Friday, May 30, 2014

Stay on track this weekend!

Good morning my friends! It's Friday and I'm very happy about that. I've been tied up for the past couple of days working extended hours at work to prepare for a conference that my own college is co-hosting with Central Michigan University. I'm on the planning committee and left the house at 6 a.m. yesterday morning and didn't get home until after 9 p.m. last night. One more day of it today...and then the weekend!  The weather appears to be perfect for the next few days...lots of sunshine and warmth, so hopefully I'll get the rest of the gardens done, and maybe have time for that bike ride that I put off last weekend.  How's everyone doing?

I've added several new members to the group this week. Welcome! I've also received a few messages from you, but have yet to respond due to the extra hours I've put in at work. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to answer your e-mails this weekend, but in the meantime, WELCOME!!!!!

We are heading into the time of year when we tend to receive a lot of invitations to graduation parties, weddings, picnics, etc. Although these can be an occasion for us to stray a bit from our plan, they don’t have to be an excuse to go off track. PLAN AHEAD and be prepared. Remember, you cannot stop living your life just because you are trying to change it and become healthier and happier, but you cannot use a party or special occasion as an excuse to abandon your journey either. If you give in this time, it will be easier to justify the next time.

Meals and snacks will be provided for the participants of my conference today and just because I’m on the planning committee, it is NOT an excuse for me to indulge in the goodies that will be served today. There will be a big pastry table there right next to the Registration Table where I will be working this morning, but I’ve already psyched myself up to face that, and although the sight and smell of those wonderful sweets, I won’t give in…because I’m prepared for the possible temptation.  I’ve already packed a small container of low calorie, sugar-free vinaigrette salad dressing in my bag in case salad is served for lunch, and I have two pieces of fruit and a fiber bar as well….just in case I need a snack or the served lunch is something that is too high in calories.  It just doesn’t make sense to me to work hard all week just to ‘blow it” today just because my colleagues and other conference participants will be indulging…..but that is my strategy; you need to figure out what works for you.

Too many times we go to a party with the good intention of celebrating and enjoying it, “just for today” and then going right back on track on Monday, but all too often, Monday rolls around and there is another excuse that seems just as good.  My strategy is ….don’t go off track to begin with, but rather be prepared. Bring a piece of fruit or some other snack with you; eat before you go; choose lower-calorie options; add a few more minutes to your workout or walk an extra half mile or so to help balance the increased calories you may consume, but whatever you do, don’t let the occasion be a stumbling block.   After all, is it really worth the 300 or more calories just to eat a piece of wedding cake or try Aunt Martha’s dessert?  For me, I don’t think so and I am not one that could settle for one bite. For me, it’s best not to indulge at all. 

 Just remember…’ve likely did the yo-yo dieting for years and it hasn’t worked yet. What makes you think you can eat whatever you want this weekend and go back on track on Monday?  How well has it worked in the past?  My strategy is to go to the party, enjoy the people and the celebration, but not sabotage my own journey in the process. Whatever you decide to do….have fun and enjoy the day!

Be happy today…..rejoice in whatever comes your way… in your ability to succeed….and make wise choices!  Hope you have a peaceful day and a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Planting a garden is so much like my journey

Owww, ohhhh, ugh: These are the words that best describe my vocabulary for the past 12 hours or so, all signs of a wonderfully productive weekend consisting of hard, manual labor of gardening. My body is telling me that I worked it harder in the past three days than I have in a very long time and the stiffness, pain, and achiness will be a reminder all week of what my body is now capable of doing. It is refreshing to be sore for a purpose as opposed to all those years that I was (and still sometimes am) in constant physical pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis, undoubtedly aggravated and compounded by the excess weight. Just like the effects of a new exercise or training routine, this will pass, and hopefully there will be a pay-off in a few weeks when the plants begin to bloom.

God certainly blessed us with perfect weather all weekend: warm and sunny for three days with temperatures hovering around 80 degrees. Absolutely gorgeous and perfect for my gardening projects. I was outside every morning before 6 a.m. and worked well into the late afternoon, but I have five of the gardens almost done, just about all of the plants in, the pond up and running, and am making progress. I still have five more little beds to do next weekend, as well as a lot of clean-up and final touches, but I’m getting there. Of course, then comes the maintenance part. Now I just have to wait for the perennials to bloom and the plants to take root. I kept telling a neighbor who stopped over yesterday that “Just wait, as soon as everything blooms it will be beautiful!” The best is yet to come; and yet, once perennials bloom and display their glory for a few weeks, it’s all over for another year. I shouldn’t be impatient and rush the season because it takes SO long to come back around next year. (Note to self: practice what you preach, Theresa….Enjoy the process! LOL)

One of the things I like best about gardening is that it provides me with an opportunity to escape into my own thoughts; to avoid the normal stressors that often occupy my mind. No matter what I do, however, I am still a deep thinker and can rarely turn off my mind. As I hauled dirt and rocks, dug and planted, pulled weeds, etc…, my thoughts were on our journey to wellness and to become better, more loving and happier people.

As I do each day, I prayed earlier that day that God would “open my eyes and ears to the ways in which He reveals himself to me.” This happens in the day-to-day things that I do, and this weekend was no exception. Planting a garden is so much like our journey and God spoke to me over and over as I escaped into the tasks at hand, surrounded by His glorious creation. Let me elaborate:

One of the first things that must be done when digging a new bed or garden is to have a plan. One of my neighbors offered to go to the recycle place in town to get me compost and dirt and kept asking, “How much do you want; where should I dump it,” etc…?  He became a bit frustrated when I said, “I don’t know yet….I’m not sure how much I need…. I haven’t decided….” These were all true statements, because I honestly didn’t know where the pond would go, what the garden would look like, where I was going to put the vegetables, until I made a plan and changed it multiple times. When I pull the “gardening stuff (wind chimes, shepherd’s hooks, statues, etc…) out of the shed each spring, I have no idea where they will end up each season. Likewise, I bring home flats of flowers and hanging baskets, and I have no idea what pot or garden will become their summer home. It takes rearranging, moving, stepping back and looking, moving again, often many times, before I’m satisfied, and then all summer long I’ll be moving and adjusting as the flowers bloom and spread out.  For three days, the entire yard is full of bags of dirt, rocks, garden tools, plants of all sorts, all kinds of “stuff”, making the place a total mess for a couple of days, but it’s important to have all the tools and things I need in order to create my masterpiece.

Our journey is just like this. Although I started my journey on a whim….no pre-planning involved….just a moment of epiphany at 6 p.m. one night in the middle of the week…. I immediately had to go out and get the “tools” needed to succeed. In my case, it was a calorie counting book and healthy food. As you go about your own journey, or contemplate starting one, either for the first time or AGAIN, you will find it is helpful to have a plan and be prepared. This means getting rid of the junk food, finding a support group or weight loss plan if you so desire, reaching out to others who share your struggles or addictions, speaking to a doctor or counselor about medication or therapy, and stocking your pantry with healthy options to make it easier to make good choices. If you start a new weight loss plan and don’t have these things at hand, or you give up smoking or drinking and still have your vices stashed away in a drawer someplace, then the temptation to eat chips or cookies at 10 p.m. when the munchies happen, or to smoke or drink at the first sign of stress will become a stumbling block. Sometimes you even have to change things up, get new friends, make new habits, or try something new if you find that what you’re doing isn’t working.  Get a plan….get all the stuff and tools you need…..and then get busy.

As I took some of the plants out of the plastic pots, once again, I thought about our journey. Some of them were a bit tattered and showed stress; some had roots that had become ‘pot bound’ and were struggling to be “free”, others had roots that barely held the dirt. Some were dried out and some were loaded with buds. A quick glance at the information label stuck in the pots revealed that each of them had different ideal growing needs. Some needed more space and sun to grow than others; some had the potential to grow tall and lanky while others were short and squatty; some needed to be planted deeper than others and each had their own expected blooming time. Some would need extra support and staking; others would grow strong roots that went deep and would stand up to the hot sun, wind, or weather.

Again, so much like us. Each of us are unique in our requirements to bloom and reach our potential... Some of us, like me, need a lot of personal space and time alone to reflect, pray, and think; others desire to be surrounded by others or live in a house full of people. Some of us need extra “support” and join a weight loss, addiction recovery, or church group to help us be strong when life issues threaten our growth. Others have deep roots and are determined from the get-go to succeed and are able to withstand all that life throws at them. Some reach their potential earlier than others and some require more care than others. In the same way, some of us come “out of the pots” a bit more bruised, tattered, or damaged by the wear-and-tear of life’s hurts and have an uphill battle to reach our potential. Regardless of the individual needs of each plant, and our individual needs to succeed, when we all bloom and blossom together, it will create a masterpiece of breath-taking beauty…..but IT TAKES TIME!

I spent a lot of time this weekend pulling weeds. This will be something that I need to do almost daily throughout the season. Gosh, they grow everywhere and are very difficult to control. It’s amazing how deep their roots are and how easily they grow in even the harshest conditions. Sure, I could have just planted my vegetables and flowers in the midst of them, but in order to give the plants the best chance at survival, not to mention to make the beds look better, I had to get rid of the weeds that would rob the new plants of nutrients and water, crowd out their roots, or threaten to overtake them. Again….just like our journey. Sometimes we have no control over our “garden’ and we are surrounded by “weeds” every day. We may not have the ability to get rid of those “annoyances….that irritating co-worker or neighbor, critical in-law or spouse, or anyone else who frustrates, aggravates, or threatens to sabotage or success,” and we have no choice but to dwell in the same area together, doing our best to grow and blossom. Other times, however, those weeds come in the form of our own thought and attitudes. Things like doubt, despair, hopelessness, unworthiness, and shame can run very deep and be hard to remove. Likely we will have to keep at it EVERY DAY because negativity grows easier than positivity and can stand up to even the harshest elements. Those thoughts and attitudes, however, are the very things that will rob us of what we need to grow.

At the end of the day yesterday, I sat on my swing and just looked at the two gardens that are about done. I told my neighbor, “Just wait until July when it is in full bloom, it will be beautiful!” I immediately followed that with, “Yeah, but I guess it is such a short-lived season, that I should enjoy it at all stages of growth.”  Hmmm…..again…..just like our journey. Certainly, we all want to reach our goal and we think that life will be so much better when we do, but what about the process of getting there?  What about the joy and excitement I will get each day when I go out and see that one of the plants are producing buds or another is just about ready to bloom?  What about the thrill of seeing a battered, bruised up plant that I never expected to grow take root and send off new growth?  What about the ever-changing signs of new life that will be on display each day? 

Sigh…..Thank you, God, for the reminder to enjoy the process of changing my life. We all become impatient at times and would like to wake up ‘at goal,” but what will we miss in the process?  How about the joy of being able to zip up a pair of pants this week that didn’t fit last month?  What about the thrill of seeing the scale drop below 250…or 200….pounds for the first time in years?  What about the victorious feeling of being able to discover that you can do something that you couldn’t do last summer?  Getting to be where we want to be is a long process….and trust me…once you get where you want to be, it is a LOT OF HARD WORK to stay there!  No matter what stage we are at the journey, it takes daily maintenance to keep it looking beautiful. Enjoy the joy and anticipation of each new day.

So… you can see, God continually speaks to me through nature and He will likely continue to use my garden and the world around me to teach me/remind me/reveal Himself to me throughout the summer. Bottom line:  My hard work this past weekend…and in the coming weeks as I tackle the remaining five gardens…are completely in vain without the grace of God. Try as I may, I cannot make a vegetable grow or a flower bloom. It is all dependent on God….His light shining down on the plants; His blessings falling from the heavens in the form of rain to quench the dry soil; His mercy in providing favorable growing conditions. I must cooperate and do my part by making the soil as fertile as possible; pulling weeds, watering, staking, and pruning in order to help my plants reach their fullest potential.  Mostly, I will sit back and marvel in God’s handiwork and be grateful for the beauty that surrounds me.  Likewise… I cannot succeed in my own journey without the Grace of God. Not one single thing about this journey is my own doing; it is only by His mercy and spirit because I am completely powerless, but WITHOUT MY COOPERATION and WILLINGESS to daily work at it….I would not bloom, grow, or succeed. Gardening, like life, is a partnership.  As I’ve said before many times, I believe in miracles. I believe that God can move mountains, but I need to pick up the shovel and start digging!  Are you willing to endure the aches and pains, the time and energy, the hard work to cooperate with God to create a masterpiece in your life that will exceed your wildest dreams?  Are you willing to pick up the shovel and get busy?  I hope so!

Make it a great day today, my friends!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The day is full of possibility

Happy Saturday! I feel like a kid waking up on Christmas (or Eid or Hanukah   or whatever holiday you celebrate) morning. Do you remember that excitement about opening gifts and then looking at all your new toys and not knowing which one you wanted to play with first?  Or the big decision about which of your new school outfits you wanted to wear on the first day of school?  Well, I’m feeling that way today because the 3-day Memorial Day weekend has arrived and I have so MANY things that I am excited about doing today, even though they involve what many typically call WORK.

 Its early Saturday morning, still dark outside, and I can’t decide what I want to do first when daylight appears. The list is endless:  garage saling?  Working on my newly dug pond?  Planting the flats and pots of flowers that have been sitting in the driveway for the past week? Putting air in my bike tires and taking a ride?  Floating on my big raft in my little 3 ½ foot deep pool?  Digging and planting my vegetable garden? Visiting with my aunts, uncles, and cousins who have come up to Pip’s Place for the weekend? Sitting around the campfire? Going fishing or walking or mushroom hunting?
My house is a big mess, but I don’t care. My laundry needs to be done, but I have plenty of clean clothes to wear, so it can wait. I have hundreds of unread e-mails in my in-box, but they’ll still be there later. Today is going to be a BEAUTIFUL, sunny and warm day…..and I have so many fun things to choose from to do today….so LIFE IS VERY GOOD!

This morning I am overwhelmed with such a sense of gratitude. Only a few years ago, I would be dreading the arrival of a holiday weekend. My extended family always comes up to the family cabin to kick off the summer, put the boats in the water, mow grass, etc… Each of them would be feeling the same excitement I do today, but not me. I would be miserable because all I could do was sit in a chair outside and watch everyone else have fun. It was extremely difficult to even get around, pull that big walker out of the car and try to get it to the campfire just so I could visit for a few minutes with my family. I would feel depressed because I couldn’t participate in any of the activities taking place around me. I had very little to talk to my cousins about because my life consisted of nothing but pain, medication, sadness, going to work, eating, going to bed, over and over again every day.

 I’d listen as my cousin told of his son’s baseball game and how great he was playing this year; but I knew that I’d never be able to go to a game to watch him because it would be too hard. I’d listen to my brother and his wife telling me of the great bargains they found at the garage sale down the road, but I knew that I could no longer garage sale because it was just too much work to get in and out of the car, let alone try to use the cane to walk up someone’s drive way. I’d watch as my nieces tried to ride their bikes in the sandy gravel of these up north dirt roads, but I knew that I hadn’t been on a bike in years and I couldn’t’ even walk alongside them. The entire weekend would be depressing because everyone was living life and I was merely existing, trapped in my 400 pound body. What a miserable place to be, but “Theresa doesn’t live there anymore!”  Thank you, GOD!

At that time in my life, I had absolutely no concept that my life could be anything but what it was. I had no comprehension that I would ever be able to be free from the bondage of weight. I had no hope or faith that a day like today was even possible. But, by the grace of God, I have been blessed with this miracle, and here I am, sitting here overwhelmed with a list of what most people would perceive as just plain “work” and I am overjoyed!  I literally don’t know what I want to do first and life is so very good, even though by the end of the weekend, I’ll likely be very stiff and sore from the yard work, sunburned from being outside all weekend, and head back to work exhausted, I will do so with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the blessings that God has bestowed on me.

So, my friends…. I encourage you today…….If you are waking up this day feeling like a spectator in life watching those around you LIVE; if you are feeling trapped in a body that is hindered by weight or addiction; if you are overwhelmed with anxiety, depression, grief, sadness, pain…whatever; if you are feeling hopeless and discouraged, I say to you: You do not have to live there anymore either!  This is not how your story has to end! You cannot always change your circumstances, bring loved ones back from the dead, suddenly double the size of your bank account, or eliminate serious illness….but YOU CAN change  some things about your life, your attitude, and your sense of wellness. 

Are you willing to put forth the effort?  Are you willing to take the necessary steps?  Are you willing to do whatever it takes?  I’m not going to tell you that it is easy because it absolutely is NOT EASY. It’s not easy to watch everyone else eat burgers and potato salad. It’s not easy to watch everyone else drink a cold beer and eat pretzels. It’s not easy to say, “No thanks” when a niece or nephew offers you a s’more or camper pie at a campfire. Even today, at this point in my journey, it won’t be easy to abstain from those things….but, my friends….. I AM TELLING YOU…. It is so absolutely, positively worth it.  The sheer joy and excitement I feel today….. (And seriously about what? Weeding…digging…planting…biking….things most people would consider work)….is SO WORTH IT! 

Allow yourself a few minutes this weekend to ask yourself what you would like next Memorial Day weekend to be like. What would you like to be doing then that you can’t do today?  What would you like your life to look like?  And then….What are you going to do about it?  Make the best of what your life is today…because regardless of your situation or circumstances….each day is a gift. Don’t waste it; cherish it.  Have a beautiful weekend!

Her Weight Loss Diary: Fitspiration Friday: How Theresa Lost 275 Pounds Without Exercise

Her Weight Loss Diary: Fitspiration Friday: How Theresa Lost 275 Pounds Without Exercise

Friday, May 23, 2014

Don't make an excuse!

Signs of spring are finally beginning to appear all around me. The tulips are now in bloom; the birds are building nests; the days are getting longer and warmer; and invitations are beginning to arrive in my mailbox on a regular basis.

I used to think that the period of time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s was the busiest in terms of parties and celebrations, but spring and summer might be even busier. I received three invites this week alone: One for a graduation party; another for a retirement party; and the third for a baby shower. Facebook has been buzzing with pictures of graduations, end of school year picnics and parties, and proms. Wedding season will be here soon and many will be planning summer vacations and camping trips. Memorial Day weekend starts today and some will be going out of town,  attending a parade or cook-out. So many fun things to do….and yet, along with the celebrations comes a challenge: Staying focused and on track while attending a party. 

Sometimes we think that  just because WE are making changes to improve our health and well-being, that the entire world is joining us on our journey. This couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the biggest challenges I faced when I started my journey was the realization that just because  I had made the choice NOT to eat cake, desserts, and special treats, didn’t mean that everyone around me had made the same choice. In fact, unless you are living in some treatment center or diet camp, it’s likely that you are in the minority; perhaps even the ONLY one not indulging or celebrating with food and drink. Just because I am addicted to sugar and potato chips doesn’t mean that everyone else in my life suffers from the same problem. Just because you can’t stop with one or two drinks doesn’t mean that others in the party can’t. It is unrealistic to expect that there won’t be snacks, treats, and good food at every gathering…just because I choose not to indulge.

As a result, we are going to find ourselves surrounded by temptation and the opportunity to stray from our plan, especially when attending all of these parties and celebrations.  So the question is: What are we going to do about it? I can’t speak for you, but I have a few choices. I could avoid the party or celebration altogether at the risk of offending the host or guest of honor. This might create some hard feelings if I turn down an invitation, but in the long run, I need to do what is best for me and avoid situations that could sabotage my efforts to change. If I know that I am not strong enough to resist the temptation, then I need to avoid the situation, and hope that those around me will realize that it won’t always be this way and eventually I will get strong enough to be around others who are eating and drinking. 

OR…I could plan ahead to stay on track by going to the party armed with options to help me get through it. This is typically my choice. If I am invited to a party or a dinner out, I try to find out what might be served so I can make a plan. I bring a small pill container of a very low calorie vinaigrette salad dressing in my purse so that I can eat the salad. I pack a few low calorie snacks, a protein bar, and fruit so that I have things to eat that are on my plan, just in case there isn’t anything at the party that is low calorie. My family will be cooking out this weekend for the holiday and I prepared myself to keep on track by purchasing turkey burger and fat-free hot dogs so that I have an option if they prepare burgers and hot dogs on the grill at some point. I also have a watermelon and other things on hand so that I have options available that don’t include macaroni or potato salad.

If I’m asked to bring a dish to pass or a dessert with me, I bring something that I can eat so I know there is at least one item there that will allow me to keep on track. Sometimes I eat a very light breakfast or lunch before I go to the party and save some calories for some party food, or I eat a bigger, high-protein meal at home before the party so that I’m not famished when I get there and just binge on everything due to extreme hunger. I also keep myself busy talking with people and enjoying the activities of the celebration so that I’m not just sitting there eating when I’m not hungry, just because there is food around. How many times have you eaten the entire cup/dish of candy/mints/peanuts/chips (whatever) that are often put on the tables at a shower or party just because it was there in front of you?

The worst choice I could make is to just do what everyone else is doing; eat what everyone else is eating, and pay the consequences later. I could use the party as an excuse…..and convince myself that I’ll start back on track after the party, wedding, or holiday is over. This has NOT been my choice yet and it is NOT an option for me now either because there will ALWAYS be an excuse. How many times have you decided in the fall that you were going to change your life and had a conversation in your mind that went something like this:  “Well, it doesn’t make sense to start before Thanksgiving because it will be too hard to get through the holidays so I better wait until New Years. Then it becomes.. I’ll start as soon as all the holiday cookies and treats are gone so I don’t have to waste them. Then…well, I always get chocolates for Valentine’s Day and it would be rude not to eat them…Then….well, Easter is here”….etc….. and so forth and eventually years pass and you keep putting it off.
We can come up with all kinds of excuses. I encourage you today to STOP MAKING EXCUSES…..instead MAKE A PLAN.  If you want to change your life bad enough then you will do it. Don’t let a party be an excuse to give up on your dream.  Make a decision that you will make it work….you will make better choices….you will do what you need to do to keep on track….and YOU WILL change your life. 

The choice is ours alone. I can’t tell you what to do. I can’t tell you that your choice is right or wrong. I can’t judge you for your choices. My journey is my journey….and ultimately, our choices are ours alone. I know what I’m going to do; I am going to stay on track. I am going to stay focused. I am going to attend the parties and make it work. Why?  Because I know that the end result is so worth it!  I know that the satisfaction of eating that cupcake pales in comparison to the joy of being able to walk or ride my bike. I know that each time I resist temptation I grow stronger in my commitment and it makes the next temptation easier.  And mostly, I know that you all are counting on me to be strong and keep my weight off. I don’t want to disappoint myself and I don’t want to disappoint you either!

Make it a great day and Happy Memorial Day weekend to my friends here in the States!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Enjoying the process

Good Morning, my friends! My thoughts for the past 24 hours have been focused on the small garden pond I’m planning on adding to my flower garden this year. Many of you know that I put in several little perennial gardens last summer when some friends moved out of state and gave me a lot of plants and shrubs from their yard. It was a lot of hard work, but I loved it, not only because I love flowers and plants, but because I COULD do the work for the first time in many years. The joy of being able to do things again that my obesity and disability prevented me from doing is certainly great motivation to keep on track. As much as I love my little flower beds, I tend to be one that is always looking for ways to make things better so I decided this year that I wanted to add a small pond to the landscape.
I readily admit that I know absolutely nothing about putting in a pond. In fact, I know very little about gardening in general, but like most things in my life, it’s a work in progress and an opportunity to learn something new.  I’ve been doing a bit of reading on the inter­net about ponds, but a “little knowledge” is is somewhat dangerous because I tend to just go full steam ahead with things and learn from my mistakes along the way. Just like I did…and continue to do… with most areas of my personal journey.  Fortunately, we get chances to learn; grow; redo; start over; learn more….etc. on a daily basis.
A friend picked up a pre-formed 30 gallon (see I told you it was a SMALL pond) pond form and I can’t wait to get out of work tonight to start digging the hole. Then comes the trial and error part of adjusting the fountain pump, arranging rocks around it, deciding if I want pond plants and then shopping for them.  It will definitely be a process to get it set-up and very likely, I’ll change my mind about a dozen times before getting it the way I want it.

I also have decided AGAIN to try to grow vegetables. Many years ago I had a small garden and it did fairly well, but because I live in a wooded area, I am constantly trying to keep deer and other animals from eating the plants. Most of the time I get all excited about the vegetable garden, only to be disappointed with my summer-long efforts to nurture and care for them end up to be in vain when a hungry deer take a bite out of every single tomato on the vine or each of the squash. Even though I don’t often get the results I want, I have fun “thinking and hoping and trying” and sometimes I get rewarded with a single tomato or cucumber! ­­­

Again…a reminder of our daily journey. Sometimes we work so hard to stay on track and take great care to count our calories and increase our activity, but yet, the pay-off isn’t exactly what we hoped and we end up disappointed that our progress is slower than expected….or worse, we plateau for weeks at a time. The important thing to remember is to ENJOY THE PROCESS; enjoy the journey.  There is no doubt that I am going to make many mistakes in the installation of this little pond. Some of the plants may die; the raccoons and other wildlife might eat my fish; the water may get icky; I may even have to relocate the entire thing, perhaps more than once. But, as frustrating as it might be, I am so excited about it and will have fun along the way. Plus, the satisfaction and enjoyment when I get it “just right” will be incredibly edifying.  Just like our journey.  So many times along the way we have to rethink our plan; mix things up and adjust our calories; change up our exercise routine, maybe adding weights or increasing resistance when things slow down or we don’t get the results we want.  But…we are excited, hopeful, and anticipate great satisfaction and enjoyment when we reach our goal. Like my pond will require; it takes A LOT of work to change one’s life…but as long as we “ENJOY THE PROCESS” and are aware that life is often trial-and-error and a work in progress, we will be just fine.  I won’t get discouraged and abandon my hope of having a little garden pond when things don’t go as expected right away. Don’t you get discouraged and give up either if you face a set-back; have a bad day; or give into temptation. WE ARE ALL A WORK IN PROGRESS!  But….keep at it; the results will be beyond your wildest dreams!

Have a wonderful Wednesday!!!!  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

God can make a way.....

A few years ago the comedian, Larry the Cable Guy, made the phrase, “Git er done” quite popular. Although it’s not the lingo I usually speak, the sentiment is one that has always described my ethics. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a lot of things on my plate, preferring to be busy and involved over idle and useless. Being active and connected to others in my young/middle adulthood helped fill the void in my life that sometimes comes with being single and not raising a family. There were always more things to do than hours in the day, and yet, I always managed to get things done. Life is very much like that again these days, but somehow, by the grace of God, I manage to “Git er done.”

When I lost my job downstate and moved away from family and friends, I lost a lot of my identity and the social interactions I had with people. This was a difficult time for me and the loss played a big role in my weight gain and near demise. Losing that sense of “community” and then the death of both my grandpa and my dear friend, Fr. Sauter, sent me into a very dark place.  I turned to food to fill the emptiness and comfort me in my sadness. When my new job ended after only two years due to financial cuts at the church and I found myself unemployed…with only 6 months of unemployment, it was almost more than I could handle.

 I enrolled in college full-time at age 42, mostly because I didn’t have any other choice because I was dependent on Financial Aid to keep the lights and heat on.  Going to school turned out to be best thing I did but it was getting harder and harder to get around the college and make ends meet. Not only was I dealing with the emotional pain of loss, and the tremendous amount of studying involved with a full load in college, but my body was also wracked with physical pain, later diagnosed as Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was put on very strong pain medications, but none of them helped.  It was a very tough time in my life, but somehow, by the grace of God, I was able to “Git er done” and managed to graduate with honors. My faith was my strength, but food was my companion and I was spiraling out of control emotionally and physically. Still….my only focus was “doing what I had to do…. to do what I had to do” to get through each day.

After my college graduation I was fortunate enough to get hired at the college full-time. I was thrilled to be gainfully employed again and given the opportunity to help others. I loved my job and things were beginning to look up, but hidden behind the happy face I put on at work was pain and sadness. Shortly after starting my new job, I was told that I needed to go back to school to complete another college degree in order to maintain my employment. And so….I was working full-time during the day, going to college full-time at night, coping with grief, and trying to deal with overwhelming physical pain caused by the RA.  I was taking very strong medications by injection every Friday night. I vomited and was ill every weekend for 18 months, but I used that time spent in bed each weekend to do my studying for college.  My entire focus was on getting up, going to work, doing homework, and going to bed to start all over again the next day. No one, not even those closest to me, knew my pain and struggles. Isolation was my way of life and food was my comfort; certainly not a very “healthy” way to live.  Life was very difficult then, but somehow, by the grace of God, I managed to “Git er done” and graduate from college and get through that time, but not without serious consequences. No doubt, my faith and strong, stubborn “do what you have to do to do what you have to do” mentality played a big part in my journey, but I was slowly killing myself in the process.  

When I graduated from Spring Arbor University, I weighed over 400 pounds and could barely walk. I bought a new home two weeks after my graduation and I couldn’t even walk to the mailbox, but I was happy to graduate, have a new place to live, and a job that I loved, but my body was a mess and physical pain was my constant state of existence, and yet no one knew the private hell I was living in because I hid my pain behind a forced smile and a bag of potato chips.

But my story doesn’t end there. One day I decided that I wasn’t going to live like that; I couldn’t live like that another day longer! I HAD to do something….and so began this incredible journey. People often ask me, “Theresa, how did you do it? How did you manage to stick with it”? I wish I had a more concrete answer; if I did, I would write a book and retire in the tropics. I don’t have the answers. I don’t follow any specific plan. I don’t have a personal trainer or a chef. I know little about nutrition. I’m JUST LIKE MOST OF YOU….just a regular girl, living a regular, simply life, with a very strong desire to make a difference in the world; to help others. 

My ONLY secret, and it’s not really a secret at all, is that my faith in God (or whatever you call your higher power) has been my strength. The grace of God has helped me “Git er done” and do what I have to do. He has made a way when there appeared to be no way. He has made all of this possible and has blessed me with this miracle; this new life. When my life was filled with pain, despair, hopelessness, and fear, God showed me that it didn’t have to be that way; that together, He and I, would change the outcome. He used my “stubborn determination and faith” to transform my thoughts so that He could transform my life. There is no other explanation: God power and will power and the belief that “GOD will make a way when there appears to be no other way.” I’ve said this before in interviews; GOD CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS; but you have to pick up the shovel! He will make a way…but you have to do your part too!

Many of you are in situations that seem hopeless. Many of you have very heavy crosses to bear. Many of you have a long way to go on your journey. Some are struggling with grief; others are dealing with addiction of another sort; some are fighting serious illness and depression. Some are right in the same place I was three years ago.  To you… I say….Don’t lose hope! Don’t lose faith. Dig deep and do WHATEVER you have to do to “Git er done!” Allow God to transform and strengthen you on your journey and just keep trying again and again and again. But be forewarned: it is NOT EASY. There is not anything easy about changing one’s life. In fact, it is downright difficult. It is a daily choice. It takes hard work and determination. It is likely one of the hardest things you have to do, and it is a fight you will fight for the rest of your life. BUT…….GOD can do all things.

Don’t give up! Life doesn’t have to be the way it is today. YOU CAN…and YOU WILL change your life!

Monday, May 19, 2014


I did a keynote address recently in Lansing, MI,  a city I had traveled through literally thousands of times when I was living downstate and coming north each weekend, but I had only been IN a couple of times in my life. Traveling to a new place sometimes causes me some anxiety because I don’t like the feeling of “not knowing where I’m going.” A few years ago a friend gave me a GPS device in the effort to help me navigate around places unknown. I guess now they have them built in to smart phones, but I’m still figuring out how to use the phone to do basic things like make a phone call. I think at this point I make more “butt-dialed” calls than intentional ones! Sigh…….. Technology and Theresa do not make a dynamic duo.  With that being said, however, the GPS helps; that is, when I follow the directions and do what it tells me.

Even with the GPS, I still managed to get off course on more than one occasion. I haven’t quite figured out that when it says, “turn left in 200 feet,” that it typically means the next road. I have trouble figuring out the distance part and often miss my turn. Sometimes I just don’t trust that little piece of equipment to get me where I need to be, and for reasons unknown, I sometimes think I KNOW BETTER, even when it is obvious I don’t. So… I end up heading in the wrong direction and am greeted by those all-too-familiar words: Off Course; make U-turn in 200 feet.  When I don’t immediately respond and turn around, it begins to tell me, “Recalculating, recalculating”, as it proceeds to correct my error and find another way to get to my destination.  What an awesome feature.  If only EVERY situation in life came with a recalculating option, allowing us to fix the wrongs in our life and find another way when we go astray, but that isn’t always the case. I once read a quote that said, “There are three things that cannot be taken back: The moment after it’s missed; the word after it’s said; and the time after it’s wasted. Sometimes we just don’t get a do-over, but I’m grateful that our journey isn’t one of them! Our journey to wellness is one that often requires us to start over….again and again and again.  Thank God we get that opportunity and are gifted with a new day each morning.

I have been quite concerned in recent months because I have been struggling to maintain my weight even though I didn’t think I changed my eating habits in any way since beginning my journey. I still do not allow myself to eat sweets, chips or pretzels, or other treats….not even a single bite; and yet, I discovered yesterday when I got on the scale that I have put on 7 pounds over the winter…..and haven’t strayed off track in any way….or so I thought.  I kept blaming it on the lack of physical activity all winter because of the incredibly harsh conditions and the neuropathy that is causing me such difficulty. That, in and of itself, is a big factor.  I could come up with all kinds of excuses and reasons, but in reality, there must be some logical reason for what is going, and until this weekend when a group member posted a clip about what “200 calories” look likes, I couldn’t quite figure it out. After reading the information there….and doing some serious thinking/evaluating….I discovered that like my GPS reminds me when I went off track, it’s time for some SERIOUS RECALCULATING! 

So....Carrie’s post was a real eye-opener, especially the clip about Splenda artificial sweetener. I readily admit that Splenda can cause a lot of problems and I use WAY TOO MUCH of it, but I didn’t take those warnings as seriously as I should and continue to use it. What came as a big surprise, however, was the calorie count in Splenda.  Apparently, if a product has less than 5 calories in a serving, it can be listed as 0-calories or calorie-free.  This is the case with Splenda. There are 4 calories in a packet….but I don’t use the packets…. I keep it in my sugar canister and use it by the quarter-cup full.  There are close to 100 calories in a cup of Splenda.  WHAT???  YIKES!  I use at LEAST twice that much in the course of the day in my coffee alone, especially this winter when I started getting up at 3 a.m. or earlier each day to write and do homework. I drink twice as much coffee now than I did a year ago at this time; another bad habit that needs to be addressed in the future…but not now because it’s 3:30 a.m. and I just poured myself another cup.   Then, another scoop of Splenda in my oatmeal. I’ve also been eating a lot of butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and strawberries this winter, all sweetened up with Splenda.   A bit of RECALCULATING has revealed that I’m likely consuming a couple of hundred…..maybe more…calories a day that I wasn’t aware of.  That, coupled with my relaxed, “Certainly, at this stage in the game, Theresa, you can eat all the fruit and Greek yogurt you want” attitude, and lack of bike-riding/walking/gardening opportunities has enlightened me and shed light into my situation.  Thank you, GOD, for the RECALCULATING option in life!!!!!  Thank you, Carrie, for your post. 

So, in the coming days, I will be doing some serious recalculating and watching very carefully for the hidden calories in things I’ve been eating. Right off the back, I can see the same situation is likely true about the pack of sugar-free gum that I’ve been chewing each day. Other hidden culprits include the spray butter I used on my vegetables and popcorn and the fiber/calcium gummies I eat before bedtime. From day one of my journey, I had already calculated the calories in my sugar-free creamer for my coffee each day, but as I mentioned, I’m drinking at least twice as much coffee as I was; hence additional calories.  I’m guessing that as I do some reflection, I’ll discover that the 1600 or so calories that I thought I was consuming is probably more like 2000!  SO…’s time for Theresa to be a bit more careful…..and fortunately, it’s almost summer and I’ve already been walking and gardening and am much more active.  There is no doubt that those 7 pounds will be gone before 4th of July…with really only a few minor changes in behavior.  As I’ve mentioned many times….it’s a life-long battle!

So…I’ve already made some conscious choices and am cutting back on the Splenda. Will I give it up completely? Not likely at this point, but I did replace the half-cup scoop in the canister with a 1/3rd cup and have been cutting back. I’ll also likely be replacing the oatmeal with eggs or yogurt in the morning as the weather warms up and drinking less coffee, all cutting some calories. You can be assured that each time I use the spray butter, put a piece of sugar-free gum in my mouth, or reach for a pack of Splenda, I’ll be calculating the calories in my mind.

Today I encourage you to do some RECALCULATING in your own life. Have you gone off-track?  Have you missed your turn and need to turn around?  Do you need to re-evaluate your journey, habits, or relationships and make some changes?  If so, don’t be discouraged; don’t despair. God gives us a new opportunity each day and fortunately, we are abundantly blessed to know that even when we stray….or try to do things our own way, we have the opportunity to Recalculate and get back on the right path!

Make it a beautiful Monday today!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pull up the weeds of negative thinking

Gosh, what an exciting week it has been with the speaking engagements and my fly-fishing trip. I was happy to see the weekend arrive because I was planning all week on shopping for my flower and vegetable plants to begin the gardening season.  The weather didn’t really cooperate with the planting part because we had another frost/freeze warning for last night, but I did venture out to town to begin the first of many trips to the nursery. Notice how I said many?  It often takes me several trips…and just “one or two more plants” to complete the planting…..but that “one or two more plants” usually turns into several. Only a fellow gardener would know what I mean by that. My fellow dieters would likely understand if I phrased it “I’ll just have ONE more bite, well maybe two….and before long, the whole bag of chips or cookies is gone.”  In any case, I found it a bit crazy that my pool is up, filled, and ready to go, but yesterday I was shopping for flowers with gloves on…and I could see my breath!  Michigan weather……sigh.......but there is absolutely NOTHING I can do about the weather, so it’s one of those daily reminders that God gives me that life is not about fretting/worrying/complaining about those things that we cannot control, but rather being grateful and focusing on those things that we CAN control….such as our behavior, thoughts, and attitudes.

Although my plants will likely live in the garage for a few more days, I did manage to spend a bit of time between the raindrops putzing around the yard and pulling weeds. For those of you that are new to the group, last summer I put in several new perennial gardens. I am not a big-time gardener by any means and my yard is certainly not a “Better Homes and Gardens” type, but I do love flowers and plants. When I was at the lowest point of my life (over 400 pounds and unable to walk more than a few steps) I was unable to do much in the yard. A few flower pots and the perennials planted by the previous owner of my home was about the extent of it, but that wasn’t always the case. When I was teaching in the Catholic School, I had the summers off and had a lot of beautiful flowers.  Last year was a true joy for me to be able to play in the dirt, dig new gardens by hand, haul rocks and mulch, and see my yard come alive for the first time in many years.  There is something incredibly intoxicating about seeing something come to fruition…something that you nurtured…..something that you planted that you waited ever so patiently to see blossom…..something that sometimes had to withstand very harsh elements like a hail storm or late/early frost, but somehow in spite of it…..still bloomed and was beautiful.  SO MUCH LIKE OUR JOURNEY and the overwhelming joy that comes from seeing progress for one’s hard work and effort.

It doesn't really matter whether you are just beginning your journey or have been working on your life changes for many years; we are all at the same place every spring. Even those “perennial” gardens….those plants that have been there for years and years….still need careful attention, pruning, watering and nurturing to grow. It takes work….watering….weeding….and favorable weather (or God’s intervention) to turn a seedling, root, bulb…whatever….into a beautiful plant or flower. Likewise, it takes a lot of effort, patience, and God’s grace for us to grow into all that God wants us to be, and to have strong roots so that we can stand up to the temptation and harsh conditions that life sometimes throws at us. No matter what stage we are, it is still a daily commitment to a healthy lifestyle. In my experience, it’s even harder to maintain weight loss, sobriety, wellness…whatever we battle.
I have an area in the garden that is lined with pea gravel or small stones.  This area is home to a lot of “creeping Charlie,” a very annoying and invasive weed (although it has lovely purple flowers on it right now) that spreads very rapidly by underground runner shoots.  It is virtually impossible to get rid of and it spreads all over. I literally could spend time every day of the summer pulling it up and still not get rid of it completely. As I was tackling this weed yesterday, I kept thinking about how tough and hardy it was…growing amidst these rocks, enduring temperatures in the 20’s, withstanding the weed killer I eventually resorted to last fall, and constantly having its roots yanked up.  And yet….it grows….and grows…and grows…..SIGH.  Such an annoyance….and yet….God spoke to me through the ‘weed-pulling battle” about my journey.

I kept thinking about my strong belief that true life-change begins in the mind and with the thoughts. As I’ve stated many times before, “In order for me to change my life….and continue to change my life….I had/have to change the way I THINK about things.”  Not just the obvious things like food, activity, addiction, etc….but THINGS like fear, doubt, forgiveness, self-esteem, and gratitude, etc. 

Negative thoughts….LIES that we tell ourselves, if you will….caused my life to spiral out of control and left me in a state of complete emotional and physical pain. Thoughts like, “Theresa, you are never going to lose weight”, “It’s too hard; you can’t do it,” “People can’t lose that much weight without surgery or pills,” “You just have too much to lose,” “You can’t do it….You won’t keep it off….You’ll never reach your goal….You’re not worth it……You might as well just give up” are like WEEDS that threaten to take over the garden of your life. These negative thoughts…and many others like it…..are just like the creeping Charlie in my garden.  Negative thoughts grow easier than flowers. They thrive when life gets hard and we get bombarded by uncontrollable things like illness, grief, stress, unemployment….whatever.  They threaten to take over and choke out the joy and peace that we want in our life.  When we harbor the fear of failure; doubt our abilities to succeed; beat ourselves up for past failures or mistakes; despair because we give in to temptation, gain weight, fall off the wagon (whatever), we are choking out the beautiful new life that is waiting to grow and blossom.

 Getting rid of the negative attitudes, emotions, and thoughts is a DAILY BATTLE…just like the weeds…because for most of us, it’s easier to be negative than positive, especially if we’ve been hurt or have been given a heavy cross to bear. We must continually pull up those thoughts….get rid of them….dig them up….stomp them out…..whatever we have to do… that they don’t take over our minds and sabotage those beautiful things waiting to bloom and grow in us.  I made a little progress yesterday in my weeding but if I go out there later today, I will see more weeds and undesirable things growing again.  I have a choice: I can let it grow, knowing that if I do, it will spread and spread and spread, eventually taking over the garden, or I can commit to getting rid of it, a little at a time, sticking with it, not growing weary so that I can enjoy the fruits of my labor.  Eventually, the flowers will bloom and their beauty and color will be the first thing I notice; the weeds will be secondary.  Eventually you will begin to see progress in your life and you will gain the momentum and motivation to keep it up.

Likewise, you might only be able to see the negative….the pain, sadness,  misery, discouragement, or struggles in your life right now, but I assure you…if you begin to pull up those negative thoughts; get rid of those negative habits; change the way you think about food and LIFE….you will see the good begin to grow. Changing one’s life is a daily choice…. A LIFE LONG BATTLE…..because it so much easier to feel defeated and hopeless than it is to feel victorious.  I have made the commitment….to fight the fight and try each day to find the positive; to be grateful for the blessings in my life; and to DAILY….pull up those “weeds” that threaten my joy.  How about you??????  What is the garden of your life going to look like? 

Make it a happy, peaceful day!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Thoughts and photos from SRD Michigan TOPS

Getting ready to take the stage at SRD

Good Morning my friends!  I’m certainly feeling a different set of emotions this morning than I was yesterday at this time. Yesterday I was feeling a combination of excitement, anxiety, and nervous energy as I prepared myself for the State Recognition Rally (SRD) for TOPS (Take off pounds sensibly). Today, I am feeling a sense of relief, gratitude, and humility as I try to process the emotions that came after taking the stage yesterday at the Soaring Eagle Casino. Although the emotions and feelings are different, they produced the same temptation and desire in me; that is, the desire to deal with them with food.

 Yesterday morning….and up to the time I was to speak…I wanted to eat; not cookies or junk food, but typically healthy food, anything to help calm the nerves a bit.  As soon as I was in the car and headed back home yesterday, I wanted to do the same, only this time it was more of a “reward eating’ or celebration type desire. Did you ever go get a big ice-cream sundae or special treat after winning a ballgame, getting a raise at work, or gasp…..even losing a few pounds that week?   I actually thought about ordering a pizza last night just because I was feeling relieved and “pumped up” because of the warm welcome and wonderful comments I received.  But I didn’t. Instead, I celebrated with a big bowl of popcorn that I made in an air-popper that was sent to me by a friend from this group; definitely a better choice than a pizza, although I still have a piece or two of pizza about every 2 or 3 months.

The whole,  “ I really want to eat because I’m feeling all kinds of emotions,” thing was a poignant reminder that even now, three years into my journey, this emotional eating battle is one that still rages inside of me. I spoke of that battle yesterday to the TOPS group as I recalled the behavior I learned as a child: Food makes the good times better and the bad times more bearable.  This emotional eating pattern is one of the main reasons I ended up weighing over 400 pounds in the first place. I learned to use food as a coping mechanism to deal with life’s heartaches and stressors and as a reward for a job well done. When my life began to spiral out of control as a result of a job loss, a relocation, grief, unemployment, etc., I numbed the pain with food. Likewise, when I went back to college and began to excel in my studies, food was my reward for a job well-done. And so it went….and there began my demise.  Over the course of my journey to better health I had to rethink my relationship with food; to begin to view food as ‘fuel” rather than “comfort or reward.”  Most of the time I can do that, but yesterday showed me that old habits die hard and that emotional eating is a constant temptation, a daily choice.
WOW...people waited in line to talk to me or take photos. God is good!
Yesterday was really an awesome day! I had only ever been in the Soaring Eagle Casino a couple of times and that was at least 12 or 15 years ago, and I had never been in the hotel before. What a beautiful place. I had never been in an entertainment hall or auditorium that large either, so at first it was quite overwhelming.  I ran into several people I knew from the various TOPS groups I had visited previously before it was time to speak, and knowing that I had friends in the audience certainly helped. A friend from Harrison, Pat LaValley, and the president of my college, Carol Churchill, even bought tickets to come and cheer me on. That was extremely humbling and very comforting. The photographer who took the recent photos for the two magazine spreads, now my friend/graphic designer, Marcia Bauer, also came with me. Feeling the love there….and knowing that so many of you were supporting me with good thoughts and prayers gave me a peace that is hard to describe. I actually choked up on stage when I told the large crowd that “right at this very moment….as I stand here….there are people ALL OVER THE WORLD praying for me as I share my story.”  What an incredible thing to know.  THANK YOU so much!  You all give me courage to speak, inspiration to write, motivation to keep on track, and the desire to continue to be open to all God has planned for me. You will never know how much that means to me. I hope that I can do/be the same for you.
Signing photo cards for the crowd 

I have already added several new members to the group as a result of yesterday’s rally and I’m sure there will be many more in the coming days. To you, I say….WELCOME!  Thank you for the privilege of sharing my journey with you…..and for allowing me the honor of sharing in your journey as well.  Together…, me, the other group members, and GOD…..will work each day to become kinder, gentler, more loving and happier people….and if that includes words like “thinner”, “healthier”, “addiction free”, or any other words of that nature….than HURRAY!  But remember, the number on the scale; the size of your bank account; the current state of your mental or physical health……do not define your value or your self-worth.  YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL…..wonderful……WORTHWHILE……and abundantly blessed… you are at this moment…..but day-by-day, as you allow yourself to be transformed in mind, spirit, and body, you will discover that you can be/feel happier than you ever thought possible. 
I’m attaching a few more pictures that the photographer sent this morning. I’m sure there will be more to come in the near future.

Make it a wonderful day today…..and be conscious of what you eat today…..and what emotions are attached to that food.

Speaking at TOPS Michigan SRD rallly today

I'm getting excited now.....Today's the big day. I couldn't sleep and have been up since 1 a.m. Later this afternoon I have the privilege of sharing my story with 1800 people from all over the state on the big stage at the Soaring Eagle Casino!
A dear friend gave me some very good advice on how to handle the nerves. He said, 'Theresa, it doesn't matter if there are 1800 or 18; your story is still the same and very powerful." I'm going to keep that in mind this afternoon, in God, and just have a good time. I'm also taking all of you with me in spirit! I'll keep you posted as the day goes by. In the meantime, make it a good day today!
Now....the big question at hand.....what to wear!!!!! Since I'm speaking at the casino, I should take bets on how many times I change my outfit today before leaving the house! LOL Life is so much fun.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What do you want to do that you can't due to weight?

Wow – What fun! Those are the best words I can think of to describe my fly-fishing trip yesterday on the Muskegon River near the Croton Dam. My friends, Ken & Cathy Zimmerman, invited me to go along with them as they fished for steelhead trout. Cathy ties flies for Dave Roller, the owner of the charter fishing company, Pere Marquette Outfitters, and in exchange for her services, Dave gives her multiple fishing trips per year. They invited me to go with them salmon fishing last fall as a 50th birthday “out-of-my-comfort-zone” experience and I absolutely loved it. I didn’t think a return trip could live up to that first trip, but once again, Pere M delivered a thrilling day of fun and excitement.
Our guide yesterday was Dave’s son, Lil David, and he was awesome. He grew up in the business and he certainly knows the river and is an expert fisherman. Patient too! The steelhead were on the gravel beds spawning and he knew exactly the ‘hot spots’ for fishing. That is partially why we were on the river at 5:30 in the morning: He wanted to get the perfect spot and we wanted to be ready to fish at the first sign of daylight.  We were!  Lil David hooked a fish right away and gave me the pole to reel it in.  Steelhead are very big fish…..and fight like crazy, jumping on out of the water, running upstream, tugging and pulling, but with David’s guidance and coaching, I managed to bring her to the boat. I was literally doing the happy dance…so excited!  It was barely daylight when I got my first fish and the rest of the day was much of the same. The fish were biting like crazy and even though only two of us could fish at a time, we managed to land 19 fish out of 25 hooked in about six hours of fishing. We caught a lot of fish, but we didn’t keep any of the spawning females or more than two males off the bed where we were fishing. Cathy caught a brown trout and a few suckers.  It was Awesome! If you are looking for a wonderful experience for yourself or others,   check out peer Marquette. Even if the fish aren’t biting, it’s sure to be great experience because all the guides are patient, knowledgeable, and great people!
Yesterday was just one of many ‘I never believed I’d ever be able to do this’ type of experiences that I have had since changing my life. Even though I went on a family vacation every summer as a kid, there are SO MANY things that I yet to experience; so many places I’ve never been; so much life left to live. Although fly-fishing is likely not on many people’s ‘bucket list’, it just another one of those…. ‘Oh my goodness….how cool is this” moments that never would have been possible when I weighed 400+ pounds and was unable to walk. I never would have been able to get down to the river, let alone in a boat. Perhaps this summer I will even be able to take my canoe out for a river trip; something I used to do multiple times every summer, but haven’t done in at least ten years. So much fun waiting… little time…...sigh…..but LIFE IS SHORT… I encourage you to do whatever you need to do so that you can live life to the fullest.
Tomorrow will be another one of those new and exciting experiences; I am speaking to a large crowd at the Soaring Eagle Casino!  Although I’ve shared my story many times, this is the biggest crowd yet. The “new thing’ isn’t the size of the crowd, (although that is A LOT of people), but rather the fact that it will be on the big stage in the entertainment hall of the casino: the same stage that Vince Gill appeared last weekend.  It’s hard to believe this, but, with the exception of the concert in the park that my friend JO took me to last summer in Dayton, I’ve never even been to a professional concert before, although I have been to several plays and taken kids on field trips to see the Radio City Rockettes back in my teaching days. It’s hard to believe that my first visit to a big concert hall will find me standing on the stage!!!!   Like I said, so much life to live!  Who knows….maybe this summer it will be zip-lining?????  Or at least a trip to Comerica Park for a Tiger ballgame or a visit to the zoo!
So, my friends, as I’ve said before: These type of moments are motivating factors for me. Days like yesterday keep me focused; keep me determined to keep on track; keep me from slipping into old habits. I encourage you today to spend some time in the next couple of days thinking about those things that you used to do; those things you used to enjoy, but can’t do any longer due to the current state of your life, and those things that would like to do. Some situations like serious illness, age, death of loved ones, etc., cannot be changed, but certainly there are ‘other’ experiences that you could enjoy. Focus on those things that can be changed….those experienced that ARE POSSBLE…..those dreams that can come true…..and use them as motivation to continue daily to make changes that will bring them to fruition. The pictures from yesterday’s fishing trip will make me think twice before giving in to temptation the next time I’ve overcome with a desire to eat junk or give up. Like those steelhead that gave me a run for my money yesterday……I am not going down without a fight! 

How about you?  Are you going to fight with all you’ve got……or are you going to give in….and up?  And finally…..What is on your ‘bucket list’ of things you hope to do someday?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

keep on moving.......

Happy Tuesday!  It’s hard for me to even believe this….but here it is a little after three in the morning and it’s a balmy 66 degrees in northern Michigan!  Has spring really sprung????  Tomorrow it will all change because I am going on my big fly fishing trip and the highs are only supposed to be in the 50’s, but for right now… I’m sitting here drinking coffee with the living room window open.  It’s a reminder to me…..and can be for you too….that good things come to those who wait….patiently!  Keep that in mind if you are losing patience in waiting for your hard work to show or to see progress.
For the past couple of days I have been thinking about something that I noticed on my drive back home from Lansing on Friday; namely, the large number of wind-powered turbines that have cropped up in central Michigan in the past year or two. I’m not a science person so I’m not even sure what they are called or how they work, but I do know that they are some sort of alternative energy thing. More important to me…..sigh….is that they are just plain ‘cool’ to look at! They are massive and just captivate my attention when I see them rising out of a big empty field, spinning in rhythmic motion to the wind. I actually think I could have pulled off the side of the road just to watch them for a while, but I didn’t take the time.

I did notice, however, something about them that has spoken to me about my journey. God has used other things to teach me the same lesson, but the windmills reminded me of it again.  Let me elaborate.  I noticed that most of the windmills were spinning at what appeared to be the same speed….in the same direction.  Just steady motion….all in the same direction.  However….as the road curved slightly, I noticed that some of them were spinning in the opposite direction…..likely just because of their position in the wind, but to the untrained, unscientific eye, it just looked like they were spinning counterclockwise….going the wrong way. Perhaps not the WRONG way, but just a DIFFERENT way…..from those around them.  Some….for whatever reason ….were not moving at all and appeared to be at a standstill; that is, until I got up closer and noticed that they were spinning….just so slowly that it appeared that they were not moving at all. Others were actually doing nothing but standing there….almost as if waiting for something to get them moving. Perhaps they had a mechanical issue or were not fully functioning yet.

Sound familiar????  It didn’t take long for me to make the connection between these turbines and our journey to better health and well-being.  Sometimes it seems like we are all working at full-power….working in the same direction…..making progress towards our goal…..on a roll, if you will. Everyone around is doing the same thing and committed to a healthier lifestyle. Everything is going great; we’ve got the momentum; we’re seeing results; we’re motivated and energized and committed.  Other times, however, we feel as if we are going in the wrong direction. Spinning our wheels out of control; facing resistance and temptation; getting tired of eating good food and getting exercise; growing weary of the battle.  Perhaps we’ve gained a few pounds and the scale is heading in the wrong direction. It’s hard….plain and simple….it’s hard and we are tired. Perhaps we just want to give up.  But we don’t…..we work harder….fighting against the forces inside us that want to quit; that want to eat junk; that want to stay in bed or on the couch.  Sometimes we just feel like WE ARE THE ONLY ONE in the room that is NOT eating a piece of cake or having an ice-cream cone; we are different than those around us who are enjoying the treats and goodies. We are spinning the opposite direction.

Sometimes it even appears that we have reached a standstill in our journey. We are doing everything right….eating right….sticking to the plan….faithful with our activity…..and yet….from a distance, NOTHING appears to be happening. We’ve reached a plateau. Everyone around us is making progress…..losing weight…..recording a loss…..reaching another goal….and here we are…just standing there, doing nothing. Or so it appears from a distance….or even to others.  But…just like those windmills….if you look really close, you will see that you are making progress….just very…..slow……progress. The scale may not be moving, but you notice the difference in the way your clothes fit.  You may not feel like you are able to go any further on the treadmill or walk any further than last month, but your legs are getting stronger and you are feeling better.  Perhaps you are following doctor’s orders and trying new medication and it doesn’t appear to be helping, but give it time, and perhaps all of a sudden you will discover that you are feeling better and getting healthier. You may have reached a plateau, but be assured, that underneath, your body is working and before long, your progress will become evident. 

The most important lesson I was reminded of is this: Those windmills cannot spin on their own power. They cannot move without the wind. They are completely dependent on an outside force to spin. Just like me. I cannot do a thing on this journey without the power of God. I am completely dependent on Him to win this battle….to keep me moving in the right direction….to bring about this victory… keep me going.

So….today…. I will be reminding myself of these things….
  • ·         Sometimes you have to ‘go against the crowd if you want to be healthy.
  • ·         Sometimes it’s going to be easier than others to stay on track.
  • ·         Sometimes it appears that ‘nothing is happening’ but it really is….
  • ·         Sometimes….either due to illness, grief, or a life-event…..taking a ‘time-out’ is okay.
  • ·         Mostly…. I cannot do ANYTHING on my own; I am dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit to keep me moving in the right direction.

Keep on moving my friends….you can do it!

Monday, May 12, 2014

happy monday

Happy Monday!  I hope everyone had a good weekend.  I did.  For the first time in many months, I was able to take a mental break for the weekend and spend a lot of time outdoors.  The pool is now up and full of water….just waiting for it to warm up. The flower pots/gardens are ready for planting but I need to wait a few more weeks for the danger of frost to pass. The lawn furniture is out of the shed and ready for warm mornings when I can enjoy my coffee out there before work. My body is sore; my face is sunburned; but life is good!

It should be quite an exciting week for me this week. I am going on a charter fly-fishing trip on Wednesday with some good friends. We will be fishing for steelhead on the Muskegon River. You may recall I went on my first fly-fishing trip last October for salmon on the Pere Marquette River. This is yet another new….slightly out-of-my-comfort-zone experience, but I’m up for it…I think!  I was told that I will be picked up at a little after 3:00 a.m. on Weds.; good thing I’m an early bird!

Friday is the big speaking event at the Soaring Eagle Casino for the TOPS state recognition conference. It should be a lot of fun…but it’s too early in the week to feel nervous.   For those that asked about tickets:  It is open to the public, but tickets must be bought for the whole 2–day conference which means they are expensive:  $35.00 for the two-day event. I am only speaking for about 1-1/2 hours on Friday beginning at 1:00 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased at the registration table at the entrance of the Soaring Eagle conference center, but must be paid in cash; no credit cards accepted.  I appreciate all those who have asked to come, but honestly, it’s pretty costly just to hear me speak for that short amount of time, but all are welcome.

For those of you that went a bit off-track yesterday in honor of Mother’s day….it’s a new day and a new week. Start all over today!  Make it a good day….be active….be happy….and be focused!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Being driven comes naturally

 Good Morning and Happy Mother’s Day to all women in the group, regardless of whether or not you have children/grandchildren of your own. Today is a day to celebrate women and the ways in which we nurture those around us. Mother’s Day is not an easy day for me because my mom passed away when I was in my 20’s and both of my grandmothers have died as well. It doesn’t seem to matter how much time has passed since their deaths; days like today always remind me that they are no longer “physically” with me each day…….and yet, I know that their spirit and tenacity are deeply rooted in my soul.
My mom Pat and Grandma Evelyn
When I finished speaking at the Ladies Day conference on Friday (it went great, by the way), there was a woman waiting in the lobby to speak to me. She had heard I was in town and wanted to talk to me about appearing on her radio show about corporate wellness. Wow…now cool!  In any case, we sat and spoke for a while and she asked me, “Theresa, have you always been this driven?”  I smiled, and said, “Absolutely, however, most of those close to me refer to me as stubborn and bull-headed.” Driven: I like that. Usually, I say, “determined,” but driven works.  I proceeded to tell her that I learned that trait from my parents and grandparents.
During the drive back north, I began to reflect on that conversation and the women who have helped make me strong and ‘driven”, mostly my mother and grandmothers. In the silence of the car, I thanked them. And on this Mother’s Day, I thank God for the ways that they continue to influence my life on a daily basis, even though they have been gone for many years.

My Grandma Brinkmeier, Evelyn, grew up on small farm in rural Michigan. She experienced grief at a very young age, losing a brother when he was nine years old. Her 16-year-old sister, along with two of her cousins, were killed in a trolley car accident while traveling to the church for the wedding rehearsal of another cousin. Her mother died when my Grandma was only 12 years old. She developed psoriasis early on in life, and for as long as I can remember, her body was scabbed with painful sores. And yet….she was kind, happy, generous, and full of faith. She was a woman of prayer and always trusted that God would see her through whatever trial or tragedy came her way. She taught me to be grateful for the blessings in my life….even when life was hard.  In spite of all the hardships she endured, she always put the needs of others first….and God blessed her with a happy adult life. She and my grandfather were happily married….and still deeply in love….for 58 years when she died at age 78.  Grandma was my biggest “cheerleader” and in her eyes, I shone like a star. I really miss her….and yet, I know that her generous spirit…and her faith….are deeply rooted in me. Unfortunately, so is her love of food!

My grandma Borawski, Florence, had a similar childhood. Growing up during the depression, one of six children, money was always tight and yet, they got somehow got by. She often spoke about wearing hand-me-downs as a child (hmmm….and here I am a Salvation Army Thrift store queen! J), but when I was growing up, I loved to go her in bathroom because the counter was COVERED with make-up, perfume, and lotions of all kinds and she loved clothes (hmmm….again! J).  Her grandparents owned some cabins up in Indian River, Michigan and she spent summers up there in the north woods. This is likely where my love of northern Michigan came from. Grandma was one of the “toughest” women I know, and would take on anyone….male or female….that challenged her. As a bartender for more than 20 years, she often told stories of picking up some drunk guy and “tossing” him out the door. All she had to do was look at us with “that look” and all of us grandchildren would straighten up in a minute.  And yet… I never remember her ever saying a cross word to me.  In her eyes….I could do no wrong.

Grandma Florence Borawski Forrest
Like Evelyn’s, my grandma’s life was filled with heartache. She lost my dad when he was only 34 years old. She never got over his death; how could you? Those of you that have lost children would understand; I cannot even begin to comprehend what it must be like to lose a child. She buried a second son when he was 47. Between that, she dealt with my grandfather, a man who struggled with alcohol issues, was often drunk, and ended up having a debilitating stroke in his early 50’s. I never remember grandpa being able to walk or talk….and yet, my grandma took care of him as long as she could while continuing to work full-time, maintain a house, and raising six children. I remember her telling me one time that my father was in the hospital in Detroit (35 miles in one direction), my grandfather was in the hospital in Toledo (35 miles the other direction), and my great-grandma was in the hospital in Trenton (in the middle) and EVERY DAY…even though she didn’t get home from work until 3 a.m., she would get up, take care of the household stuff, get things ready for dinner…and make the trip to see EACH OF THEM in the hospital….before going to work in the afternoon.  How did she do that?  How did she get through those years of struggle? How did she keep going and going and going?   She was strong….and stubborn….and determined….and just somehow found the strength to “do whatever she had to do.” And she had fun along the way. She was always the center of attention, well-liked, and the life of the party. She loved to sing, laugh, have a good time, and celebrate. And….in her eyes…. I could do no wrong! And even though she didn’t really acknowledge it fully until late in life when she had nothing but time on her hands, she was a woman of great faith. To this day, I maintain that my MIRACLE began the day she went to heaven and had a little chat with God….because her death was the beginning of my journey to a healthier life.  She died in 2011 at age 90….and I miss her deeply. And yet… I KNOW….that her determination, drive, and strength have been deeply rooted in me….and have been instrumental to me on my journey.

Finally, my mother…..the woman who gave me life. Another woman who endured hardship, grief and loss….and yet…was the kindest, most generous, and caring woman I know. She married the love of her life, my dad, at age 26, and gave birth to three of us; I am the oldest. I was only eight years old when mom lost my dad at age 34, leaving her a young widow with three small children. Although I knew the sting of grief, I never UNDERSTOOD the loss she must have felt until I grew up and fell in love myself. How do you go on when you lose the love of your life at such a young age and have to support and raise three children alone?  How do you make yourself get out of bed each day….go to work….put on a happy face…do what you have to do?  I never remember seeing her cry until later in life.  What I did see, is a woman who ALWAYS put the needs of others first….coming home exhausted from work…and yet going to visit the neighbor lady who was dying of cancer, baking something for the bake sale and church, sending a card to someone who was ill or lonely, or visiting the sick.

She was an amazing woman….one of GREAT FAITH. She married my step-dad in the late 1970’s and welcomed his six children into her brood and shortly after that, she developed cardio-myopathy, a serious heart disease that would eventually take her life at age 54. And yet….in spite of the crosses she was given….she always drew her strength from God….and taught me to do the same. She always believed that God would give her what she needed to handle whatever came her way. She was driven….she was strong….she was kind…she was loving….and above all……she was COMPASSIONATE.   I want to be like that when I grow up!
And so… these early hours of Mother’s Day, my heart is somewhat sad today because I miss these three women….and yet, mostly, I am eternally grateful to them…..and to GOD….for the blessing they were (and continue to be) in my life. They have taught me to love; to endure; to cherish each day; to be kind. Mostly, they have taught me to “KEEP ON keeping on” and to TRUST that no matter what….no matter how hard the road becomes….no matter how tough the journey is….that GOD will always be at my side; will always direct my steps; and will always give me what I need to carry on. 
So when asked….”Theresa, have you always been this determined”, I simply must say, “Absolutely, I was taught by the best!”   I will “keep on keeping on” because I know …that wherever they are this day….their spirit is alive and well in me….and that they are praying for me, supporting me, and giving me strength.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom…and Grandma’s.  I hope that each day of my life I live in a way that makes you proud….and brings honor to your name.

As you reflect on your own personal journey, try to find someone in your life…past or present…that will inspire you to keep going when you are weary and want to give up. Someone that will believe that you can do it, even when it appears impossible. Someone that will support you; pray for you; encourage, and always see goodness in you.  Surround yourself with those people; draw strength from them; and when all else fails….KNOW THAT I WILL DO THAT FOR YOU!  I believe in you….I am here for you…. I struggle with you….and I KNOW that with God….all things are possible!  Enjoy your day today….and be especially kind to those who are sad this day.