Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Change the way I think.....oh God.

Good Morning! Yesterday, a former neighbor, Nellie, posted a comment on one of my Before pictures about “hiding behind a mask.” I’ve been thinking about those words since I read the comment yesterday afternoon and how true her perspective was/is and how I tried so hard to hide my shame, pain, sadness, etc. behind a smile. Unfortunately, I may have fooled some, but those emotions became increasingly more visible as I steadily gained weight; yet another attempt to hide and protect my heart.  I suppose I was successful in some aspects, because even those who were closest to me didn’t often see how much I struggled internally. It was much more obvious to many that I was struggling physically because it was hard to hide complete breathlessness from something as simple as trying to get out of a chair; the wrinkled brow, wince, and squinted eyes when physical pain would shoot through my body; and the total “I can’t cope with life anymore” that was often visible in my expressionless face.

There were/are some very special people in my life, individuals like Carol Tilley, Fr. Sauter, Gina Fox and Chuck Bowden, and others, however, that could often look beyond the very obvious physical distress and see the “Theresa” I was trying to hide; the Theresa that tried to proclaim, “I’m okay; I’m fine; I can do it by myself” even when it didn’t appear that way. On many occasions, I didn’t even have to say a word; I simply had to look at my friend in the eyes and we seemed to “understand” each other’s deepest thoughts. I’ve been blessed to have many people like that in my life…way more than I could ever mention here.  Not only could they “see” my pain; but they could see goodness and potential, even when I couldn’t see it in myself.  And they loved me….in spite of it all. What a gift to have people like that in life!  These individuals brought/bring out the very best in me….and have helped me so much in this journey. Fr. Sauter died before I began this journey, but our bond cannot be destroyed by death and I continue to feel his presence in my life on a daily basis.

I want to be that kind of person… who can look someone in the eyes….and “see….truly see” that which they are trying to hide...often behind excess weight, an addiction, or a bad attitude. In my job, I often have someone who comes into my office and I immediately ‘make a connection” because I recognize the fear (do you really think I could be successful in college…at my age….with my life?); the exhaustion (I’m taking classes, working two jobs; raising 3 kids alone); the hopelessness (I’ve failed math twice before; Do you REALLY think I’m smart enough, Theresa?); the I’m scared, alone, tired, completely overwhelmed and about to give up look in his/her eyes.  These are the very things that are not always visible, and yet we are surrounded by others who are fighting a battle that cannot easily be seen…..UNLESS….we take the time to try…..and we never really know how we can affect someone else…..just by taking the time to smile, to listen, to say a kind word, to express concern.

We’re surrounded by opportunities like this all day….the checkout lady who appears crabby….may very well be working two jobs because her husband walked out on her; the guy who cuts you off in traffic may be trying to get to the hospital because a loved one just took a turn for the worse and is dying; the kid who wants attention or is acting out in school may be feeling neglected, or picked on at school. Sickness… Rheumatoid arthritis, neuropathy, Fibromyalgia, heart disease….so many others…often has no physical symptoms visible to the eye and yet the person may be wracked with pain.  Fear, anxiety, depression is often hidden and causes shame. Internal struggles with issues like sexuality, worthlessness, emotional or verbal abuse, worry, doubt….so much more…is often carried so deeply within and can be the root of our over-eating or dependency on habits that are not good for us. We often try to cover this all up and make it go away by eating, drinking, smoking, spending, or coping an “I don’t give a hoot” attitude…..when really we are just longing for a new life.  At least that is part of my story.

I’ve shared frequently that my personal journey of change has more to do with the internal changes that have happened than the visible changes. It’s pretty obvious when I hold up the shorts I used to wear and I can fit my entire body in one leg that I have changed physically, but the changes that I am most grateful for are the ones that cannot be seen; the way I think; the way I see the world; the hopes that I have for the future; and mostly, my desire to help others.  These hopes do not include being a size 6; wearing a bikini; or running a marathon (although those are noble goals that I hope many of you can achieve). Rather, I want to SEE….truly SEE….that which others (like me) are trying so hard to hide.  I want to take the time to look at those individuals that God sends across my path and to recognize God’s presence in their eyes and allow them to make a difference in my life and vice-versa. I want to see goodness in potential in others….in spite of….just like those special people in my life did/do for me. But being that kind of person takes time….and energy….and compassion….and kindness.

 Losing the weight has made it easier for me to strive (it is a daily battle and I fail time and time again) to be that kind of person because it has made it much easier to cope with the distress of my own life. It has given me the energy, desire, and motivation to help others because I know first-hand what it’s like to be obese, disabled, alone and afraid….to be embarrassed and filled with shame at the way I looked.  BUT, by the grace of God, I also know what it’s like to be FREE….not only from the chains of weight; but of fear, despair, and sadness.  I know what it’s like to be hopeful rather than despondent; to be confident (well sort of….sometimes) rather than insecure; to be mobile rather than confined to a chair; to feel useful rather than used.  These are things that come with weight loss….but cannot be measured by a scale or with a tape measure.  These are the blessings or “side-effects,” if you will, that come with weight loss and will change your ENTIRE life much more than wearing a size 10 or 12.  AND YET…..these changes are unlikely to happen if you are trapped in the bondage of weight, addiction, depression, despair, or surrounded by people that tear you down rather than build you up. 

If you are struggling on your journey or in need of motivation, I encourage you to place your emphasis on internal change first. Take a couple of weeks and take the focus off of what you are eating and what the scale says, and ask God to help you SEE things differently….to help you HEAR what others are saying…to help you RECOGNIZE how blessed you are…..and help you THINK about things differently.  Take the time to look at people in the make connections….to do something kind for someone, maybe someone you know, perhaps a stranger. Pray to forgive those who have hurt you and be patient with those who aggravate you. Try to find at least 10 things each day that you are grateful for; make a list if you need to. Try to find SOMETHING positive to say about each person in your household, even when they are getting on your last nerve. Try to take 15 minutes for yourself to take a walk around the yard or look up at the stars. These are things that will help you on your journey; that will strengthen your resolve; that will empower you to reach your goals; that will make you a better person. Ironically, these are the very things that are more difficult than giving up ice-cream or cookies, at least for me.

I encourage you to try to imagine what your life could be like if you made some little changes; if you LIKED who you are and what you looked like; if you didn’t have to take a handful of medicine for things like high blood pressure, cholesterol, pain, or other conditions that are exacerbated by obesity, alcohol or nicotine; if you were filling your body with good nutritious food instead of junk; if you were able to walk to the end of the driveway or play on the floor with your grandchildren; if you were able to SMILE a true, genuine smile. Some of you have been trapped for so long that you don’t know what that would be like, or have forgotten.

What would that be like????  I’ll tell you….IT IS WONDERFUL!!!!!!! IT IS MARVELOUS!!!! IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE…..make you appreciate EVERY LITTLE THING IN LIFE…..BUT….it won’t be easy. It is NOT easy. In fact, it is the hardest thing you’ll ever do because you will have to do it for the rest of your life. There is no end to your journey on this earth and you will fail, struggle, and want to give up. It will totally change your life in ways you cannot imagine, but it will not be long-lasting…UNLESS…you ask God to change your heart, your thoughts, and your mind and transform you from the inside out. I assure you…even if you never lose another pound, your life will be much richer; you will be much happier; you will be more peaceful, and your life will change for the better as you change the way you think and become a person of gratitude. Try it… I think you’ll like it…and I promise you…I’m here walking the same road as you, sharing this journey!  Together….we can and we will…CHANGE OUR LIVES and in turn, it will change the lives of others! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reflections on the magazine photo shoot

 Good Morning!  Thank You for all the support this week as I prepared for the magazine shoot for FIRST magazine. It really seems silly now to have been so stressed, but honestly I was more anxious over this shot than any of the others; even the TV and Radio features. Very likely, it was because of the crew that was hired to assist me. I’m just not used to the fuss, and the fact that they were strangers…..for a short time…..just added to the nervousness. But…WOW….am I ever glad to have had their help and support. My friend/graphic designer/assistant/photographer,  Marcia Miedzionowski… was at the college when I arrived for work yesterday morning. She took the county transit bus to the school so that she could take care of some college business during the day and would be there for me for the shoot AFTER I got off work and well into the evening. Talk about a wonderful person: to spend ALL DAY at the college to be available for me AFTER work! You may recall me talking about her in previous posts; she took the pictures for two other magazine shoots this summer and accompanied me when I spoke at the Soaring Eagle Casino. We could not really interfere with the hired photographer but Marcia took some photos when she could. Some of her photos are posted here. I likely won’t see any of the Shoot Footage until one or two of the pictures appear in the magazine in mid-September.

When my shift at work ended, it was time to “get down to business” getting all “dolled-up.”  The wardrobe consultant, Jennifer Grace Unger,  got to work sorting through the bin full of heels, box of accessories, and nearly two dozen pieces of clothing. As she was putting some outfits together, ironing dresses, and prepping things, the hair and make-up person, Teresa Balogh (, was busy performing her magic. Other than some group demonstrations at a Mary Kay party more than 20 years ago, or one of those “let me do your make-up” sales pitches at a department store many years ago, I don’t recall ever having a full make-over done before. Even when I was on the TODAY Show a few years ago, the make-up crew just touched up my own make-up. Not this time! Teresa had her work cut out for her, but she was AWESOME and reassuring as she transformed this tired, aging small-town girl into someone I didn’t recognize in the mirror…at first!

 So many emotions were going through my mind as I sat there while she primped...NEVER….EVER…would I have imagined an afternoon like I had yesterday before I started this journey.  I couldn’t help but remember the words of the stylist that cut my hair just a week or so before I started this journey….the very day I got “stuck” in the chair of the salon because I was too large to fit in the chair. He said to me, “Theresa….just because you are heavy, ill, sad, etc….doesn’t mean that you are not worth the effort to take care of yourself and look your best.”  Those words changed my life....and kept running through my mind as the make-up artist was covering up the dark circles, expertly placing false eyelashes (FIRST TIME for those) and even AIR-BRUSHING me! WOW…the secrets are all out now…no wonder those we see on TV and in magazines look so flawless….they have the service of the experts who make it all look so easy. The hair came next. Again…what an experience!

The wardrobe stylist found two outfits and it was time to get dressed. The first outfit consisted of jeans and a royal blue top. She worked to make sure everything looked “just right” to her eye and followed the “rules” sent to her by the magazine. We picked a pair of heels and we were ready to go. We headed outside where the photographer, Ryan Collier ( was all set up and waiting to do his thing. He was great; very reassuring and patient. Posing for the pics was a lot more work than I had anticipated, partly because I was in heels, standing in the grass after a heavy rain over the weekend...on the side of a hill. It was challenging to keep from sinking in the ground and tipping over as he directed me to kick this leg behind me; shift to the left; eyes to the left; hand on the hip; big smile. In between shots, the wardrobe person adjusted the clothing, the hair stylist fixed my hair and blotted my make-up, and Marcia took some pictures and shouted words of encouragement. It really was surreal and I just kept silently thanking God. This definitely was a long way from taking “selfies” in the driveway! God is just so incredibly good….not because of this “fuss” and “out of my comfort zone” experience because this journey is NOT about publicity and photo shoots, but because of HIS faithfulness and blessings. If even one person who reads this article or sees the photos when they are published begins to believe that he/she can change his/her life….than all of this will be so worth it. I must trust that there are reasons for all this that go beyond my comprehension.

When the first set of photos were done, it was time for another wardrobe change. This one included a hot pink dress that I purchased this past weekend at Goodwill for less than $5.00; a pair of brand new heels bought at a garage sale downstate last summer, and a bracelet bought off the clearance rack when I was in Dayton last weekend. The entire outfit was less than $12.00….and yet I was feeling like a million bucks! Oh the irony….God must be smiling.  More posing, more kicking, more “attitude” and “work it girl”, and more smiling than I’ve done in a long time, only this time, the smiles were not to cover the pain/depression/sadness/hopeless like a few years ago…but because of deep down, bubbling over joy…a joy that has only a little to do with weight and a lot more to do with a sense of ‘freedom, gratitude, and peacefulness.”  IT WAS….. SO…MUCH….FUN! Certainly a lot more fun than sitting in a bariatric wheeled walker on the sidelines watching other people smile.

Throughout this shoot I kept thinking about what life USED to be like and I remembered a time a few years ago when I attended my cousins wedding (June 2010) and was “all-dolled up” but unable to walk. I’m posting that picture here as well. The wedding was outdoors and after the ceremony, the photographer wanted to take family photos, but I had already worked my way up the hill using my wheeled walker to the place where dinner was to be served. I was summoned back to the ceremony site for photos, but I was unable to go because I was just too worn out…literally exhausted, in severer pain, and it was too much effort to make the 200 yard jaunt  back down to the lake….SO… I was the only family member not in the group photo. I just sat in my walker at the top of the hill……and watched from the sidelines.  THAT…my friends….was the reality, the norm, for me. Sitting and watching….but NOT NOW!  Again…to GOD be the glory!

As I sit here in the wee hours of the morning, feeling very sore from yesterday, I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my story with others, but mostly, I want to encourage you to keep believing in your miracle. Most of you probably can’t relate to the “getting stuck in the salon chair,” “unable to walk,” or “doing a photo shoot” experiences I’ve shared….but very likely there are many that can understand “being a spectator in life” or “sitting on the sidelines because you are unable to join in” moments in life.  And likely, weight and immobility is some of the reasons why.  Anxiety, depression, poverty, grief, addiction, grief, or abuse does the same thing: It robs us of life and energy and threatens to steal our joy and peace.  It sucks to be there…..but the good news is that YOU DON’T HAVE TO STAY THERE!

What is holding you back?  What is keeping you from enjoying life?  What is weighing you down?    And more important…..What can you do about it?  What steps will you take TODAY to leave that old life behind?  What can I do to help?

You may feel trapped; you may feel hopeless; you may feel discouraged and alone….but I assure you….your story DOES NOT have to be that way. GOD CAN and WILL help you change your life....and HE will give you what you need to do so. But you must first believe it is possible….and then you must be willing to take the first step…and keep taking steps….especially when you want to give up and quit.   No doubt, I have been blessed beyond measure….but YOU, my friends, are blessed too!  Never stop believing that YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Are you ready? Today is the perfect day to begin your journey....or recommit to the one you are on!

Today is the perfect day to START your journey....or recommit to it. A new day... a new week....almost a new month.  Are you ready.....or are you still just thinking about how great it would be? Just think what your life could be like NEXT YEAR at this time if you started today?  Come can do it.... :-)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Celebrate the small victories

 I think there is so much wisdom in this quote! It reaffirms my commitment to enjoy the journey...the little victories that happen along the way.  When I was in grade school, I remember my step-dad telling me that I should enjoy being in school because life only gets harder the older we get and to cherish the moments.  Those words helped me appreciate each day....and although my life continues to get better each terms of the weight loss, I will admit that it was much easier to LOSE the weight than it is to keep it off. SO, my friends... celebrate the little steps...Rejoice when you accomplish what seems like even a small victory....and Cherish the process of becoming a better, healthier, happier you.    Even getting through one day being happier than you were yesterday is a blessing!  Have a good day today!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Our choices determine our destiny

Choices….Sometimes I love them; other times I don’t. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a choice about a lot of things. Children of the 60’s didn’t really have the choices like kids do today. As long as it wasn’t raining, we played outside, and we better be home when the street lights came on. Period.  If we didn’t eat our vegetables or, in my brother’s case, meatloaf, we sat at the table long after everyone else had left. If we wanted to go to an event after school like a ball game or skating party, we teamed up with our classmates and set up a car-pool, or we didn’t go. Simple as that.  Even what I wore was dictated by a strict dress code at the Catholic school requiring me to wear uniforms.

 I grew up surrounded by people that cared about me, not just family, but teachers, neighbors, and my friend’s parents as well (back then, ANY adult had the authority to correct a kid); all of whom helped me learn that my choices came with consequences or rewards.  Sometimes the consequences were worth making the wrong choice and I endured them because it seemed “worth it” to……get my mouth washed out with soap for calling my brother a bad name, or getting my hair pulled for being a brat….or being sent to my room (loved that….enjoyed being alone even back then) for being disrespectful or sassing back. Other times, I learned quickly, that getting in trouble at school (only a few times) meant that not only did I have a conversation with the principal, Sr. Helen, but I also had a “CHAT” with my mother when I got home! I also learned that ‘faking sick” in order to stay home from school wasn’t what it was cracked up to be because it meant that I couldn’t go ANYWHERE that day, even after school hours, because if “I was too sick to go to school, I certainly was too sick to go to the basketball game or play with my friends.” Later in life, I learned that making poor food choices would lead to a life of obesity.

Likewise, I learned that good choices came with rewards. If I did my homework and paid attention in class, I earned good grades and if I got a good report card, my mother was proud and pleased. If I did my chores early and without a fuss, mom would take me shopping or perhaps out to lunch.  I didn’t always like the consequences for a poor choice, but I’m glad that I learned that my choices came with outcomes and played a role in my destiny. This new life that I’m enjoying is a reward for the choice I made to change my eating habits and way of thinking about food….and other things.

  It was much harder to learn that there are many things in life that happens over which I have NO choice; things like people dying, job loss, weather, disease, or the way OTHER people behave or treat me. I couldn’t do anything to keep my parents, friends, or grandparents alive; I didn’t do anything wrong to lose either of my jobs…it was just a restructuring thing; I didn’t do anything to bring on Rheumatoid Arthritis….and yet….I had a choice in the matter, not whether or not those events were going to happen, but rather, how I was going to respond to those things.  It took me a very long time to “see” it, but admittedly, I didn’t respond very well. I made some poor choices as a result of those “things over which I had no control”; namely, I turned to food to comfort me and fill the emptiness, withdrew from those around me, and tried to handle everything on my own.   And the consequences?  Well, you know the story: I ended up weighing over 400 pounds, unable to walk, miserable and in constant physical and emotional pain. I could not choose whether my loved one dies or to endure the pain of RA any more than you can choose to have cancer, or endure a hurricane, fire, or flood. Those things happen….but I could have done things differently.  Those examples are pretty big ones from the past, but over and over each day, I encounter little situations over which I get to choose how I react:  The lady at the checkout who was rude to me; the co-worker that seems to always “stir the pot” at the office; The family member that pushes my buttons on a regular basis. Am I going to let the attitude or actions of others ruin my day? Am I going to get agitated and eat something I will later regret?  Am I going to respond in a negative way and say something that I can’t take back?  I make the wrong choices frequently and I end up feeling bad about it. Other times, I just walk away. I’d like to do more ‘walking away’; how about you?

I guess what I’m trying to say in this ‘long-winded post” is that WE have a big role to play in our journey and we have to continually remind ourselves that “OUR CHOICES” can help determine our future, but first we have to determine what we CAN control….and what we CAN change….and then we have to make the CHOICES to do so.  I’m going to work on that today and in the future.  I’m going to try to ask myself:

“Can I control what is happening (like the thunder I hear in the background on my day off L” or not. If I can’t control it, how can I react to it in a way that will improve my life?

“What are the consequence of my actions…..and are the consequences worth it?” (Might be…. if I choose to go garage saling (which I will likely do in an hour or so but will need to give up some other time later to get some chores done) or maybe not, if I choose to eat something off plan and end up feeling icky or gain weight.)

“Does MY actions affect another person….hurt them; cause them to feel bad; or make a positive difference in their life”

And finally, “WILL it really matter… week, next year…when I die…..if my house is spotless (won’t ever happen); my garden is weed-less (some weeds have flowers, you know? LOL); or if I wear the red dress or the blue one to church tomorrow?” 

Choose instead to be happy….positive….loving….healthy….and grateful….and enjoy the blessings around you. Make the choices to improve your physical health and well-being…to fill our body with good nutritious food, drink water, and be as active as you are able to be. Choose to improve your emotional health by forgiving others, expressing love and kindness, accepting yourself and your faults and failings. And choose to improve your spiritual life by being GRATEFUL and asking God to help you recognize the ways in which He is present to you.  Choose today to make the BEST decisions to change your life!  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Oh the Irony of Life...God's plan is beyond our comprehension!

Many years ago when I was working at St. Mary’s, my student choir used to sing a song based on a scripture from 1 Corinthians 2:9. The words, “But as it is written, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him" are often used at funerals to comfort the grieving and give them the hope that their loved one is enjoying a new life that we cannot even comprehend.  Yesterday, these words took on a bit different meaning as I read a series of e-mails from the people that are involved in a photo shoot I am scheduled to do on Monday evening for a feature in FIRST magazine.  It’s all surreal to me and the irony of the situation left me chuckling and shaking my head.

I’ve shared with you before that I’m often flabbergasted at the way my miracle has caused such a stir around the world and why it keeps resurrecting itself. I just don’t understand it, and although I’m left humbled and surprised, I must believe that God has a plan for me that I cannot even imagine.  I never,   ever would have imagined the way my life has changed since beginning this journey three years ago, not necessarily just the way I look either. The way I THINK has changed…the way I REACT has changed….the way I PRAY has changed….which in turn helps change the way I ACT….all of which are constantly in need of God’s grace and mercy as I struggle and fail on daily basis.  In addition….the way I spend my time (certainly never enough of it in any given day) has changed because I feel that it is both a responsibility and a privilege to help others by sharing my story.

I often wonder, however….why all the fuss?  After all, I’m just a simple girl that lives on a dirt road in the north woods, can’t figure out how to retrieve voice mail from my I-phone, buys the majority of her clothes from thrift stores and garage sales, and has never had a professional manicure. Oh, the irony of life!  Yesterday,  I went to work dressed in a skirt that I purchased at the Salvation Army in Dayton, Ohio this past weekend. It cost me a whopping 98 cents thanks to the “half-off” sale going on that day. It was paired with an Ann Taylor blouse that cost $1.98 (again a ½ off special) that I purchased at the Goodwill store in Canton, MI last February. The whole outfit cost less than three bucks! You go, girl!!!  You’ll see what I mean about irony….

During my lunch hour I opened my e-mail to find an entire series of e-mails from all the individuals that will be involved in this photo shoot on Monday. First there was contact from the Magazine editor….then the photographer who will be doing the photos….then the person doing hair….and make-up….and finally, the wardrobe consultation who will be on the “set” (what set…it’s being done on my college grounds).  I was informed that this “crew” will be with me to serve and assist me for the entire four hour shoot.  WHAT????  The hair and makeup people will be touching me up between shots…powdering my nose, fixing my hair, etc…..the wardrobe person will be coordinating jewelry and outfits and steaming fabrics and primping….who knows what else?  WHAT???   Are you kidding me…..I’m sitting here in a $3.00 outfit and I’m going to have an entire staff of people “fussing” over me? I honestly don’t even know what to think; I just must simply say, “To God be the Glory” and try to have fun.  Yes, I’ve had shoots before…but they’ve always been just ME picking out a dress, doing my hair, showing up, being uncomfortable and awkward in front of a camera, and trying to hide my discomfort and embarrassment. 

Would I have IMAGINED three years ago when I was riding around my college campus in an electric wheelchair that I would be doing a photo shoot on the same property?  NOT IN A MILLION YEARS!  If I were truly honest with myself I’d admit that I never even IMAGINED that I would be able to lose weight or walk again on my own in the first place, let alone this. I’m overwhelmed, humbled, embarrassed, but so incredibly grateful. We simply cannot even imagine the ways that our life will change when God intervenes….and we cooperate! Eye has not seen….Ear has not heard….what God has in store….and what God can do….if we let Him and are willing to do our part. That is the key: DOING OUR PART.

I’m sharing these thoughts with you, not in any type of gloating or boasting spirit, but with the hope that those of you that are struggling and/or wanting to start a journey will begin to realize that the blessings God has in store for you is beyond your wildest dreams. I’m not saying that you should lose weight, give up a habit, change careers, seek counseling, (whatever) so that you can get “fussed with” or that you will end up in some magazine, but rather to assure you that your LIFE will be changed in ways…MUCH BETTER WAYS....than you can even comprehend.  And in all honesty, it has little to do with weight, sobriety, or income. It has to do with the way you will come appreciate things in a new way….the way will “see” and “think” differently….the freedom that comes from ‘letting go of habits that weigh you down’….the confidence, gratitude, sense of well-being, and joy and satisfaction that comes from working toward a goal and seeing it come to pass.  There is no doubt that your life will change….in both good and challenging ways…but it will change. You must, however, take the first step….and keep walking each and every day once you take that step.  It will not be easy. You will want to give up. You may even go astray once…or twice…or two dozen times.  You will doubt and be tempted and challenged and struggle….but you WILL eventually succeed if you keep trying and trusting God to help you.  I think God wants the best for us…we simply can’t even imagine what that means. Miracles happen every day to ordinary, every-day, simple people…..Believe that it can happen to you as well.

I encourage you….make a plan….take that first step today. Let go of those past hurts and failures that cause you pain; forgive those that have disappointed you; surrender those doubts and fears; believe in your ability to succeed, but mostly, trust that God will help you all along the way. Let go of the “Stuff” that is holding you back, and all the rest will begin to fall in place.  You can DO this!

Have a great day my friends!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Don't let comparison steal your joy

Because I was away this weekend, I didn’t get a 
chance to look at the Sunday advertisements until yesterday morning. While perusing the ads, I noticed several area grocery stores were claiming to have Michigan grown produce like cucumbers, zucchini, and cabbage on sale this week.  What?  How can that be, I wondered?  Last week one of our group members, Debra, said that she got cucumbers and squash at a Farm market in Boyne City.  Hmm… I planted several different varieties of vegetables this year, most of them in pots, but have yet to harvest anything other than a few beans and a couple of tomatoes. While the tomatoes were absolutely delicious, I don’t even have a cucumber or zucchini growing on the vine yet, although the plants have many flowers and a lot of leaves. I’m guessing those flowers are not getting pollinated.  I do, however, have one….ONE….little watermelon growing!

I have been so excited about my little garden so far. I get such joy out of the flower gardens and checking the vegetables every day. It makes me smile to watch things grow and flourish, and I am anxious to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I’ve been happy thus far with the progress considering the cold spring and summer, but I guess I’m not realizing that summer is passing so quickly and I should be harvesting things by this point. I thought things were growing great…..UNTIL….I read that others are already eating home-grown produce. Yesterday, at my speaking engagement, I was given several cucumbers, squash, and pea pods that were picked that day at the community garden growing out front of the business. The garden was FULL of other things ready to harvest.  What’s up with all that?   Although I was thrilled to get some fresh vegetables for dinner, I couldn’t help but feel a bit deflated to think that other gardens were actually producing fruit…and with the exception of the tomatoes and my one little beautiful watermelon….my plants are just flowering at this point. I almost let ‘envy and comparison” take away the joy of eating a home-grown cucumber for dinner.
As I pondered this situation last night, I realized that God was simply giving me a reminder that I thought I had learned long ago: namely, that “We should not compare OUR personal journey to that of another!” Otherwise, we can very easily lose the joy that comes from the progress and personal growth that is happening in our life as a result of the changes and choices we are making. So many times we get down and discouraged when others are losing weight faster than us; when others get better grades in school or make more money; when it seems like everyone else is getting the “breaks” in life, have better health, happier lives, can run faster….walk further….do things better and more easily than us. It’s a human tendency to compare our journey to those around us.

Fighting that “green-eyed-monster” is not always easy….but giving into it and wondering why “someone else has all the breaks or is making progress or is doing better than us…” is one of the quickest ways to suck the life, energy, and joy right out of our lives and sabotage our journey.  Instead of being thrilled that we lost 10 pounds, went 10 days without a drink or cigarette, can now walk 1 whole mile, earned a C on that exam that we worked so hard to prepare for….or were able to get away for a weekend camping trip….whatever…..we begin to feel deflated because someone else has lost 50 pounds, just ran a 5k, earned an “A”, or is leaving next week for a cruise. Giving in to a mentality of comparison….envy….jealousy….impatience…. INSTEAD OF GRATITUDE for even the smallest bit of progress can so easily derails us and cause us to give up. I could have easily felt frustrated with my little garden if I sulked that I didn’t even have a silly little cucumber yet!  BUT…. I thought about it….and instead, I remembered the JOY of seeing those plants sprout new leaves; the HOPE that I feel when I water them and pull stray weeds; the anticipation that my efforts will PAY OFF….at some point this summer….and the realization that I was able to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s garden for dinner when I ate those cucumbers that someone picked that very afternoon.  My hope is that my own little garden will eventually produce vegetables….and that my sweet little perfect watermelon will grow enough to be eaten….BUT….even if it doesn’t before the summer wanes, I still am enjoying the process of watching things grow before my very eyes! 

So much like our journey…….I may not EVER lose these last 15 pounds......or come to accept all this excess skin…..or become the kind of person I want to be……but if I focus on all of that, I will miss the joy that comes from each day.  I encourage you to rejoice in YOUR JOURNEY….your progress, however small it may be….and work really hard not to compare yourself with others who are on a similar journey.  Try to draw energy from those special moments on the journey…like wrapping that beach towel around you when you get out of the water and realizing that for the first time in years, it goes all the way around you……or walking up a hill while garage-saling and realizing that your are not out of breath….or putting on a piece of clothing that has been hanging in the closet for a while and discovering that it is too big….or even, seeing an in-law or neighbor that typically causes you to cringe and realizing that he/she can’t push your buttons anymore!  Smile and be grateful for the blessings of the day……Like that little watermelon on my vine.   We are all a work in progress….and we will bloom and blossom ( OR MAYBE NOT)….IN DUE Time…IN GOD’s TIME, not ours! 

Make it a good day today by giving thanks for ANY progress…ANY growth…..ANY step in the right direction this day!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Our attitude determines so much!

Good morning. I don’t think there could be more appropriate words for me today than those expressed on that clip art, “A bad attitude is like a flat tire; you can’t go anywhere until you change it.”  My day got off to a rough start today, but for really no particular reason. I woke up very early (2:45 a.m.) as usual to a nice cool breeze blowing through the window. I was actually feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. The coffee was already made and I sat down in the lazy boy for some quiet time.  However, it seemed like things went downhill from there, and one irritation after another threatened to ruin my day. The little, dumb things, you know….like the internet going out; the cellphone not getting a signal so I couldn’t listen to the voicemail that came in; the cat bugging me and causing me to lose some information that I had typed; and so forth. Try as I may, these little annoyances kept creeping in and little by little, I found my peaceful and joyful spirit slowly turning into one of irritation. It continued on for the next two hours….the sink wouldn’t drain; I dropped a carton of yogurt on my foot causing it so splatter all over the rug AND my leg; I couldn’t find something I needed; and then I went out to get the garbage from the garage and I noticed that there was water running over the side of the pool, apparently because of the heavy rain last night and yet another leak somewhere in the top ring.  Sigh….I guess it’s going to be “one of those days”…….or is it?

I am a firm believer that our ATTITUDE and our thoughts can determine the outcome of our day.  How we THINK determines how we ACT and BEHAVE, which in turn, determines the results.  I knew right then and there that the day was off to a bad start and something needed to change or the entire day would be a struggle, and that certainly wasn’t in my plans for the day. I have a speaking engagement this afternoon and an icky attitude is contagious and I surely don’t want to spread my irritability with my co-workers, friends, or anyone I come in contact with this day.  And so…. I recognized that…and did what always works for me: I prayed and I began to give thanks: Thanks to God that the weather last night didn’t damage anything more serious than to play havoc on the internet and cellphone signal; Thanks that I have water in the first place when so many in this world do not  and that I was able to unplug the sink simply by pulling the spoon out of the drain that had accidentally fallen down there; Thanks that I discovered the Strawberry Cheesecake yogurt that I really like and only has 80 calories and that it hit my bare leg and NOT my favorite blue shoes; thanks that I discovered the pool issue before the ENTIRE pool caved in AND that the heavy rain means I don’t have to water my gardens tonight giving me an hour to take a bike ride; and mostly, Thanks that God gives us chances to START ALL OVER each day….multiple times each day….even several hours into the day! 

And you know what????? It wasn’t very long before I could feel my tension lift; my irritability turn to peacefulness; and the drained, stressed expression on my face replaced with a smile. It’s all about our attitude……not only in the day-to-day things that we must do….but in our efforts to change our life. If we approach our journey with a bad attitude… of defeat (I’m just going to gain it all back anyway….I’ve only EVER been able to go 3 days without a cigarette….I’ll never be able to stick to it); deprivation (Why am I the only one NOT eating birthday cake….Just one Margarita won’t hurt….It’s not fair that I got the FAT genes);  fear (What if I can’t do it…..what if I fail AGAIN….what if I NEVER reach my goal) or doubt (I can’t possibly lose 50 pounds; it’s too much….I’ve tried over and over and I never could stick to it….I know I’ll just give up in a few weeks so why don’t I just eat that cheeseburger and forget about it?) we will NEVER succeed.

 Perhaps….a better approach would be, “Thank you, God….for loving me in spite of my weaknesses and flaws, for winning this battle already on the cross so that I may be free from all that weighs me down, for assuring me that YOU are with me always and that I don’t have to do this alone, for being strong when I am weak, and mostly, for forgiving me when I fail to recognize how abundantly blessed I am and give in to the annoyances that threaten my joy.”   It works for me every time!  Hopefully, your day started out better than mine, but if it didn’t, “It’s not too late to turn it around. That goes for eating a donut or cookies for breakfast too. Start over….right now!!!!”  MAKE it a good day today!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Reflections on a recent road trip

Good Morning my friends! It's good to be back home, although I had a wonderful weekend out of state visiting my friend, Joe Callahan for the weekend. I'm tired this morning from traveling, but I wanted to share my thoughts about the drive to and from Dayton, so I uploaded a Youtube video instead of writing.

Thank you again for all the nice birthday messages and kind words!  I hope everyone had as nice a weekend as I did!

As promised...some photos from my trip

It's lunch time! I promised some of you that I would post some pictures from the here you go. A couple of them were at Cox Arboretum in Dayton. It's been a standing tradition for 30 years now that my friend and I visit the park each time I go to Dayton. Even though it was a bit dreary and rainy, the park is just alive with God's glory as manifested in His creation.  I love it there!!!  

The wedding was beautiful, very much like the type of outdoor country wedding you see on TV. The setting was the groom's parent's property and the d├ęcor was full of flowers, hurricane lamps, and rustic country furnishings.....all surrounded up by a large corn field. The corn is certainly a lot higher in Ohio than it is in northern Michigan. They had a very large white tent with hanging chandeliers and at dark, there were sparklers and the launching of a whole bunch (not sure how many but a lot) of those hot air type balloon things. I have no idea what they are called, but it was so beautiful to see the dark sky....already lit up with stars....  full of those light up paper hot air type balloons sailing into the horizon. As the balloons were beginning to fill with the heat and rise into the sky, I said a silent prayer for all of you. I asked God to allow whatever burdens you; whatever weighs heavy on your mind; whatever holds you back; to just be lifted from your spirits and float away, so that each of you come to know the freedom, peace, joy, and mostly GRATITUDE  that I was feeling at that very moment.  I've said this all are with me in thought, prayer, and spirit.....wherever I go!

It was such a great little trip.  I am so blessed.....and to think....Three years ago at this time there would have been NO WAY that I would have been able to enjoy a weekend like this.  It is great to have my life back!  And so I ask you....WHAT IS IT...that you would like to be able to do again?  Take a walk in the park?  Climb on the rocks in a waterfall?  Visit friends or family out of town?  Attend a wedding and not be afraid that the rented chairs would break?  Take a spin around the dance floor?   Use those things to motivate you to do what it necessary so that you can get your life back too!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rain, rain go away

Good Morning..... I hope everyone is happy and well today.  I’m having a wonderful time thus far visiting my long-time friend, Joe Callahan, (gosh, has it really been 30+ years???) even though unexpected rain last night forced us to change the plan to attend a classic car show and concert in the park. However, my friend took me to see a hidden treasure in the midst of the city: a secluded grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes on the retreat center property of the Marianist Brothers. It was sprinkling, but getting a little damp was well worth the moment of seeing this beautiful wooded shine in the midst of gorgeous plants and flowers. Loved it! 

As we walked through the wooded trail, I couldn’t help but give thanks silently for the many blessings in my life, namely, the fact that I could even WALK down that path. The world is full of so many of these sights and experiences…..often taken for granted by others who do not know what it is like to be obese, addicted, disabled, depressed, sick, sad (whatever it is that hinders us and threatens to rob us of our joy and peace) and for so many years, I was unable to experience these types of moments.  Ironically, so many of these things existed around me…..and I never knew.  I often wonder….if I KNEW what life could be like, would I have done something sooner to get my life back?  Would I have tried sooner to lose weight; would I have sought counseling to deal with the grief of loss; would I have allowed myself to get to such a dark place? That is a question that I suppose I will never know the answer to.  Part of me says, YES, I always knew deep down that my weight was hindering me and I was CHOOSING not to do anything about it. I could not control those losses that I endured, but I could have dealt with them in a better way. It certainly is easier to deny my role and responsibility in my health and well-being and blame others and circumstances that happened to me, but another part of me believes whole-heartedly that all of this is in God’s time and that it was only when HE changed my mind-set and began to change my heart that this miracle could be set in motion. Obviously we have to cooperate with God, but before a miracle and change can be manifested in our bodies, we have to surrender our heart/mind/spirit so that God can transform our thoughts, which in turn will transform our bodies.

 If you are struggling in any way or having trouble ‘getting started’ or sticking to a plan, perhaps a prayer that God will change your heart and thoughts might be a better place to start than simply trying to revamp your entire eating plan; go cold turkey; or completely revamp your entire life. I’ve said this before, and it is a principle that I live by every day, “I believe, without a doubt that GOD CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS but we have to pick up the shovel and cooperate with Him.” It’s a partnership…..He has already done HIS part by dying on the cross; we have to do our part EVERY DAY by trying to be better people, treating others with kindness and compassion, making good choices for our minds, spirits, and bodies, and expressing GRATITUDE for all things….even the rain that alters our vacation plans. It is my daily prayer that God will change my heart and take over my life.

So….the rain cancelled last night’s plans….but the evening turned out to be pleasant anyway with great conversation, a lovely dinner in a quaint little diner, a drive through the country….AND… we stopped at a Goodwill store and I found my very first pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans for $4.00!  Woot! Woot!  J  It’s raining and foggy again this morning so my plans to visit Cox Arboretum will likely be altered as well, but I’m sure the day will be wonderful anyway. I might just have to go garage saleing or shopping!  Hopefully, it will stop raining before the wedding this evening.

Make it a good day today….regardless of the weather….regardless of any disappointments that may come your way….regardless of whether someone lets you down today.  Choose to be happy and grateful…in spite of all things.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A year of jubilee continues on

I am often asked, “Theresa, what is it that makes you keep going when you want to give up”?  Depending on the situation and my mood, the answer may vary because there are many things that keep me motivated. The most important, however, really has little to do with me personally, but rather, is fueled by a desire deep within me….a call if you will…to help others.  It may sound trite, but honestly, that is what energizes me and keeps me going when I am weary.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past week because it today is my 51st birthday and I’ve been a bit melancholy for several days in anticipation of this day.  I’m certainly not depressed about getting older; in fact, it’s just the opposite. I rejoice that I AM ALIVE to celebrate another birthday after so many years wondering how long it would be before someone found me dead.

As I’ve been reflecting on this day, it finally dawned on me that my ‘’out-of-sortness” (how’s that for making up my own words??) had nothing to do with age, but rather the ending of my YEAR OF JUBILEE. For those of you that are not familiar with the concept, biblically, the 50th year is called a year of jubilee…a year of great favor from God; a year when prisoners were set free; debts cancelled; a year of great blessings.  Last year I was SO EXCITED to turn 50…and although there have been many wonderful days in my life, I think my 50th birthday is on the top of the list. It was just an incredible day….and the beginning of a wonderful year; certainly one of GREAT FAVOR from the Lord!

This morning I have been reflecting on this past year…and I actually had tears of gratitude in my eyes as I sat in the darkness…because I have been so blessed. In the past year so many incredible things happened….things that I would never ever dreamed possible.  New experiences like riding a Harley, standing on the top of a dune with a dear friend, fly-fishing, getting my first smart phone AND high speed internet, appearing in magazines, radio, TV, sharing my story with literally hundreds of people all over the world, meeting new people and making new friends. The list could go on and on.  By far, it has been the best year of my life….thus far.  There have been ups and downs; I’ve grieved the sudden deaths of friends and loved ones; experienced triumphs and tragedies; had good days and bad; shed tears and laughed….you get it……and YET, through it all, I experienced a year of God’s Favor in a way that I’ve never known; nor could have ever imagined! It’s no wonder I’ve been a bit blue thinking about the ending of this year.  But… I prayed and reflected, I asked myself, “Does it really have to end?”  Hmmm…… I don’t think so!   

When my 50th birthday arrived, I had the expectation that this was my YEAR OF JUBILEE…my year of blessings and favor.  Expectation…hmmm…  Because God said it, I believed it…and expected it…and looked for it….and expressed gratitude for it….and connected EVERYTHING…..good and bad…that happened to me this past year to my year of favor. My mindset was completely different this whole year and even though I am moody and emotional and struggle just like the rest of the world, it always came back to the mindset that “This is my year of favor”….that everything that happens, every person I speak to, every opportunity that comes my way……is part of God’s plan for me, even if I don’t fully understand what that plan might be. I just knew…and know….that all the pieces will come together in due time.  Why?  Because it was my Year of Jubilee, of course….and because I sincerely believe that the whole purpose that God blessed me with this miracle…this new life…. is reflected in the following scripture from Isaiah 61. 
The Year of the Lord's Favor
1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 2To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.…
How else can I explain how/why this story keeps circulating the globe…over and over….and has now appeared on multiple continents and has been translated into languages I’ve never even heard?  I can’t explain it…. I simply have to be grateful….and willing….and open….and trust. It’s the same expectation and belief I had when I started this journey a few years ago. I believed…that I could do it with God’s help….and when I wanted to quit, I drew strength from this belief. You, too, must believe that your miracle will happen.

I’ve decided today that I don’t want my YEAR of JUBILEE to end….and so today, on my birthday, I am declaring ANOTHER year of God’s Favor.  In fact….how about a DECADE or a lifetime???  I am going to greet each day with the same expectation that I did each day of my 50th year….with the mind-set that I am blessed with God’s favor…and that He has equipped me with all I need to do all I need to do….and that He is in control of my life….my eating, my body, my thoughts, but I must surrender them to Him each day.  Today…and tomorrow….and next week….I am going to continually look for and expect the blessings that have been promised to us. It’s a mind-set….that is the key….to our journey.  

So, my friends….as my birthday gift, I am asking God for a year of favor for ALL OF US….. a year of great joy; a year of victory and strength; a year when we will be set free from all that holds us back; a year when we will be renewed and refreshed, and mostly, a year when we will BELIEVE, like me, THAT WE CAN…and WE WILL….CHANGE OUR LIFE!!!!!    Tell yourself this each day….in much the same way as I will tell myself….and express gratitude….. that I AM ABUNDANTLY BLESSED with God’s favor, not just for a year, but for a lifetime!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Negative thoughts are like weeds...they pop up everywhere!

I am very blessed to have so many people in my life who care about and support me in my journey. Most would say that I have a positive attitude and can often find good in tough situations. One, ironically the person closest to me, tells me frequently, however, that I am often“negative.” This, of course, really irks me because I think it’s more a situation where this person doesn’t really understand and share my thought process, emotional make-up, drive, passion, faith…etc….than it is that I am a “negative” thinker.  In addition, because I am a first-born child and my father died when I was a little girl, I had a lot of responsibility while growing up and much was expected from me at a young age. As a result, I am very independent and always have a “back-up plan” just in case. Conversations such as, “If this happens, I will do this…..and worst case scenario, blah blah blah…….” After all, I need to take care of myself, right?   I readily admit that I am a complex, emotional person, but I think it’s more of a situation that this person “just doesn’t GET ME” than the fact that I am a negative person; although, I admit that I am pretty hard on myself sometimes….and I always think I could have done better; been nicer; tried harder…and so forth.

With that being said, however, this morning was a perfect example of how I almost let negative thinking ruin my day. I have a big photo shoot coming up next week for another magazine feature story. This one is for a popular women’s magazine called FIRST.  The magazine is hiring a photographer, hair, makeup, and a wardrobe consultant, and sending this crew to do a four-hour shoot.  I suppose because they are sending this crew I feel a bit more apprehensive, especially because I’ve not been feeling overly confident about my body this summer because my body weight is shifting around, the excess skin is becoming more of an issue, likely due to age, gravity, and the fact that I have been unable to ride the bike and walk as much this summer because of the RA flares and issues that have been causing some distress. I’m also going to wedding this weekend out of town with a long-time, very dear friend (very excited!).  For the past few days, I’ve been trying to choose outfits for the photo shoot and a dress for the wedding and I’ve been way too hard on myself and have likely been a bit “negative” in my thinking about myself. This morning I tried on 7 different dresses….and a whole lot more over the weekend, and I STILL don’t know what I’m going to wear to either event. Wow, has life changed! A few years ago when invited to a wedding I would have two choices…either the black “tent-like dress” or the other black “tent-like dress!” Now I’m having to choose between the 30+ dresses (almost all bought at a thrift store, garage sale, or EBay) that I have hanging in the closet. Am I blessed or what???? J As I tried them on one by one, I found fault with each of them although I know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of them. I was just being overly critical of myself. I recognized this after about a half-hour and a pile of clothes on the bedroom floor and decided to put the wardrobe choices off until tonight or tomorrow. Such problems…eh?  Even I think it sounds ridiculous as I type it.

Ironically, all weekend I have been thinking a great deal about negative thoughts….not necessarily just my own…but in general. They are just like weeds; they grow easier than flowers or plants and can pop up out of no-where. They need constant attention to remove them or they will very easily take over your life/garden.  Sometimes they even come disguised as flowers/friends when they sport a blossom, but in reality, they are threats to the garden….robbing the desirable things of nutrients/energy. Just like a weed, it’s often much easier to harbor negative thoughts/emotions than positive ones….but if left untended, they will eventually take over completely and choke out the joy, peace, love, and sense of well-being that we work so hard to cultivate and grow.

No matter how hard we try to be positive all the time, all of us likely have days when negative thoughts creep in. Sometimes those thoughts are completely unfounded, but rear their ugly head, especially when we are tired, stressed, hormonal, or just not feeling well.  Sometimes they are brought on by others in our life who “push our buttons” or somehow rattle our cage. No matter what brings them on, negative thoughts can sabotage a person’s journey quicker than a Big Mac and fries! I may even go so far as to say that ‘negative thinking” and “negative people” are the biggest threat to my well-being and peace of mind…..likely because I am an emotional eater and when I allow negativity to take root, I want to eat.  Somehow I think that a protein bar will make me less irritated and/or feel better….but it doesn’t…..and then I feel bad about eating when I’m not hungry….and so I eat a piece of fruit to make me feel better….and then I think… “Gosh, Theresa, why did you do that?” and then I feel bad….and… it goes.  I’m guessing that there are A LOT of you reading this that are saying, “Oh my…THAT’s ME!”  Am I right?  J

SO…..I know the cycle….and I have to fight against it every day.  We all encounter negativity and often we have no choice. We don’t typically have any control over our co-workers who are constantly complaining about the company or the boss. We can’t do much about that in-law or relative that is continually belittling someone in the family or being crabby about everything. We can’t always make people like us, respect us, agree with us, etc…  Sometimes we have NO CHOICE about those around us….we need to work….we’re obligated to attend a family function, etc.  In those situations, we simply have to do our best to control our reactions to these individuals and situations. 

There are situations, however, when we can CHOOSE to avoid negative people by making changes in our life. Sometimes this means that we need to limit our time with those that continually threaten to drag us down. This is especially true in those situations where our “old friends” are still practicing habits that we are trying to change.  A recovering alcoholic likely won’t want to continue to go to the bars on the weekends and hang with the “drinking crowd.” A person trying to practice gratitude won’t likely want to spend a lot of time surrounded by those that are continually finding fault with EVERYTHING from the weather to the sports team, and complaining about everything and everyone. Rather, we need to find people who are like-minded….encouraging….uplifting; those that want us to succeed and continually support us, especially when we are feeling discouraged or down.  That’s why I love this group and why I am so grateful to have people around me that are like-minded and working to change their own life….or at least encourage/support/affirm me on mine.

In a conversation this weekend, I was telling a new friend about wardrobe dilemma and complaining that “this dress made me look hippy” and “ I felt fat in that one” and…….so forth.  He said something to me that really brought things into perspective.  He said something like this….. “Theresa, you know…for so many years you sat in a corner and couldn’t even participate in life….and now, listen to you….BEING NORMAL…..Almost all women your age have these same thoughts….complaining about their bodies….not being happy about their hips…..their thighs…etc… Look at you…. you are a typical woman and for the first time….you get to participate in those conversations. Isn’t that great?”   You know what….he is absolutely right!  I’m guessing that if I asked the group….or a group of my co-workers….how many of them are happy with their bodies….I’ll likely not find many.  His perspective helped turned an agitated mood into a good one…one of gratitude for SO MANY THINGS.

So, my friends….today…I encourage you to join me in choosing to be positive. You may have to dig deep to find the good in the situation….you may be hanging on by a thread….but I’m guessing, that if you are like me and feeling a bit ‘out of sorts” today or in the future, you will soon discover that if you take a little break and look at the situation you’ll see that things are not as bad as they seem.  Take a walk….pull some weeds….call a friend….clean out a drawer….read a book….do  WHATEVER you need to do to avoid eating/drinking/smoking/saying/spending something that you will later regret.  Let’s make this a great day….by choosing to be positive and grateful …..even if you are feeling a bit “hippy” like me! J

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Too good to be true?????

Back in the 1990’s, when I was working/teaching downstate and had the summers off, I purchased a very small little mobile home in northern Michigan. Those were good days and although I was quite overweight (probably 250-300 pounds), I was healthy, loving life, and quite happy. It was during that time when I first was introduced to gardening; a hobby that I am so thrilled to be able to do again.  My little yard was full of perennials and annuals and I was surrounded by beautiful blooms all summer long.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about gardening then and I made several gardening mistakes, one of which is still haunting me to this day, even though I no longer life at that address. Let me explain….

While visiting some friends at home (downstate at that time), the subject of gardening came up when I was admiring their beautiful plants. Those of you that garden know that most people with perennials are quite eager to share them with others because the plants need to be divided every couple of years in order to keep looking their best. My friend offered me several cuttings. Of course I was thrilled to take some new plants and we got to work digging and separating them.  At that point, her husband, came out in the yard and pointed out some rather pretty looking groundcover that was literally covering the back corner of the yard. He told me that it  was easy to care for, and began to dig some up for me. Again, I said, sure…put it in the bucket…and I’ll use it up north in one of the new beds I was working on.  I couldn’t wait to get back up north the next day and put my plants in their new home.  And so began the saga that continues to this day…..WEEDING!!!!

It turns out that this so-called beautiful groundcover is called “Creeping Charlie” and is actually an invasive weed that is very difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate. It grows with underground runners and can thrive just about anywhere.  Sigh…..By the end of that first summer it had taken over my flower bed. By the next summer it had spread into the lawn and within about two years, it was everywhere. It is now all over that yard.  Even though I no longer live in that particular house, I still own the property, and a few years ago when I took up gardening in my current home, I dug up plants from the other yard to transplant….and yup, you’ve got it….I managed to get Creeping Charlie because it was entwined with the others or the underground runners were tangled in the roots. And so, here it is, about 20 years after my initial “gift” and I’m STILL dealing with it on a weekly basis.  Although it is a somewhat pretty looking plant, it just chokes out everything else, so I have to get rid of it, but in 20 years, I’ve not been able to completely eradicate it.

I was thinking about this situation yesterday morning when I was weeding the beds and like just about most day-to-day tasks, conversations, and events, I can somehow connect it my journey. At first, I kind of chucked and said out loud, “If it appears to be too good to be true; most of the time it is.” This plant was probably not causing an issue or my friend when he shared it to me. He and his wife had just moved into their home and the plant was growing all over a corner of the yard that was under some trees. He hadn’t had the experience yet of trying to control it. Therefore, he was just sharing what he thought was a good thing.  For me….not knowing any better, I was thrilled to have an entire bucket of the so-called “ground cover” for free because perennials can be very expensive. Like Brian, I didn’t know any better; it was a “good thing.” Then. But I do now…..and I continue to pay the price of it.  Sigh…..

Over the course of my teen/adult years, I’ve encountered many things (potential boyfriends, job offers, items for sale, get rich schemes, etc.) that “appeared to be good….some of which I was sure were an answer to prayer…..but later turned out to be “too good to be true.” This is especially true with weight loss.  Likely, you’ve been there….or perhaps are there now……or considering going there out of desperation.

 I’ve battled with weight my whole life and like many of you, have tried some of the quick fix options to get thinner.  Twice, I was somewhat successful, losing 80+ pounds in the 80’s on a high-protein diet very popular called “Stillman’s” back then (probably something like Adkins these days) where I could eat all the meat, cheese, eggs, butter, etc…that I wanted but no bread, fruit, grains. I don’t even recall eating many vegetables. I called it the hotdog diet because I would eat a pack of hotdogs at a time without buns. I lost weight…quickly….but ended up quite sick and developed ulcerative colitis as a result. I used to carry a roll of toilet paper in the car and had digestive issues for a year….BUT…. I was losing weight so endured the stomach issues.  I was only in my early 20’s at that time so I didn’t even think about what that type of diet was doing to my cholesterol or the serious health issues I would later develop. Yikes!  And…you guessed it… I never learned self-control because I could eat all I wanted of the approved  high fat, unhealthy foods, and as soon as I went off the plan, I gained the weight back…and then some! I’m not sure how the diet even worked because I must have been consuming an awful lot of calories.

Again in the 90’s, I did the “too good to be true” Low-Fat plan. I could eat all I wanted as long as the foods I chose were “fat-free.”  Again, I lost a lot of weight, but didn’t learn discipline. I would eat an entire box of Snackwell’s cookies at a time, not to mention my addiction to diet coke and a box of sour-dough hard pretzels that I consumed each day. I even ordered those pretzels by the case because I couldn’t find my favorite brand in any stores in the Detroit area.  Again…an unbalanced, unhealthy eating plan…and you guessed it…I gained it all back….and then some! 

In between were several other “quick-fix” things that filled the media: diet pills that were later discovered to cause serious heart damage were prescribed by my doctor for about two months before I told him I wasn’t going to take them.  I tried some sort of supplements from the health food store for a month or so one time until I read that they raised blood pressure and caused heart attacks. Then there was the prescription that the doctor gave me that had the warning label that said, “Will cause anal seepage.” Yikes! Good thing I read that before I took them. I’d rather be fat than have “anal seepage!”  The TV and magazines were….and continue to be…. full of quick-fix solutions to the dreaded problem of obesity. I saw an infomercial a couple of weeks ago for a T-shirt type shapewear thing that is supposed to “burn fat.”  WHAT????????  Although each and every so called “quick-weight loss miracle” could work for some……most of them are “too good to be true” and will likely end up causing more problems….maybe very serious problems….in the long run. At first, it sounds like an answer to prayer and appears to be a very good thing…..just like the dreaded “Creeping Charlie” but later it turns out to be a very bad decision. 

Losing weight….changing one’s life is not easy. For me…the only thing that has…and will continue to work… is to make a complete life change. That means that I have had to ‘re-think” my mind-set and it is why I don’t refer to my current way of life as a ‘diet.” People go on and off diets all the time. I’m eating the same things now as I was back in 2011 when I started this journey, but just a larger quantity and a bigger variety.  I no longer limit my intake of fruit and yogurt, but I still won’t eat a candy bar or potato chips. I’ve said it many times before…. My advice is not to start a plan or do something today that you are not willing to do for the rest of your life.  If you choose an eating plan that you can stay on forever, you will be successful. If you give up eating candy now and can go forever without eating chocolate…if you want to stay on diet pills for the rest of your life….then you are on the right plan, but trust me…. “If it sounds too good to be true….if it promises that you will lose 20 pounds a month….it likely is TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!”  Losing weight is hard work….there is no quick-fix. Even those that choose the surgery route will tell you that they have had to completely change their life.  Find YOUR plan….a plan that works for you…a plan that you will be able to live with forever…..and you will succeed.

I will likely be plagued with the task of pulling “Creeping Charlie” from my yard (it is now spread to many areas of the yard…not sure HOW, but it has) but that pesky little invader will now be a reminder to me of this journey, and each time I pull up a runner or a plant, I will remember that my journey….my eating plan…my current lifestyle….is something that will require my attention FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. If I let it go…if I don’t continually address it….my old habits will take over my life and choke out the new joy, new attitude, new health, new life….NEW THERESA….that makes up the garden called life.

Have a great day today!

Friday, July 11, 2014

My thoughts about praying on this journey......

Like many of you, I am often asked to pray for people. Students often ask me to pray that they pass a test or get a good grade on an assignment. Sometimes someone asks me to pray that they get a new job, or that they win the lottery. Most of the time, I get asked to pray that someone can lose weight.  Obviously, as a woman of faith, I am a firmer believer that prayer changes things, but I’ve learned over the years that prayer is not a magic potent that removes my responsibility from the equation.  Let me elaborate….

When asked by a student to pray that he passes his test, before answering him, I usually ask him this: “Did you study for the exam? Did you read the materials? Have you been going to class?”  If he responds, “YES,” then my response is typically, “Sure, I’ll pray for you….but I’m not going to pray that you get an A on the test; I’m going to pray that God will help you remember what you read/learned/studied and that you do the best you can on the test.”  Sometimes the student looks at me with a blank stare and I explain further that I am not going to ask God to pass the test for him but rather, I will ask God to help HIM during the exam….because he (student) has responsibility in the outcome.  IF he had not prepared for the test, and I told him I would pray for him, and then he failed the test because he didn’t study, then the student’s faith in God would be altered. Geez, Theresa, God let me down; I failed the test.  NO, God didn’t let you down…..You let yourself down by not preparing and studying for the exam.  In my version of the prayer, his outcome on the test becomes a partnership between God and the student.

The same situation regarding winning the lottery or getting a good paying job.  I never…ever…am going to pray that someone wins the lottery or a raffle….or a baseball game or any other type of contest. I won’t even pray that way for MYSELF. I do pray, however, that God will prosper the work of my hands….that will give me the insight, energy, work ethic, desire…to work hard, to be industrious, to do my best….at work, or in a game or contest, or on a project. I pray that God will lead me to opportunities to share my story and will open the doors that He desires for me (someday that may lead to a bigger income or to writing a book, who knows?)  I will pray that a person prospers….or practices good sportsmanship or plays to the best of his/her ability….but if one wants to increase his/her income or become rich (no harm in that, I suppose) then my prayer might be that he/she is able to do well in an interview and get a higher paying job.  There is no EASY way out in this life; at least I’ve never found one!  Certainly there are those individuals in this world that seem to have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth….born into a rich family….athletically gifted or extremely intelligent…..but most of the people I know that have become successful in life (however YOU define that….money?  Nah, not me.  Fame? Nope, don’t care about that either. Great athlete/awards/trophies? Never won a trophy for any of that) have done so because they have worked VERY HARD in life. Your grandpa or dad was probably a very hard worker…maybe working 30+ years at the same factory job, day in and day out….and now is enjoying retirement comfortably….but worked long hours in tough conditions, scrimped and saved over the years, and is now reaping the rewards of years of a strong work ethic.  Those college/professional athletes, Olympic stars, singers/dancers…whatever…. put hours and hours of practice in to develop their talent. Most people have to WORK HARD to reap results.  So sure, I’ll pray that their hard work pays off….but not that they will just be HANDED a million dollars.

I especially feel this way about praying for a person to lose weight or make a big life change.  I have never prayed that I would get thin; nor will I pray that anyone else does.  Rather….every day….I pray about my journey and I ask for God’s grace to continue on this road to wellness. My prayer, for me….and for you too…. is always, first and foremost, one of GRATITUDE…(even when I was 400 pounds….and 300 pounds…and 200 pounds)  Every day I thank God for paying the price for this victory….(I prayed that all along, even when I was extremely obese, God had ALREADY won the battle on the cross; I just hadn’t fully embraced that) and Thanking Him for supporting me on this journey…for setting me free from a life of obesity/disability/emotional eating. I then ask that I be given the strength to walk in that victory… stay motivated….to make healthy choices each day… have the desire and the discipline to stay strong.  I also pray that God will replace the temptation/desire/hunger in me for things that are not nourishing for my body…… sugar and junk food….with a hunger/desire to do good; to help others; to stay focused; to be a better, kinder, more loving person, etc.  I ask God to remove the temptation to eat when I am not hungry; when I am tired or stressed (all emotional eating)…and to eat only those things that my body needs to function well and remain strong.  I ask Him to bring my body into line with that perfect weight (whatever that is…might even be 200 pounds for some) that He created me to be. God created each of us different, unique, and beautiful and in all shape and sizes. What a boring world it would be if we all were 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighed 125 pounds. I have no desire to be a size 6…..I just want to be healthy and to be at/maintain the weight that God created/desires me to be.  I’m not a theologian but I don’t believe that God made me fat; nor did He make me thinner.  He allowed me to make the choices that caused me to be 400+ pounds and he loved me then….and He helped me make the choices/changes to lose weight….and he loves me now. So sure… I pray….every day of this journey and give Him every single bit of the glory for this miracle for without Him, none of it would be possible, but I did not…..and will not….pray to become a size 6. You may have a different philosophy and that is okay with me…because, although we are on this journey together, each one of us have a personal walk and we all think differently.

So… assured that if you ask me to pray for you on your journey, I absolutely will…..but I will pray for you as I pray for me….First….gratitude for the blessings in your life. Then….I will pray that you are strong enough to resist temptation…..motivated enough to keep working…..and that your hard work/effort will be rewarded/reflected with the results that you want…..and finally that God will use YOU….your struggles/triumphs to help others; and that In and through your journey, He will be glorified.

Prayer Can/does bring about miracles….but your miracle is from within… you think/feel/act….the kind of person you are transformed into when you invite God into the equation……and THEN…that transformation is reflected physically.   Don’t give up on your miracle….but perhaps…if you are struggling, you should think about HOW and WHAT you are praying for. 

Have a great day today………