
I said early on that I would be open and transparent about my journey and all that comes with it, so in an effort to stay true to that I have to acknowledge some of my weaknesses that are difficult to admit. One of those flaws is I can be my own worst enemy at times. I can pretty much think my way out of an accomplishment or turn a compliment or happy moment into a not so great one, if I don't put a stop to it. I can be critical and judgmental of myself. And as much as I've been saying and thinking that I want to grow, improve, and change for the better, when it comes down to it, it's much easier said than done. That's when the real work comes in.
As part of the program I'm on I chose to try a few sessions with a life coach (as recommended by my doctor to help me work on my inner-self while I work to transform my physical health) and I had my second session recently. So far my life coach, Kimberly, has been helping me set goals, determine how to accomplish them and in the process, helping me face a lot of my fears and inner demons, by taking a good hard look inward. She's pushing me to be honest with myself about what I'm capable of, what kind of person I am and want to be, and what I need out of this life in order to be my best self. And as easy as it is to type all that out, it's a thousand times harder to share some of those truths out loud with another person. She asks the hard questions, like how are you showing up in all aspects of your life? Are you happy with your relationship with yourself and relationships with others? And of course it's easy to say, "Yes, I'm doing well. Things are moving along as they should." Just like it's easy when someone says, "Hey, how are you?" And you reply, "Good! How about you?" almost automatically. But really, what does "good" actually have to say if that's everybody's standard response?
If you asked yourself, are you truly happy with everything in your life, what would be your answer?  Because it seems to me when we take the time to pause, I mean really take a few moments to stop, reflect, and let some of our feelings surface, we may find that some or much of the time we aren't truly happy really, we're mostly just caught in the grind or running through the motions to get by and putting up a front that everything's fine. It's almost as if society conditions us to do so...as if that's the best way to keep up with everyone else. But when you are alone with yourself and your thoughts, is that really the case?
Now I'm not saying that it's wrong to have a positive attitude or keep things cordial for the sake of small talk when you do get asked that question. By all means, you should have a positive attitude and be friendly with others. And I'm not saying when someone asks how you're doing that you should launch in to a long explanation of everything that isn't going well in your life. But maybe we could all ask ourselves the question and take a few moments out of our day to be open and honest with our answer--when theres on pressure to please, and no judgement being passed. If you're anything like me, you may find it hard to admit that some days you really aren't fine and you're really not treating yourself all that well. That can take a real toll on a person when that goes on for an extended period of time. Imagine if there was someone at work or school or in your family that constantly put you down, criticized or undermined you. There's only so much a person can take before it starts to make them upset or rattles them at their core. It has the same impact when it's your own doing.

I don't know why I'm always so afraid to fail or admit I'm scared, damaged, flawed; perhaps because I've been led to believe that would make myself appear weak or broken, leaving me unwanted. Or maybe it's more that I'd be putting my heart out in the open, leaving potential for me to get hurt. But by being vulnerable and taking a risk, I'm finding I have only much bigger, better things to gain. Like strength, confidence, security in myself and my relationships and greatest of all, love. All those things can lead to achieving true happiness. Sure, there are always going to be circumstances we can't control that test us or get in the way, such as other people's actions, who's president ;) and even the weather!! But we can control our own thoughts, feelings and actions. It's not always easy to do so, but it's possible. And by opening our minds to the possibility that we are all humans, who are imperfect and flawed,  we can learn not to be so hard on ourselves.  Creating an environment where people are supporting and routing for one another starts with doing the same for yourself. We can be more forgiving of ourselves and in turn be more accepting of others, who may likely be in the same boat. That way we won't have to be so afraid of what will happen if we slip or fail. And we'll be more likely to take that leap or go out on that limb. Because we'll know there's a safety net out there that will break the fall and help us bounce back up and try again. 

I've had to say things out loud I haven't told anybody before because she's pressed further and dug deeper. But once I acknowledged my truths, I found not only ways to repair myself, but a different more positive way of thinking and treating myself... and I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted. Literally even, the lump I had felt in my chest wasn't there and I could breathe easier. I had let go of the negative thoughts that weigh me down. 
And another awesome thing I noticed after I spent some time tending to my own needs... when you take good care of yourself and find that you're in a good place, you are better armed and able to help and take care of others in your life. 
There's always going to be an excuse or reason for you not to slow down, take a break, or refocus; but if you continue to ignore the needs and desires your mind, body and soul are longing for, you're turning down a chance to grow and reach your full potential.  The down side to that is it could only be so long before the damage being done to your relationship with yourself affects how you're performing at work, school, home, or worse, your relationships with family and friends. 
 Negative thoughts and feelings can consume you or just take up lots of unwanted space.  You'll be amazed at the happiness you can let in and beauty you'll notice around you after you've let go of those weights you're carrying! Boosting your ability to thrive and be a happier healthier human.

On that note...time for me to pack for a long weekend in Denver, CO.  I'm so excited to explore a new place and the adventures to come! I'll try to report back on that next week. 

Have a wonderful LONG holiday weekend everyone! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Make it a Taco Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday--or in this case, Taco Tuesday! Tacos have become a pretty big staple in our house, probably because they are one of my husband's favorite foods (right up there with bacon and skittles), so as often we can, we like to make our Taco Tuesday tradition happen! This past week we took it up a notch.
I've always wanted to try making mango salsa, so with the little extra time on my hands ;), I went for it with a couple recipes I found on Pinterest!  I did two variations. One that included strawberries--yum!    Considering it was my first time cutting a mango and making salsa from scratch, I think they turned out pretty well!

And when we added this salsa to the 'carne asada' (slab of meat) my hubby had marinated and the other fixings, it was a divine combination! Now, I did have to make a couple modifications of my own to stick with my elimination diet, like avoiding cheese, tomatoes and any kind of sour cream, but by turning it into a taco salad on spinach and adding some avocado slices .... it was mighty tasty. There was enough flavor in the flank steak alone to make my mouth water, and I'm not typically much a of a red meat eater!

Here's a few other updates from this past week on what this elimination method has been like:

  • I'm truly enjoying the opportunity to spend more time in the kitchen and try out new recipes. One night I made my new favorite, roasted sweet potatoes, along with trying a new spin on asparagus and also tried a dry rub on chicken that follows my guidelines. My husband fired up the grill to cook the chicken and dinner was ready in no time.  The end result (pictured right) was delish!
While there were a lot of up's this past week, there were also a few challenges I faced.
  • We went to a Tiger's game one evening and the selection of foods I could eat were pretty slim. I knew there wouldn't be anything sold at the concession stands for me but we had been invited into a suite that night so I figured I'd be okay. First things I see are chips, pretzel sticks, hot dogs, quesadillas and mac'n' cheese--not to mention there was a big jar of M&M's--one of my all-time favorite candies-- in front of my face several times throughout the night. Luckily there was also a salad, some cut veggies and fruit, and meat I was able to salvage and add to the salad.   It was SO hard for me not to eat the M&M's though....I had to tell the people around me that it was my goal not to eat them in order to hold myself accountable, and somehow I managed to do it. Phew.
  • Another day while shopping at Target (on a nearly empty stomach) I found myself strolling the snack/chips/sweets aisles. Everything I saw I wanted to eat! It was torture. At one point I even had a bag of chocolate covered cherries in my hands, tempted to buy it. But I knew those had some ingredients, mainly tons of SUGAR, that weren't going to help with what I'm trying to work towards and it would be impossible to avoid them once they were at my house. So I put them down and walked away. Another win for me! 
  •  On short notice, my husband's plans to golf one evening had changed, resulting in him being home for dinner. I had to sit across the table from him and watch him eat thin crust pepperoni pizza that looked delicious, as I begrudgingly ate some leftover salad from lunch. My will power was really being put to the test this week!
  • On top of that, what started out as a gorgeous week turned into a gloomy/grey/rainy weekend and between that and some symptoms I experienced from supplements I started taking, I was feeling pretty crummy. I took it as a sign to slow down a bit and get some rest. Maybe it was my body's way of making me do so, because I even attempted some exercise a couple times and I could just tell it wasn't making me feel well. 
Focusing on the bright side of it all, I was able to resist some major temptation, make a couple new recipes and I remained active throughout the week which all resulted in me feeling good about my decisions and my progress.
These kinds of tests and temptations are going to happen in life on a regular, almost daily basis. Eating out with friends and family, going to sporting events, concerts, parties, etc., and being around people who are not eating the way you do. It's always going to be more challenging to make the healthier choice. I mean if you have a pizza and salad in front of you, isn't a piece of pizza always going to look/sound more appetizing than a salad? Yes. But I had to remind myself again why I'm doing this. If I want to FEEL my best I have to start with doing my best to eat right. And good things come to those who work their asses off and don't give up (not to those who wait, in this case)!

Now get out there and enjoy what's left of your Taco Tuesday ;)




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Kindness. Pass it on.

Yesterday felt like it was meant to be. I couldn't have planned for it to happen that way but there's something about the way things fell into place. It felt like there were special forces on my side, like the stars had aligned for me, and I wish all days were like that. It could have been just an ordinary day, but each positive instance elevated my day to make it an extraordinary one.

Per usual the morning went quickly. I tried to get a couple small things accomplished before I headed out for a belated Mother's Day lunch with my mother-in-law. I needed to pick up my husband's dry cleaning but it was from a place in the same plaza as where we were eating, how convenient! Or so I thought.  For once, I arrive to the restaurant early so I decide to go pick up the dry cleaning I had dropped off for him last week. Mind you it was ready to be picked up the previous Thursday morning and it was now Monday (Oops). Much to my surprise when I arrive at the front door of dry cleaners, the place is deserted, everything inside is GONE and there's a handwritten sign on the door that says:

 'We've moved.....to Belleville'.

First things that go through my mind: Belleville! What the heck! I don't even know where that is but it sounds far! Not to mention the anger and disappointment I'll have to face from my husband if it turns out his nice sport jackets have gone missing. I quickly call the phone number listed, explain my situation and am told our belongings were moved to the new location. I look it up, it's twenty some miles away. Could be worse I guess. I head back to the restaurant to meet my mother in law and we have a really nice lunch together.  Afterward, I decide to do another lap in the parking lot of the plaza since it's so beautiful outside and I'm about to be in the car for an extra hour with the addition of this trip to Belleville. I see an older man approaching the cleaners with his arms full of clothes. When I get close enough I tell him the place is closed/shut down. He looks as baffled as I'm sure I did. "Belleville?" He says. "Forget it, I'm not going out there!" Ha-ha. He asks me a couple questions and we chat for a bit. Turns out this sweet man's name is Joe. He mentions he lost his wife last year and he's really wishing she was still around. His mother-in-law is 94 and has been having some accidents lately that could have led to starting her house in fire if he hadn't been there to prevent it. That and there's just certain things a son-in-law can't help an elder lady with, things his wife would normally be able to do. We talk about how he should get some extra help keeping an eye on his mother-in-law. We exchange names and I try to point him in the direction of the next nearest dry cleaners. Such a sweet man. It warmed my heart to talk to him for a couple minutes and I hoped our chat brought him some good feelings too.
After that it was off to Belleville, where thankfully, they were able to find our belongings unscathed! Perhaps things are looking up today. Next I head to our favorite market for few a groceries. It feels a little strange to be grocery shopping on a week day during normal business hours, but I'm enjoying that it's not quite as busy! Before long, I run into the gentleman who sells/stocks wine there, that my husband and I often see when we're there together on weekends, and we get to chatting, too. Somehow it's alluded that I'm not at work today and I give him a brief synopsis of my situation. He applauds my decision and tells me him and his wife are in a similar situation. She's really unhappy with her job and at the end of the day they're not sure it's worth it for her to keep sticking it out. They have a 6-month old daughter to take care of and I think that has him thinking about the more important things in life. I concur and tell him I'm not putting pressure on myself yet to figure out my next move, just going to take it in stride one day at a time. "Well if you're looking you should come work for me, selling wine. You could work part-time if you wanted. I think you'd like it a lot." Learning about different types, brands and regions of wine and helping people pick kinds they'd like? Sounds like a pretty good gig to me! I tell him I'll have to keep that in mind and I may have to take him up on that offer someday when I'm ready. We wish each other well and I check out.

Next stop, the nearest car wash I can find on my way home. I pull up and tell the young guys working I want the mid-level/cost car wash and I give them a $2 tip. One of the guys eyes light up and he says, "we're going to give you a free upgrade to the top-car wash!" and they proceed to do so. Wow,  another nice surprise!  Is it just my luck today or is it karma? Either way I'm thankful. I went about my business with a positive outlook and I received kindness in return.  If the dry cleaning incident would have happened while I was working, I'm sure I would have been quite pissed off to find I had to go that far out of my way, on top of whatever other stress I was dealing with from work that day. If I wouldn't have decided to get a little extra fresh air, I wouldn't have met that nice man Joe. If I wouldn't have had to go to Belleville and arrived at the market earlier, I may have not run into our wine friend. And  if I would have got a car wash somewhere else along the way at a gas station I wouldn't have got a friendly free upgrade. Obviously I'm alluding to that a number of things could have happened to change the sequence of events of my day, and in fact it didn't go the way I had originally planned, but to my surprise, it was the best way it could have all happened. It was a case of  things happening for a reason that made me think we should worry less about the why and focus more on the how. The how as in, how are you going to react, think and feel if things don't go your way? Are you going to take the news that your dry cleaner moved to a different city badly and drive down the freeway with road rage because your day is spoiled now, or you going to sit back, relax and enjoy the detour and whatever else you may come across while on your way.

I often spend tons time making all these plans in advance and I get frustrated when things don't work out how I thought they were supposed to. But there's so much of life that you can't plan. You can't plan to live in the moment, you just have to start doing it as soon as you can. And if you can go about your day practicing kindness and thankfulness from one moment to the next, you're bound to discover a plethora of positive thoughts, feelings and experiences along the way. There may be a lot of things in life we can't control but choosing to think positively and being present in the moment seems like it would certainly all help us lead happier, less stressful lives. Besides, stressing and worrying about everything never gets me very far; and kindness can be contagious. We are in control of what we do, how we feel and who we surround ourselves with. So my message today is be kind. Be kind to yourself and to those around you. If we each spread even just a little bit of kindness in our lives each day, just think of the effect that could have in our small corner of the world.



<3 Our best attempt. <3