Sunday, August 31, 2014

True transformation comes from within

Happy Sunday! As I continue through this holiday weekend, surrounded by about 30 family members who are here for the weekend, I find that I must continually seek the peacefulness that dwells within as I deal with the people around me. I'm having a good time and even stayed up past dark to watch the fireworks last night...Woot! Woot! :-)  but I'm finding I must 'go with the flow" as I deal with the disruption of my typical schedule.

The words on this clip  will be my mantra as I go about this day.  It serves as a stark reminder to each of us that "Changing one's appearance....losing a significant amount of weight.......working to transform our bodies.... does not guarantee happiness or peace."  That must come from internal change in the way we think; react; and respond to those things around us that we cannot control.  Losing weight alone does not make one beautiful; beauty and contentment comes from within; from the acceptance of one's flaws; and the continued desire to be kind, compassionate, and loving.  Even a "fit" rocking body cannot cover up a bitter, resentful, or selfish spirit. My prayer always is "God, transform my mind, my spirit, and my heart, so that in turn, my body will be transformed to reflect the peace, joy, and beauty deep in my heart."

I hope you are having a wonderful holiday weekend!  It's almost daylight; I'm off for my walk before church.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Enjoy the holiday weekend

The taste of "regret" lasts much longer than the taste of that chocolate donut or piece of cake. It's the holiday weekend....and you are likely going to be surrounded by all sorts of goodies....choice wisely, and if you do partake or stray a bit off track, at least take a walk or bike ride to counteract your choices.  Whatever you do.....don't throw in the "whole towel" just because you slip up a bit. Be safe....have fun....and enjoy the holiday!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Wouldn't it be nice?

Just imagine how much better we would feel if we had a scale that read like this one! Too often we let this little piece of equipment determine our self-worth. Remember....the scale is just a tool to help us keep track of our weight. It is NOT a measure of our beauty. Beauty comes from within.....from the kindness, compassion, love we possess inside. You are beautiful regardless of the number on the scale.... Use the scale to mark your progress....not define you. BUT....make good choices and keep working to reach your goals!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Focus on your success; not your failures

When I came across this clip, I was immediately reminded of my First Reconciliation back in the 4th grade. Goodness, that was almost 40 years ago, and yet I remember it like it was last month.  For those of you that are not familiar with First Reconciliation, it is the Catholic sacrament of “confession” where a person and a priest have a conversation about one’s failures and shortcomings and the person asks for God’s forgiveness. The Catholic tradition of Confession/Penance/Reconciliation (whatever term you wish to use) is often a point of conflict/confusion/misunderstanding, etc. amongst Christians and is certainly not anything I wish to debate at this time; I’m simply sharing something that happened during my first experience with the sacrament and how it relates to my journey.

In any case, like most children, I was VERY nervous to go into the Reconciliation Room and tell my sins to the priest….who happened to be Fr. Sauter…the priest I knew well then, and ended up being one of my dearest friends; the one whose death in my arms was one of the losses that sent me spiraling out of control several years back.  I went into the room and knelt down. Father was facing the other direction and couldn’t see me, but still I was nervous as all get out. After all, I was about to tell him my list of “sins” (how bad could they be at 9 years old?).  I had no problem coming up with a very long list of my faults and failures, even as a child, but still, was trembling as I told them to him, knowing he was my mother’s boss and a person I saw nearly every day. I told him my sins and was then horrified when he said, “Ok, Theresa, now tell me the GOOD things you’ve done.”  I lost my breath for a minute….HOW DID HE KNOW IT WAS ME???  “HE was facing the other way; oh my goodness, I am SO embarrassed….Oh no, what if he told my mother” were my immediate thoughts and I was dumbfounded at his question.  “What do you mean, tell you the GOOD things I’ve done”, I thought. I’m not GOOD. I don’t do GOOD things. I’m a brat. I’m a bad kid. I just told you all my sins….that I fight with my brother and sister; that I sass my mother; that I disobey and am lazy……and whatever other things I might have done.  I literally was silenced and did not know what to say.  He asked me some other questions and helped me realize that certainly I did/do good things: I help others in school; I did my homework without being told; I went to mass and prayed without a fuss; I helped my mother, etc… and I left feeling better than I had went in, which is essentially the whole purpose of the sacrament.

I share this story with you because that experience clearly reminds me of an area of my life that I’ve struggled with for 40 years: seeing faults easier than seeing goodness.  It is SO MUCH EASIER to focus on our shortcomings (after all, I was raised with the Catholic guilt… I was ALWAYS doing something wrong…sigh) than on our success. It could be considered “pride” to ‘toot my own horn,’ if you will…and yet…that very principle of dwelling on our weakness instead of rejoicing in our gifts can cripple our journey.

How many times have you went to weigh-in and gained weight and immediately felt like a failure….even if you’ve lost a significant amount of weight already?  How many times have you had a boss/friend/loved one make ONE critical comment and you felt shattered or hurt, even if he/she said positive things many times before?  How many times have you ‘beaten yourself up” emotionally/mentally/spiritually when you gave into temptation, binged, or did/said something that you later regretted, even if you’ve been strong and did the right thing countless of times before?  Like me, I’m guessing you can answer, “Many….I do it all the time”.

A person doesn’t typically begin a journey to change unless he/she has things about him/herself that he/she is not happy about. A person who thinks he/she is “perfect” wouldn’t want to change. Point being…we are all flawed in some way; we all want to look better, feel better, act better…and change our behavior in some way…. Or we wouldn’t be trying to change our life.  It is likely easy for us to point out our shortcomings, our faults…in the case of weight issues, we don’t even have to point it out: it’s there for the world to see. We already KNOW we need to work on ourselves. We already KNOW that we need to lose weight/get fit/be nicer/get more exercise/improve our relationships/give up our vices…etc…. It’s easy to focus on the negative, but much harder to focus on the positive things about ourselves. And yet…it is CRITICAL to our well-being that we begin to recognize the GOOD things about our bodies…our lives…our relationships so that we can become people of gratitude and can continue to be motivated to change and work to be better. 

So…..TODAY (and again tomorrow and the next day…and the next)….I will ask myself (and you) the question that my dear priest asked me, “So, Theresa….what are some of the GOOD things you’ve done?”  What are some of the GOOD things about you….that you did to help you on your journey?   Hmmm……as I sit here this morning, reflecting and drinking my coffee…I’m making a mental list that includes these:

Well…I forced myself to take a walk yesterday morning at 6:30, even though I got caught in the rain and had to come home and re-do my hair before work.

I have gone 8 days now without eating a protein bar (not a bad thing to eat, but one in which I was losing control by eating too many of them).

I woke up at 1:00 a.m. this morning to use the bathroom and DIDN’T go into the kitchen to get something to eat, a habit that I have been struggling with.

I took time already this morning to pray/reflect/think about my journey and ask for God’s strength this day.

The list contains other things and shortly, when I get ready for work and while taking my morning walk, I’ll be telling myself good things about me… I am strong; I am capable of succeeding; I have potential; I am beautiful….IN SPITE OF…(and I’m going to try to delete the “in spite of’s” from my mind today); I AM a loser (in this case..a weight loser; A VERY GOOD THING to be a loser!!! ) I AM going to make a difference in someone’s life today at work; at home; on Facebook; in the store…wherever I may go; I AM….  I will work very hard today not to focus on those things that I AM NOT…those areas where I need to improve…those areas where I have failed….those things that I am not yet able to do…or do well, but rather on my successes.  I encourage you to do the same. 

Rejoice in HOW far you’ve come; not how far you’ve yet to go.  Celebrate how far you can walk; how long you can be on the treadmill; how much better you feel….not on how slow you have to walk, how short of breath you become, how much further your friend can go.  Focus on how many times you’ve resisted temptation and made a good choice; not on how many times you’ve given in.  Remember how many times you “held your tongue” and said something nice, rather than those times you’ve lashed out or regretted that sarcastic comment that just “slipped out”.  Mostly….concentrate on all the blessings you have, all the kind things your spouse/child did today….not on the messes they left; not on the things you WISH you had; not on the rust on your car or the stains on the carpet; not on the unpleasant things about your job but rather that you HAVE a car, a home, a job.

 Changing our way of thinking is harder than changing our way of acting, but it is the key. Let’s pledge together to focus on our success today….not our failure. 

Have a wonderful day!!!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Change your life by changing your thoughts

Happy Wednesday! You’ve likely heard that phrase, “You are what you eat.”  Well, I don’t recall ever feeling/being a watermelon, bowl of oatmeal, or a Greek yogurt!  I prefer to say, “You are what you THINK!”  I really believe that lasting transformation starts when we begin to change the way we THINK about things, especially about ourselves. Our thoughts have incredible power over our actions.

Oftentimes we fail to find happiness, peace, and/or reach our goals in life because we think of ourselves as a failure; unworthy or undeserving; incompetent and useless. Perhaps you were told those lies by others or bullied as a kid and eventually you began to believe it. Perhaps you had a childhood where you grew up believing that you were ‘stupid” or “wouldn’t amount to anything”. Perhaps you struggled in school or had difficulty holding a job and began to believe that you would never be ‘good enough” no matter how hard you tried. Maybe you’ve tried multiple times to lose weight or quit smoking/drinking and you’ve failed, so you don’t believe you will ever succeed.  Oftentimes, these types of thoughts can cripple a person emotionally, spiritually, and physically, especially if one turns to food, drugs, alcohol, or some other unhealthy behavior to mask or cover the pain. More often than not, thoughts of unworthiness and failure keep one from starting a life style change simply because, “I’m never going to lose the weight anyway; Why try” dominates one’s thoughts.    It’s time to break that chain….to begin to THINK like a winner…..THINK like an achiever……THINK like a champion!!!

Changing one’s thoughts is as hard as changing one’s habits; perhaps even harder. It’s a daily struggle to think positive, but so essential. I continually battle thoughts of doubt, self-worth, fear and insecurity. It’s easier to look in the mirror and see my wrinkles, excess skin, and bags under my eyes than to see beauty and grace. It’s easier to find fault than goodness, especially when I’m weary or not feeling well. I think we all struggle with self-esteem issues, especially if we stray off plan or struggle to keep on track; especially if we’ve tried and failed many times before; especially if we are surrounded by people in our lives that fail to support us emotionally or give us a compliment or even a simple, “thank you” once in a while. The truth, however, is that WE WILL NEVER succeed unless we first BELIEVE that we can, so seriously, it is more important to work on changing how we THINK before changing how we EAT. Those will go hand in hand.

SO…. When I began my journey a few years ago, it was important for me to continually tell myself that “I CAN do this” and “I am GOING to walk again”  and “I’m going to SHOW them (my sister mostly) that I can do whatever I make up my mind to do.” Of course there were days when I didn’t believe it but it didn’t’ matter if I doubted it or not, I said it…..over and over again.  Eventually, after telling myself that, I began to believe it and I began to see results. Setting small, achievable goals helped because reaching those goals added fuel to my thoughts.  “See…. You CAN do this, Theresa” I’d say after losing 10 or 15 pounds. “See…..You ARE going to walk again without pain, Theresa” I’d say when I took my first few steps without the cane or walker.  “See…..God does give you strength” I’d remind myself when I resisted temptation.  Over and over again I’d tell myself (I still do…all day long) that I’m worthy; I’m capable; I’m a winner. ..and therefore, if I am those things, I deserve to treat myself like it……and that means eating good, nutritious food, getting as much physical activity as possible, and being kind and patient to myself……and others as well. 

Changing one’s thoughts is as important as changing one’s eating habits.  Here are some ways I did/do work on that…..
Sticky notes….on the mirror, on my refrigerator, in my purse…..with phrases like, “You can do this!”  “You are a winner!” “You are beautiful!”  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and a whole plethora of others.

Having good people in my life that can remind me of my goodness….or act as mirrors to reflect that goodness back to me when I’m feeling down or insecure (you know the kind…the ones that think you are the sun and the moon….Gosh, I miss my Grandma Borawski….sigh…..) If all the people in our world are negative, critical, or fail to say kind words to encourage you, it’s time to find new friends. Remember, you don’t deserve to be belittled, called names, or treated disrespectful. Surround yourself with those who think you are wonderful.

Celebrate the victories….even the small ones! Reward yourself when you meet a goal (not with food!) and be patient when you struggle or plateau. Remember, your self-worth is not determined by a number on the scale or your pant size.

Ask God to help you see in yourself what He sees in you; true beauty and goodness.  My prayer each day is “Transform my thoughts, O God, so that my body may be transformed as well. Help me “see” like you; “speak” like you; “think” like you; and “love and act” like you.  God will set you free from negative thoughts….about others and mostly about yourself.

Finally, be grateful.  Thank God for all the blessings in your life. When you begin to recognize all the things that you DO have instead of focusing on the things that you DON’T have, you’ll begin to think differently about yourself and your actions will follow.  Try to think of the positive things about yourself…like your beautiful eyes or caring heart….rather than your thunder thighs or spare tire.  When you see yourself in a good light, you will begin to treat yourself better…and you will see results.

Say it with me……  I can do this!  I am going to reach my goals!  I am a winner!  And I CAN…and I WILL…change my life!!!!    Even if I don’t believe it, Theresa does….and that’s good enough for me!

Have a wonderful day today… thinking wonderful thoughts!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Plan now to be successful over Labor Day weekend

In just few days, those of us in United States will enter the Labor Day holiday weekend; often considered the “last hurray” of summer before the kids go back to school. Many of you will be traveling and the north woods will be full of weekend visitors. I will have a large group of family members gathering up at the family camp, “Pip’s Place”, for a few days of family fun. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and my sister, brother and their families will all be here. After a week of extended work hours, I’ll be ready for a long weekend, but along with the family, comes a whole lot of temptation because I will be surrounded by all sorts of good food and treats for three days.

One of the keys to my success thus far has been in “Making a Plan” to keep on track so that I can eliminate any excuse to abandon my plan and/or give into temptation. I’m not saying my “way of thinking” is any better than anyone else’s, but I know my own mentality and I’m not one that is able to “take a weekend off plan” and pick back up on Monday, so I have to think ahead. I just don’t trust myself to “eat what I want on the weekend” and return to my “way of life” when I return to work. For some of you, this works, but for me…it’ doesn’t….and so now, early in the week, I’ve already begun to plan ahead for success. How… might ask? Are you really going to make it all weekend without “cheating”? Yup….been there; done that….for more than three years without giving in….not even once….so I’m planning NOW to do it again. As good as a big, juicy cheeseburger or a piece of birthday cake might be, it’s just not worth it to me. So…. How are you going to be surrounded by BBQ’s, big breakfasts, birthday cake, and Uncle Bob’s famous spaghetti and stay on track without feeling deprived?

Well, I’ll take it one meal at a time and make some substitutions. My grocery list this week will include a package of low-calorie hot dogs (there is an Oscar Meyer brand that is only 50 calories each), a pound of ground turkey for burgers, a loaf of 35-calorie-a-slice wheat bread to use instead of buns for either the hotdogs/burger and for French toast with sugar-free syrup and spray butter, a spaghetti squash to shred instead of pasta, and a whole bunch of fresh fruit (peaches and melon are now in season) and vegetables. And…you guessed it…a watermelon….or two!!!! I’ll make a smoothie with yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, and frozen strawberries for the birthday party and eat it like ice-cream when cake is served, and maybe add fresh blueberries to oatmeal when the family is eating biscuits and gravy. The berries will be a special treat to the usual plain-ole oatmeal I typically eat, making it feel like a “holiday”. When the family is enjoying campfire treats, I may make air-popped popcorn if I’m feeling like I need to snack. I might make a side dish of butternut squash sweetened with Splenda and cinnamon or perhaps a baked apple for a dessert. I’ll be sure to have a lot of options available…just in case the smell of s’mores becomes overwhelming.

I’ve been down this road before and have not strayed off track….but only by planning ahead (and the Grace of God) and having things on hand to eliminate any excuse to give in to the “Oh, you have to try this” or the “Just a little bit won’t hurt” that I might encounter from a well-meaning family member that really doesn’t understand my “I could…but I choose NOT to” mindset. Also… I’ll keep myself busy playing with the nieces and nephews, taking walks or bike rides, working in the flower beds, swimming, and being as active as possible. And when all else fails, I’ll remove myself from the temptation and go home if I feel myself feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or tempted so that I don’t give into emotional eating. Certainly I won’t make others feel bad for my choices. It’s just not worth it to me to take two steps back….for what…..a few minutes of “oh my goodness…this is SO delicious?” If it’s worth it to you; go for it, but plan to minimize the damage with an extra-long walk or more time on the treadmill. Remember, our journey is personal; what works for me may not necessarily work for you.

So….what are your weekend plans…..and how are you going to stay on track if you are camping, having a BBQ or picnic, or traveling? Are you planning for success….or taking the weekend off? Do you have any tips for the rest of us? Whatever you do, don’t set yourself up for failure by failing to plan ahead. I’m living proof that YES…you can get resist temptation….Yes, you can enjoy a holiday weekend without giving in…and YES, you can go back to work on Tuesday without feeling guilty or afraid to face the scale, but it doesn’t ‘JUST HAPPEN” by itself. You have to think ahead…plan ahead….and then, finally, stick with it! You can do it, my friends….You CAN do it!!!!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

My journey is like campfire.....slow and steady

Good morning my friends. It’s a new day; a new week; a new opportunity to “get it right” this time. It’s also the first day of the new semester at the college so there will be a lot of excitement….and likely some apprehension…on campus today. I’m working extended hours this week so I will be busy and maybe a bit scarce on group.

I grew up with the warning that playing with matches was dangerous, but I still am fascinated by ¬¬a roaring fire; not the destructive kind that quickly destroys property (like the arson that burned down my family cabin) and natural resources; but, rather, the warm and inviting flames of a campfire or fireplace. In the rural area where I live, almost everyone has a fire pit in the yard and the smell of smoke lingers in the air most of the summer. I have made countless of campfires throughout the years, and although I have had my share of “duds”, I have learned by trial-and-error some lessons on making a long-lasting, beautiful one.
My friend cut down a couple of trees a few weeks ago and last week he dug up the stumps and drug them to his fire pit. On Saturday morning, I decided I would build a fire to try to burn up the stump and remaining brush. I’ve cleaned up the brush of many trees over the years and learned that branches and leaves will quickly catch fire, but unless the fire is built properly, the fire will fizzle out quickly once the leaves are gone and all that is left is fresh, green wood that is hard to burn up. Dozens and dozens of times over the years I have had to pull half-burned branches off one-by-one and start from ‘scratch” because I failed to build a proper foundation. Fortunately, I have now learned that I need to start with kindling, get that burning well, and slowly keep adding small twigs and branches until the fire starts to build; slow and steady as it gains heat and momentum. Too many times I tried to burn too much, too fast, and ended up with a mess….all because I was impatient and wanted the fire “right now.” On Saturday morning I built a very nice fire that was still burning last night when I went to bed.

As you know, it has become easy for me to make connections between my personal journey and most of the day-to-day activities that occupy my time. This is partially because my journey is now a way of life and encompasses everything I do, think, and feel, and partially because “I look for it.” I pray each day that God will make His presence known to me and will speak to me, encourage and inspire me, and teach me lessons throughout the day. The campfire provided me with a lot of “food for the journey” because building the perfect fire, one that will last and continue to burn and gain momentum, requires the same principles as being successful on my journey.

First, I needed to build a strong foundation and start slowly. So many times in our attempt to change our life, we try to do “too much-too fast” and although we may see great results very quickly; maybe even losing 10 pounds in two or three weeks, we quickly tire of the “fad” or “crazy, unbalanced diet plan” and we burn out. Our determination and resolve dies out leaving us with disappointed. I’ve been there-done that, and likely, you have too at some point. After all, we want to see results right away. We want to have a big roaring fire right away. Certainly we don’t want to take the time to build a foundation that consists of small changes, and slow, steady activity that we can sustain over a long period of time. We’re impatient and we want results…RIGHT NOW. We forget that our journey is FOR LIFE. We get discouraged and just abandon the plan because it’s easier to throw more branches on the fire and HOPE they burn than to build a fire from the bottom up that takes TIME and PATIENCE to grow hot enough to sustain itself. Ironically, however, if you build a fire with a strong, hot foundation, it is able to withstand and survive the elements….even a light rain shower or a strong wind that typically would douse it and cause it to burn itself out.

Hmmm…..kind of like our journey… if we make the changes that we can LIVE WITH and build our life around the mentality that this is now our permanent way of living/eating/thinking, we will find that our new lifestyle is able to survive the temptations that come with events like birthdays, holidays, or vacations as well as the struggles of disappointment, grief, or illness. Fads and restrictive diet plans often fizzle out when one encounters real life situations and/or the initial very quick weight loss tapers off. If you want to be successful, you have to make sustainable, slow and steady changes that you will be able to live with for the rest of your life. And yes, even the best fires burn out when the heavy rains come and they are not kept stoked, so don’t be discouraged if you have to start over AGAIN…and again…and again. Even the seasoned “veterans” who have lost weight or kicked a bad habit sometimes loses their focus and needs to start again on occasion. However, once you learn “HOW” it becomes easier to build another fire….to do the right thing and make the right choices.

After I built my initial fire on Saturday, I had to keep it stoked all weekend, lest it would burn out. I needed to periodically stir it up to rouse the embers and add more wood to keep it roaring. Sometimes I did this; other times my friend did. So much like my journey. It takes continually attention to keep the momentum and motivation, lest I lose heart and just give up. Sometimes I have to “shake things up” by altering my activity or changing my menu. Sometimes I need to drink more water or get more exercise if I feel my pants getting tight. Sometimes I am too weary to “keep inspired and motivated” by myself and I depend on someone else to “keep me stoked.” Many times it is YOU that does that for me….stirring me up, encouraging me to keep writing, and motivating me with your kind words. Oftentimes, it is “remembering” what life used to be like; looking at those “before” pictures; or reminding myself of my “IT” (see prior posts) that adds fuel to my burning desire to maintain this lifestyle. Mostly….it’s making the time to reflect, pray, and think…..and drawing strength from my God that stirs up that rouses that desire and motivation to keep trying to be better each day than I was the prior one.

Once you get that fire burning….once you begin to enjoy the light and warmth….don’t be surprised when it draws others in. There is nothing like a campfire to gather a crowd to share in the beauty and inspire conversation and friendship. I continue to be amazed at the way my story has circulated the globe and has gained such interest, and yet, I am so grateful, not for any personal gain, but because God is glorified and my story has helped bring “light” in other’s darkness; hope where there is despair; encouragement where there is doubt; and warmth and love where there is hurt and pain.
So, my friends….I encourage you to reflect on your own personal journey and see if you can make any connections to the lessons I learned this weekend….from a pile of wood and a match!

1. Slow and steady; build a firm foundation with a plan that is SUSTAINABLE and long lasting.
2. A permanent lifestyle change requires constant attention and maintenance to keep motivated and progressing.
3. Sometimes you need to “stir the pot” or “shake things up” when you feel yourself starting to fizzle or lose focus.
4. Finally, you have to share your journey, invite others in to enjoy it with you, and let your “light shine” for the Glory of God!
Stay focused today….and Make choices this day that will improve your life and the lives of those around you!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Make it a great day by telling yourself...and BELIEVING it

It's amazing what happens when you believe...... Regardless of what is on your agenda....what it "feels" like when you wake up.....what struggles lie ahead....It is a new day; you've been given "life and breath" so I encourage you to make the best of what IS....and look for the blessings which are all around you.

Friday, August 22, 2014

How BAD do you want it?

Sometimes I wish that I could have my mother back from heaven for just five minutes so that I could say, “Thank You” for all of those life lessons that she taught me; things I didn’t really appreciate or understand when she died when I was in my 20’s, but have now come to appreciate. My hope is that she is looking down and ‘knows’ the depth of my love and gratitude.

For the most part, I really love my job counseling and advising college students who have found themselves in some sort of challenging situation: financial, academic, or personal; but, there days when I just shake my head in amazement when I encounter those with a sense of “entitlement” that challenge my patience. “But, WHY won’t let the Financial Aid department let me have more loan money…..just because I failed every class for the past two semesters….it’s just not fair”; “You know…that teacher was just so rude; he expected me to read like 50 pages a week. Geez, he needs to get a life!”; “Theresa, you just don’t understand what it’s like to go to school AND work 20 hours a week: I don’t hardly have time to play video games anymore” and other like comments are commonplace in my line of work. There are many ‘excuses’ but oftentimes, it take a lot of work on  my part to help him/her acknowledge responsibility.

Oftentimes, the student is right; I just don’t “UNDERSTAND” the sense of entitlement because I wasn’t raised that way. My mom taught me that “There are no free rides in life: if you want something; you work to earn it” As a kid, I complained and whined when I had to save up my babysitting money to buy a new 3-speed bicycle or the 8-track player/stereo in the 10th grade (both of which I still have) when other kids got them, “just because.” I didn’t like it when there were rules and expectations that I was expected to follow…..unless I wanted to move out on my own. What do you mean, “If I wanted to borrow the car, I had to put gas in it?  It didn’t seem fair and I didn’t like it….THEN…..but today…. I am so grateful….because  that principle “If you want it: you have to WORK for it” and the acknowledgement “That I can do nothing on my own but only by the Grace of God” have been the keys to success on this personal journey and have given me the determination (and bull-headed stubbornness that my family will attest to) to regain my life and mobility. I am so grateful….to God….and to my parents/grandparents/teachers and all who have helped instill that work ethic in me.

I asked a student yesterday, “How BAD do you want it?” In her case, “IT” was to get accepted into the Nursing program.  She had to double up on some pre-requisite classes and improve her grade point average drastically in order to be accepted: certainly an uphill battle, but not impossible. “How BAD do you want it”, I asked again. “I want it bad enough, Theresa, that I will do whatever it takes.” “Okay then… how can I help you get there” was my response to her.

If you were here in my living room, I’d ask you the same things. First…..what is “IT”?  What do you want: To feel better; to lose weight; to get a better job; to have more peace and joy in your life; to get off some of that medication; to be smoke-alcohol-drug-free; to………?  Once you define “IT”; I’d ask… “How BAD do you want it”? And finally, “How can I help you get there?” 

Today, I encourage you to ask yourself those questions and spend some time reflecting on your answers. My “IT” is to continue to walk without the use of a mobility device for as long as my Rheumatoid Arthritis and neuropathy will allow AND to continue to enjoy this freedom that comes from losing weight and being an ‘average’ size (not skinny; not size 6; not bikini-ready) woman. “IT” also means to be given the privilege of sharing my story with others for the Glory of God and to share in their/your person journey.   And so…the next question I ask myself EVERY SINGLE DAY….over and over throughout the day… “How bad, Theresa, do you want IT?”  My answer….over and over and over… is “I want “IT” more than I want that candy bar; ice cream cone; or bag of chips!”  And trust me….some days, I REALLY want chips…..but I want “IT” more!  This morning  I want to stay in this lazy boy in my jammies enjoying another cup of coffee…..but I want “IT” more….so I will drag my weary self to the shower so that I can get in my walk before work.   If you want to be successful in your journey; you have to want “IT” more than anything else. It’s not easy…but there are no free rides. If you want “IT” you have to work for it!

What is it that you want….and how bad do you want it…. WHAT do you have to do to get it….and How can I help you????   Those….my friends….are the questions of the day. There is no easy way. It’s a choice….over and over and over again….day in-day out….dozens of times a day.  BUT… it can be done and you are not alone in your journey.   I encourage you can and you will change your life….if you want it bad enough. 

And finally….if you have the opportunity to say “Thank You” to your parents or those who have taught you valuable life lessons….then, please do so…before it’s too late. Somehow, I think my mother knows…but still, I wish I would have realized it sooner.

Make it a wonderful day today….and remember that I am here cheering you on every step of the way!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Just Thanksgiving the results would be noticeable!

Thanksgiving is about 12 weeks away, and if this clip is true, and you started today (or keep on keeping on), then when you gather with your friends and family to celebrate the holiday, these changes will be visible and noticeable! Whatever it is you want to change…not just weight…would be visible…IF… start today. If you quit smoking….TODAY….that nasty cough may be gone or at least less persistent. If you start exercising….you will be more toned and will stand taller and more confident. If you “let the negativity go and let by-gone be by-gones,” your face will show less stress and strain and your smile will genuine. If you get rid of the sugar and junk food, you may be an entire size smaller.  What are you waiting for????  Start today…Do it now!  I have faith in you…. And besides….JUST THINK HOW MUCH YOU WILL HAVE TO BE THANKFUL FOR……not just on Thanksgiving….but every day!  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Are you eating in secret?

There was a time, not that long ago, when visiting a Drive-Thru window was the best part of my day. Certainly, they are convenient for someone who is in a hurry and/or one who has mobility issues, but they can be a “big girl’s” stumbling block. When I was 400+ pounds and unable to walk, the only way I could eat out was to frequent a place that had the drive-thru option. It was easy: pull up to the window, order way more food than necessary, find a parking spot, and then quickly consume thousands of calories of ‘junk’…..all in the secrecy and privacy of my car……then just throw away the evidence of my binge.

Even though I live a long distance from any fast-food restaurant this was a way of life, especially when I was commuting to college out-of-town or traveling back-and-forth downstate to care for my priest friend. It seems there is a McDonald’s, Wendy’s, or Burger King at every exit and on every corner in town. When I moved up north, the nearest McDonald’s was a half-hour away,  so whenever I was in town, I felt that I OWED it to myself to hit the drive-thru “just because I was THERE in town”; even if I wasn’t hungry or dinner time was hours away. Like Jell-O, there’s always room for French Fries and a milk shake, right? 

Besides the convenience, these windows allow a food addict to eat in secret and avoid the shame that is often associated with an obese person at a fast-food joint. It made it easy to overeat; after all, the teen at the window didn’t know that those TWO Big Mac’s, super-size fries, and apple pies were all for me. There was no one to question whether I was going to eat ALL that food; no stares or looks of disbelief; no one to remind me that I was about to consume 2000 or more calories. It was just me, the occasional birds that landed on the hood waiting for a French fry, my paper bag of food, and the privacy of my car to hide my addiction.

I was always a “closet eater” with goodies stashed away. I should have realized back then that if I felt the need to hide what and how much I was eating then very likely, I was not making good choices. It was almost as if I knew subconsciously (or maybe consciously) that what I was doing was unhealthy and I felt shame and embarrassed….so I ate in private.  I lived alone so I could eat the entire bag of chips…and there was no one to question me. I could bring home a pizza and eat half of it…and no one knew. I thought I was hiding my addiction as I tried to cover up my pain and grief….and yet, it was becoming increasingly visible to the world as I gained more and more weight; only I didn’t realize that.  WHY?  Probably because I chose NOT to; I was living in denial.

My friends….this clip is such a powerful reminder….. WE CANNOT HIDE our addictive behavior. We may be able to cover it up for a while….masking the smell of cigarettes with Febreeze or perfume; hiding the alcohol on your breath with a mint; faking a smile to cover the pain; or inhaling the candy bar in the bathroom…..but ultimately, the consequences for our choices becomes VERY REAL and visible.  What you eat in private… wear in public, as the quote says.

I typically make good choices these days with my food, but I still have the bad habit of taking food to bed with me along with the newspaper. It’s a bad habit that I’m not sure I’ll ever break, but at least the food I take is healthy and nutritious, but still….I’m often NOT HUNGRY….but I eat anyway. I know this is a weakness and an area that needs to improve so I try to compensate by saving calories throughout the day so that I don’t stray off track. But still…..I need to address it at some point. I am a work in progress and I am so glad that “God isn’t finished with me yet!”  I really need to make a rule that says, “All food must be consumed in the kitchen” but I’m not there YET.

I encourage you today….be mindful of what you eat…WHERE you eat….and WHO is present when you do.  If you find yourself eating in ‘secret’ perhaps this is an area you might want to reflect upon. Most of the time when we have to “HIDE” what we are doing, it’s because somewhere deep inside, we know that the behavior is not really good for us and we feel some shame. 

Have a good day today!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What comes out of your mouth can make you more beautiful than what goes in it!

My wise mother once told me, "What comes OUT of your mouth can make you more beautiful than what goes in it, so be kind and loving to everyone you meet. Even if you lose weight, you can still be UGLY if you are not a good person, so put as much energy into that as in what you eat." I've been pondering those words this morning as I motivate myself to get moving. I have a busy day at the college today with many appointments scheduled as students scramble at the last minute to get classes and make schedule adjustments. Today, my focus will be on KINDNESS....and I will try to remember that each person I meet today deserves a smile and  to be treated with respect.

Certainly, I'll also be mindful of my food choices.....because after all.... I deserve to be KIND and LOVING to myself as well.....and one of the best ways to do that is to fill my body with good, nutritious food and treat my body with respect....and as a temple of God.  Be kind to one another...and to yourself as well.

 Remember,  you are BEAUTIFUL and WORTHWHILE....regardless of the scale; your size; your financial situation; or your faults and weaknesses.  Let's help turn someone else's life around as we work to change our own!  Make it a wonderful spite of any challenges that come your way!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Heading down the path

Good morning! It’s back to work today after an extended weekend off. It was great to have a long weekend off, but it’s time to ‘buckle down” and get back into the routine of work. Sigh………. These next two weeks will be especially busy at the college because the new semester begins next Monday and all the procrastinators will be coming out of the woodwork this week trying to get things in order to enroll for Fall classes. It’s hard to believe the summer is fading away so quickly, but many of the students, especially the first-time freshmen will be excited to begin their new adventure.  They have no idea how difficult the road ahead will be at times and how many times they will want to quit and give up. Fortunately, I’ve walked their path before and will be there to ‘cheer them on” and offer support and encouragement along the way. They seem to get a bit of comfort in knowing that I understand and am journeying with them…..very much like this group. We’re all in this together!

Whenever we begin a new adventure, it is common to be excited, but at the same time a bit apprehensive; because, unless we’ve been down the road before, we may not know what to expect. Perhaps we are anxious and doubt our ability to handle the journey; perhaps we are afraid of what may lie ahead, but hopefully we are eager to experience something wonderful. I felt all of those things when I began my personal journey, but also this past week when I visited Hartwick Pines State Park with the girls.  I was told it was beautiful; I was told the path was relatively short and not too treacherous; I was told it would be worth the walk; AND….it certainly was……BUT…..still, there was a mix of excitement and wonder as I ventured down a path into the woods to a place yet unknown.

The State Park has several different trails to choose from. They vary in length and difficulty. My friends and I decided to take the shorter trail, “Old Growth”, because it was only a little over a mile. I’m very comfortable with my ability to walk that distance (on a level road or treadmill) and I certainly didn’t want to venture down a path that would be too difficult to handle and hinder my enjoyment of my surroundings; so much like my journey to wellness. Sometimes in our quest to change our life, we ‘bite off more than we can chew” and try to change EVERYTHING so quickly that we take a path or choose a plan that is way more difficult than we can handle (too extreme, exercise too much too fast, diet plan that is doesn’t include enough calories or is too restrictive (fad diets or pills)) and we are not able to sustain it.  It becomes too difficult and we give up before reaching our goal. I wanted to enjoy the park and my walk so I preferred to take the path that I was pretty certain I could handle, very much like my advice to “Never start a weight loss plan or life change that you are not willing/able to sustain for the rest of your life…..meaning…..if you KNOW you can’t live with black coffee every day  for the rest of your life, then build in the calories for the sugar-free French vanilla coffee creamer.”) I wanted to enjoy the journey more than I wanted to try to see everything that there was to see, very much like now; I want to enjoy this new life every day, more than I want to be a size 6 which I why I am enjoying as much watermelon and peaches as I want while they are in season! (How’s that for rationalization at its finest?  LOL)

I was filled with all sorts of emotions as I headed over the bridge to the entrance of the trail. I was excited at what may lie ahead; I was somewhat fearful because I didn’t know where the trail led, and even though I was prepared with mosquito spray, band-aids, water, etc., I was going someplace I had never been before and that is always causes me to be a bit apprehensive. Mostly, I was overcome with a sense of gratitude…..complete and humble gratitude… I thought about my life only three summers ago when I couldn’t even walk to the mailbox.  There I was standing at the beginning of a trail in a beautiful place ready to take a hike!

I had to stay a few steps ahead of my friends at the beginning to hide the lump in my throat and the tears welling up in my eyes as I said a silent prayer of thanks to God for His incredible goodness to me.  I also was very aware of each of you and the journey you are on; each one different and of varying difficulty, and yet so closely united to my own.  I thought about Ginny who was shaving her head that day because she has started chemo for cancer. I thought about Richard who was sitting at his mother’s bedside as she faces her final days on earth. I thought about those of you that are suffering illness; have recently lost loved ones; going through relationship struggles; are struggling with addiction and/or trying to start over AGAIN. I thought about those in this group that are simply along for the ride to give me support and encouragement. Each of us are on a different road with a different destination, but yet, we share some of the same emotions, doubts, and fears…..and like my friends who were with me at the park, the adventure means something different to each of us and is very personal.  Even though we were walking the path together, I’m sure my thoughts and experience was much different than my friend Marcia’s or her daughters. 

I headed down the path…..and WOW….what an incredible view. The trees are absolutely amazing! Some of them are over 300 years old and their trunks are so big around that three of us could barely reach around them. I stood and looked up and once again, was filled with emotion as I marveled in their splendor. God’s creation certainly is glorious and words seem inadequate to describe the view. I looked up and suddenly felt so insignificant and small…..and yet….even

amidst this incredible beauty, I know that God’s love is even greater for little ole me. Sometimes when life gets difficult and the road is long, we feel alone and that God has abandoned us. We think that our worries and concerns are too insignificant to bother God with them, especially when we see others around us that are carrying an even heavier burden, but we forget that each of us is precious in God’s eyes and YES…He cares about our doubts, concerns, and struggles equally. YES, He cares about our journey; YES, he knows what it is like to be tempted; YES, He wanted to give up and felt discouraged.

 Again I was filled with gratitude and felt abundantly blessed…..not only because I am able to walk and enjoy life again….but because of the realization that the world is full of incredible beauty and I’ve been given an opportunity to experience it…..simply because I made a few small changes in my life. My friends….YOU CAN DO IT TOO!  What are you waiting for? I know it is very difficult; I’ve been there…..but I am telling you…. IT IS SO WORTH IT.  I could not imagine that I would EVER have been able to experience a place as beautiful as this park or the ways in which my life has changed. I encourage you….start today….right now… taking a small step or two… change your life. Don’t try to do it all at once….start slow….and by next summer, you may be experiencing a life you never thought possible. Trust me… will be amazed at what may lie ahead.  Make it a good day; the choice is yours!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Preparing for a day-trip with the girls

Good Sunday morning! I hope that this morning finds you all in good spirits and feeling confident, motivated, and peaceful. As I shared a couple of days ago, I took a couple of little ‘day trips” this week. On Friday, I took off on an adventure with my friend, Marcia, and her two daughters. The intended destination was Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling. When I picked them up in the morning, I explained that we would eventually end up at the park, but part of the fun of a road trip is the journey to get there. I had no idea what I might come across along the way but was eager and excited to find out! 

As is typical for me, just about everything I do, see, and experience reminds me of my personal journey to wellness. It’s easy for me to make connections with things because I have an expectation that God will speak to me and show me things throughout the day so, therefore, I LOOK FOR THEM. You know, kind of like when you buy a new car and THEN all of a sudden you notice that particular style or color of car EVERYwhere?  Once you become aware of, and begin to expect…. signs of encouragement, the ways God is present in the world, and things to motivate you, you will SEE them everywhere and begin to believe that you are not alone on this journey. Before I began my trip, I asked God to open my eyes and ears that I may recognize His presence in all that I saw, heard, and experienced on my little adventure…..and He certainly answered my prayer. What a wonderful day it was!  So much of the day reminded me of my journey to a new life and I’m sure I will be “thinking and reflecting” all week. Stay tuned!

Just the process itself of taking a vacation, a road-trip, or traveling to a special event is so symbolic of our personal journey because many of the same principles are involved. Before hitting the freeway, I needed to make sure the car was road-worthy. I checked the tires and the oil; cleaned out the back-seat, and made sure I had a full tank of gas to avoid any unnecessary trouble or a break-down along the highway. I took a look at a map and checked out the park on the internet so that I had some idea of where I was going, what to expect, and what others thought about the destination. I talked to some friends about the place; in fact, it was at their suggestion that I ventured there. I also anticipated anything that might hinder my enjoyment and gathered up some items (mosquito spray, sunscreen, band aids, warm clothes, and a roll of toilet paper) so that I would be at least a little prepared for any unexpected annoyances. I made a plan to stay on track with my food choices by packing items that were “on-plan” so that I would have no excuse to eat junk. I knew where I wanted to end up….the park…but I had already determined that I was not on any given timetable and was going to enjoy whatever came up along the way, even though at one point it seemed like it was very far and I would never get there.  I didn’t know what I’d find at the park, but I had heard it was wonderful and worth the trip, and I believed what I had been told about it so I was motivated and determined to “see for myself” what it was like. And finally, I took about people that were fun; supportive, and as excited as me about the journey.  See any similarities to your own personal journey? I certainly did!

Before I even arrived at Hartwick Pines, my mind was working overboard thinking about the similarities.  Before we begin (or even during) a weight loss plan, join a gym or begin an exercise routine, or enter a substance abuse or treatment program, it is important that we consult our health-care provider (check out the car) or at least be conscious of our bodies so that we can avoid any unnecessary “break-downs” along the way. I’ve known more than one person who ended up with some serious medical issues because he/she started a crazy fad diet and/or did an intensive exercise plan and had a heart concern that needed to be addressed first. We may not prevent EVERY issue, but at least we might prevent some.  We need to anticipate unexpected things or people that might sabotage or discourage us along the way like those who are jealous and try to get us to “just try this…or take a bite of that…or you can have ONE treat once in a while” and be prepared so that they don’t hamper our progress. We will be sore when we first start exercising; we will experience things like dry mouth, constipation, hunger and temptation, but if we know that we might encounter those things and are prepared “just in case” we will be less likely to quit, give up, or become discouraged. Fortunately I didn’t need the “aspirin, band aids, sunscreen, or mosquito repellent” but I was prepared….just in case! Many things about our personal journey will be/are difficult but if have the tools to help make it more bearable (enjoy special treat like sugar-free jello or a dessert; get a new haircut; buy a new outfit; call a friend or look at your “before” pictures) you might find the strength to get through the rough times.

I started my weight loss journey on a whim, but shortly afterward, I bought a calorie counting book and began to read all sorts of things about healthy eating. This new way of living was ‘foreign to me’; I wasn’t used to eating nutritious food and I had never been an average size person before so I read magazines, listened to things online, and talked to others who were on a similar journey to wellness, or who had been successful. I didn’t know what to expect on this personal journey but I know that others had been there before and I wanted to have some idea of what it was like…what I might feel….what obstacles I might encounter along the way. When I looked at others “before-after” pictures I knew that I wanted to go there too. (Getting a map, talking to friends, checking out the park on the internet, reading the review, etc.) Once I decided that, “YES, I want to experience a NEW, HEALTHIER LIFE for myself (see the park) there was no turning back. Don’t you turn back, either: Wait to see what it’s like to feel free from whatever addiction or situation that is weighing heavy on your mind/body/spirit! You’ll be so glad you kept going!

Once I decided that I was definitely interested in changing my life, I surrounded myself with others who would support, encourage, motivate, and share my journey with me. My journey to wellness is personal and ultimately my enjoyment and success is up to me and my choices, but it is so important that I have like-minded, positive people (like this group) in my life to share it with me so that if/when I get tired or weary, I am motivated to keep going.  I certainly could have taken the “day-trip” by myself, but it was much more enjoyable to have friends with me to share and enjoy the beauty and adventure of the park, not to mention to say, “It’s only a little bit further and you can do it when I encountered a hill or the trail seemed long.”

Today I encourage you to make a plan to succeed, be prepared for anything that might threaten to throw you off your game, don’t worry about how far you have to go to get there but rather enjoy the process, and to surround yourself with others who will support and encourage you along  the way. Trust me…as I will share in future posts ….what you will find, experience, and see at the end of the journey (and along the way) will be beyond your expectations and will leave you breathless!  Don’t give up….it is SO WORTH IT!  Have fun….keep going….and never stop believing that YOU CAN….and YOU WILL…change your life.More to come in the coming days…….

Friday, August 15, 2014

Carrying stuff I don't need

Good Morning everyone! I hope you are all feeling peaceful and happy today. I took a couple of vacation days this week (yesterday and today) and am heading out today on a  “Girl’s Day-trip” to a State Park  about 80 north of here. The park has several hiking/walking trails through the oldest white pine forest in the state. I’ve never been there, but I’m anticipating a wonderful, relaxed day with my new friend, Marcia (the woman who does my Graphic Design work and photos) and her daughters. One never knows what kind of adventure this might be but part of the fun will be in discovering new and wonderful things along the way….perhaps a garage sale (or two); maybe a thrift store; maybe some ‘hidden marvel” of God’s creation. I’m approaching this ‘day-trip’ in the same way as I approach my journey to wellness: with the mentality that I will look for new and wonderful things along the way and rejoice in the process of “getting there” as much as the destination. Enjoy the journey for God is present all along the way, not just when we get to our goal.
Yesterday I took a different road trip to a DNR fish hatchery up near Honor, Michigan. My friend had been there years ago and he thought I might like to see it. It was pretty cool, and although it wasn’t operating at full capacity this time of year, it was a nice ride on a very lovely day and the company was pleasant. Northern Michigan in the summer time certainly is beautiful. Three years ago I would never have even considered taking a road-trip; certainly not anything like this week that involved walking. It was just too difficult at 400 pounds and I would have spent any “day-off” lying around and medicating myself with food…but not anymore! I am abundantly blessed.

I’ve been thinking this morning about what I need to pack for my journey and adventure today. Because I’ve never been to my intended destination, I’m not sure what I will need, but I’ll pack a change of clothes and the basics I need for a picnic and a day spent outdoors. Without a doubt, I’ll be bringing “way more stuff than I need” because that’s my nature. Taking along unnecessary baggage is an area of my life that I need to work on; I can’t ever take a weekend trip without at least 10 pair of shoes and more clothing than I could possibly wear, as well as a plethora of stuff “just in case. WHY, Theresa, WHY?  Just in case of what???  Today will likely be no different…..and yet…. I really know that I don’t need to carry around things that are not necessary. Hmmm…. I think there is a lesson here to be learned; this sounds very much like my journey to wellness. Sigh….

I took a little break from this post to reflect on that last statement about my need to carry around stuff I likely won’t need and I ultimately ended up back at the same lesson that God has been speaking to me about for several weeks: I really don’t need to hang on to the ‘emotional” stuff that only weighs me down. Things like resentment; disappointment; past failure; lingering sadness; unworthiness; and needless worry are only going to weigh me down and make my journey more difficult. I  certainly don’t “need” those things in order to be peaceful and happy and even if I just “leave them packed away in the closet of my mind” they are still there and will have to be picked up and moved eventually if I need to find something I really need some day.  Isn’t it time to get rid of them once and for all?  Hmm…. This will be my silent prayer today as I walk amidst God’s creation: to surrender….truly surrender….those thoughts, feelings, doubts, and hurts and LEAVE THEM behind. I may take them with me on this “day-trip” but I hope to leave them behind today for good.

 I once heard that we need to put our burdens, concerns, and needs in God’s hands and leave them there….not picking them back up and trying to handle/fix/deal with them ourselves. This reminded me of the many times (yes, more than once) that I put stuff out at the curb  at night for the trash man, only to change my mind and go get it the next morning before it was picked up. Or worse yet, I donated several bags of clothing to the St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Store and went and bought some of my own stuff back the next week! Yikes, girl...Let it go!

And so AGAIN today, I will be reflecting on those things that I am carrying around that might be hindering my journey or at least making it harder and asking for God’s grace to totally surrender them so that I might be truly free. As I’ve said before, this seems to be a theme these past weeks, so I’m guessing it’s something I really need to work on. How about you?  Are you still carrying around unnecessary pain and hurt?  Are you still doubting that you CAN and you WILL change your life and that THIS TIME you will be successful?  Are you still listening to that voice in your head that says, “You can’t do this…you’re not going to EVER reach your goal….you’ve tried before and failed….You’re not worth it…..and many others?”  Are you still harboring resentment and/or unforgiveness?  If so, I encourage you today to join me in my attempt to surrender and get rid of these unnecessary burdens. I know that carrying them around will only slow down my own progress and make the journey more taxing. Let’s pledge to get rid of the emotional weight as well as the physical weight today!

I hope you enjoy whatever you have planned today and make good choices. I’m packing a cooler full of healthy food so that I’m tempted to hit a drive-thru or eat junk throughout the day. Make a plan to stay on track and have a wonderful day.  Please keep one of our group members, Richard, in your prayers this weekend. His mother is in the end stages of her life and Richard has been her care-giver for many years. This is an extremely difficult time for him. We have others in the group that are carrying heavy burdens of illness and pain as well.

Keep smiling….be peaceful….and know that I’ll be taking you along with me in thought as I venture into the woods today.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lessons on the journey from a shooting star

Good Morning…..what a glorious morning it is! I woke up very early, around 1:30 a.m., because my RA has been acting up a bit and the pain makes it difficult to sleep. I tried to go back to sleep but when I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to rest, I decided to get up and begin the day. I’m so glad I did!

This week is the annual meteor shower. It always occurs right around this time every year on the anniversary of my mother’s death (August 12). I watched about a half hour of news on the TV, but after listening to the depressing stories about death, war, and suicide for a while, I decided to take my coffee outside to watch for shooting stars. WOW!  What a beautiful display of God’s glory! Dressed in my jammies and warm robe, I sat on the garden swing in the darkness and gazed to the heavens and was almost overcome with emotion as I very quickly lost count of the number of shooting stars. I saw about 20 meteors in the first ten minutes! Absolutely amazing, and it didn’t take very long for me to forget about my aching body.

As I sat there, I really couldn’t help but be grateful for all the ways God makes His presence known to me, but at the same time, I wondered how many times I go through life and don’t even notice. More times than I’d like to admit, and yet, He doesn’t stop. I’m so grateful for that!  As I gazed into the night sky watching those beams of light streak across the heavens I began to reflect on my journey and was reminded of so many lessons.

Life is very short, and just like those shooting stars that stream across the sky in the blink of an eye, we can miss opportunities to be kind; to love; to help others if we get too wrapped up in our “stuff.” While it is true that when we are trying to change our lives and improve our well-being, we need to focus on “ourselves” for a while making time to be active; eat right; spend time reflecting; reading; and/or discovering our gifts; we have to be careful not to stop living and enjoying life, “just because we are not where we want to be; we haven’t lost the weight; we are waiting until…..we get time; the kids grow up; we retire; we get thin; we get the house the way we want it to be; we……whatever” to take that trip, buy that ‘super cute dress’; learn to dance, take a class, visit that relative or friend……again, WHATEVER we want to do. 

This is an area that I really need to reflect on because it is quite possible that I may never lose these last 20 pounds because I’ve been just ‘holding my own” for about a year now and not straying off plan. It is quite possible that I may never be “less busy” because my personality and work-ethic means that when I do have some spare time I start another project (that usually doesn’t get finished….sigh) and my friends and loved ones continue to get older. I really need to write those letters; send those cards; and make some phone calls. I probably will never have a sizable savings account; it’s possible my RA and neuropathy may limit my mobility in the future; I’ll likely never have a spotless house or organized garage…..but like those shooting stars that pass so quickly across the night sky, the days pass so quickly and life is so very short. As they say, “Carpe Diem….Seize the day!”  I encourage you to do the same and be grateful and take notice of the wonders around you….even if your life and body are not where you want it to be. Enjoy the journey…..and worry less about the destination.

Another thought…..The sky was very bright tonight due to the Super Moon this week. Although quite beautiful, the brightness made it more difficult to see the meteors. I positioned myself on the swing so that I was facing the darkest part of the night sky, and yet, I was still very aware of the moonlight. There were many shooting stars, but the ones that were the most glorious and magnificent were those that were in the darkest areas of the sky. Hmm….Oftentimes, God’s presence is revealed in the mightiest way in the darkness of our life….but we have to “look up” to notice it….or it passes by. Although I could still see the shooting stars in the part of the heavens that were illuminated by the moonlight, they were faint and less glorious. Is it possible that God’s glory is even more visible when we go through struggles and darkness?  Is it possible that we have an opportunity to “shine brighter and be a light to the world” when we are going through tough times?  Certainly food for thought anyway.  So many times when life gets difficult; when we face trials and temptations; when we are sad, ill, lonely, or in despair and want to give up; we focus so much on the darkness that we forget to “look up” and we miss the ways God is present and revealing Himself to us.  I encourage you….dig a little deeper; try a little harder to be positive….and keep your chin up….and you just might see that there are still wonderful things around you …even in the darkest times of your life.

Finally….I was reminded that I have to “do something different” and “get out of my comfort zone” if I want to experience some of the wonders around me.  Had I not went outside in the middle of the night....feeling a bit ‘uneasy” about the darkness and sounds of the woods behind me….feeling the chill of the night air and the dampness of the dew on my robe I would not have been treated to the wonderful display of shooting stars. I’m a creature of habit but in order to enjoy all that life offers I sometimes have to break my routine; abandon fear and apprehension; try new things; and face the darkness.  You too, might need to try something new; take a different route; push beyond your fear; and look at life in a new way, if you want to change your life. If you don’t like the way things are in your life….make different choices.

I will likely be tired later this afternoon but I am so glad that I woke up early. In this case, God used my pain to remind me of some important life lessons, and although I don’t think He wants us to be sad or suffer, He can reveal Himself to us in those moments….IF…and only IF…..we look for it.  I encourage you to be look at life in a new way today; think about things in a new way; and make choices this day that will lead you to a new life….but more than anything….be GRATEFUL… all things.  Have a great day today!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We are not alone

While it’s true that no one can change your life but you (and God), and the choices you make are ultimately yours alone, it is so important to realize that you are not alone on this journey. Most of us carry some residual (perceived or very real) pain, doubt, fear, and heartache deep within and often try to mask it with food, alcohol, drugs, or other forms of addictive behavior…..but your life doesn’t have to be that way. Those things are only temporary solutions to make us forget and ultimately only make things worse. Be strong and remember that ‘we are all on this together” and even more important than that, “God will never leave your or forsake you.”

 Even those who appear to “have it all together” or whom the world defines as “successful” often feel isolated and alone and carry pain deep within.  My heart is sad today at the news of the death of Robin Williams, a man who appeared, by the world’s standards, to have achieved great success. Peace that passes all understanding, a merry heart, and the belief….deep down, without a doubt faith….that we are not on this journey alone are blessings that we often take for granted.  Be assured, my friends, that we are all in this together.  In the end, our fame, fortune, weight, beauty, or possessions do not define us, nor do they give us peace; our worth and value to this world come from within.  Fill your mind with thoughts of compassion, kindness, and love today, and above all else, be grateful for the blessings of this day. Gratitude will change your thoughts, which in turn will help you to make the choices that will ultimately change your life and the lives of those around you. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Are you ready to change?

Sometimes we have to hit “rock-bottom” before we make the decision to change our life. That was the case for me anyway. I literally was at a point where I wanted to give up on life because I didn’t think I could go on living that way for much longer. When we realize that, “Enough is enough,” then likely we will be ready to begin our journey and we will find the strength to make SMALL changes….take LITTLE step…that will bring us closer to the place we want to be.  Sometimes someTHING… a health scare, an accident, arrest, or death of a loved one is the last straw, but sometimes, we reach the point all by ourselves.  Making positive changes is hard work but when we realize that it the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain and struggles to change, nothing will happen. Are you ready for a change? Are you sick and tired of feeling sad, depressed, sick and tired?  If so….what can you do about it?  What can you do TODAY…right now….to begin a journey that will change your situation?  Don’t try to do it all at once…a little change here and there is all that is needed to get the ball rolling. You can do it…We all can do it….together!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A good reason....or just an excuse? DO IT ANYWAY!

Good Sunday morning! I’ve shared this before but I was thinking about this all morning as I was trying to talk myself out of taking a walk by coming up with all sorts of lame excuses.  Many years ago, a very special person in my life, Chuck Bowden, was encouraging me to go on to pursue another college degree, and I was coming up with all sorts of reasons why I shouldn’t/couldn’t/didn’t want to. One of those excuses was, “But Chuck, at this rate, I’m going to be 50 years old before I graduate.”  He simply smiled and said, “Theresa, you’re going to be 50 anyway; you might as well be 50 with a college degree.”  He was so right and I did go on and graduate, well before I turned 50. Going to college full-time, while working full-time, dealing with RA, barely able to walk, and weighing over 400 pounds was an incredibly difficult venture, but one of the best decisions I ever made…..much like embarking on this journey. I’m so glad that I didn’t let my “excuse” stop me.

I’m not feeling super great this morning; joints are very stiff and sore, and I’m in a lot of pain. It’s just the nature of the Rheumatoid Arthritis beast and a pretty common occurrence that I deal with on a regular basis. Fortunately, it’s not a 24/7 situation like it used be a few years ago when I was carrying around the extra weight, but it does hinder my desire to ride my bike and limits me from doing a lot of the things I enjoy. When I woke up this morning, I knew that it would be too painful to ride the bike today and I was contemplating taking a walk instead to see if I could loosen up the joints. As the darkness faded, however, I began to come up with all sorts of reasons why I shouldn’t/couldn’t/didn’t want to even go for a walk. Pain was one of those excuses, but I also convinced myself that I was “too tired,” “had too much to do,” “didn’t have time,” “didn’t really feel like it,”   and so forth. I had, what I thought was a pretty good list of excuses drawn up in my head….but yet, I knew that although those reasons had valid merit, they were just really EXCUSES to be lazy and sit in the lazy boy for another hour.  And then….the words of my friend began to echo in my mind: “You’re going to be 50 anyway, Theresa, just do it!”

Obviously I’m not taking about college or being 50, but the principle is still the same.  Even if I don’t go for a walk, I’m still going to be tired; I’m still going to have a lot to do; I’m still going to be stiff and sore….but perhaps a walk would energize me, motivate me to get my stuff done, and ease my pain and stiffness…..and so I laced up my sneakers and went for a walk….even though I didn’t really want to or feel like it.  Once I got moving and in my stride, however, I realized what a beautiful day it is and I had a glorious walk. The flowers are blooming; the birds are singing; the sun is shining; and I actually enjoyed being outside and walking….in spite of all my excuses. I ended up walking a couple of miles and although I’m still stiff and sore, I’m glad I did. 

So many times in our journey we come up with all sorts of reasons why we can’t….or don’t want to….make changes to improve our life.  It’s too hard……It’s too expensive to eat healthy…..I have to cook for my family and they don’t like healthy food…..I don’t have time……I’ve tried before and failed so what’s the use…..I’ll just gain it back anyway…..I just CAN’T live without chocolate, cigarettes, a glass or two (or bottle) of wine…..I’m not strong enough.  The list is endless; I know, I’ve used those and many others for years….and look where it got me: over 400 pounds and unable to walk!  Have you used any of those excuses?  The truth is that life is hard no matter what you weigh; but it’s easier to deal with when you lose a bit of weight….even 10 or 20 pounds; do it anyway.  It does cost more to buy produce and whole foods, but if you prepare more meals at home and eat out less often it will balance itself out and besides….junk food, soda, and candy is expensive too….so you might as well invest in yourself and your health….do it anyway.   It’s always going to be “someone’s birthday,” “a special occasion,” or a ‘holiday weekend”; you might as well be healthier/thinner/sober/happier when those special days come.  If you wait until the perfect day to begin our journey, you will never begin.

There are so many reasons (some very good ones) why we don’t….we can’t…..we aren’t… but reasons aren’t necessarily very good excuses.  I encourage you today….think about your excuses and ask yourself if they are really valid…..or merely excuses…..and if they are just an excuse…..get up….get moving….put the donut down…..and just do it! I’m thinking you might be glad you did!   Have a great day, my friends!!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Don't "undo" your hard work all week with a weekend splurge

You've worked hard all week....don't let the weekend "un-do" the hard work you've done this week.  Sometimes people tell me that "their plan" allows them to eat whatever they choose (well, I eat whatever I choose everyday... I just choose wisely) on the weekends, so they go out to dinner or drinks.  Everyone's journey is unique, but I don't really understand the philosophy of practicing good habits all week and then blowing it on the weekends...only to start all over on Monday. But...that's me.  What are your thoughts on the matter?

Whatever plan works well for you..... I hope you have a healthy and peace-ful, stay on track kind of weekend.  The weather is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous in Michigan this weekend....warm and sunny....and I'm up and ready to greet the sun. Have Fun and keep positive!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Let go of things that weigh you down and lead to overeating

Good morning everyone!  Yesterday morning as I was getting ready for work, I reached into the bottom of my purse to get some lipstick. I pulled out a tube and when it wasn’t the one I was looking for, I tried again. I always tend to carry a large bag…sometimes two…because I am an admitted “pack-rat” (but in my defense, I’d prefer to say that “I am an always prepared….just in case…..kind of girl”) and I noticed that my purse had gotten particularly heavy.  I reached in again and pulled out another tube; still not the one I wanted.  SO….I thought perhaps it was time to clean out the purse.

I dumped the contents into a box and to my surprise…. I had seven (yes, I said 7) tubes of lipstick/gloss; 3 pair of tweezers (don’t ask why…I have no idea); 2 different vegetable peelers (so THAT’s where the blue one went?); half a dozen protein bars, a peach, apple, fiber one bar, and 2 packs of sugar-free gum (a big girl NEVER wants to be without  “stay-on-track” food…just in case!) and a whole plethora of other “unnecessary” things.  Yikes!  I sorted through the stuff and returned the essentials back to the purse and put the other things away, but thus began the “thinking process.”

I’ve always been a pack-rat and have accumulated way more “stuff” than I need. Many of my ‘treasures” have been inherited or given to me by friends and family members. Those are the things that I find it hard to part with…because in some silly way….having something that belonged to a loved one makes me feel like part of them is still with me, but in reality, I know that it’s just a tangible reminder of the person/people and their presence lives in my heart, not in my garage. It’s an area that I continue to work on “in my head.”

An important part of my weight-loss journey has been to shed “emotional things; painful memories; and irrational thoughts and feelings” along with the excess pounds.  I discovered that a big part of the reason for the excess weight (not the ONLY reason but a significant reason) was that I was hanging onto emotions that were weighing me down and I was trying to protect myself from dealing with them with a layer of fat.  Grief….sadness from the death of loved ones; rejection….from a job loss that truly defined my self-worth and purpose in life; Fear…of commitment, being loved, trusting….well, fear of all sorts of things; and whole bunch of other things like resentment, unforgiveness, jealousy, worthlessness, etc. were all things that consumed my life. Those were the things that were ‘weighing me down” and creating a sadness inside that I was trying to eliminate and mask with overeating and isolation. It was almost as if a bag of potato chips and 2 liter bottle of soda could make me forget “what so-and-so said or did” or that yet another loved one had died in my arms. Oftentimes, it did make me forget….temporarily.  Food; alcohol; drugs; shopping….whatever your vice….sometimes makes you forget…for a while, but then…it comes back and brings the side effects of our behavior with it. But, only if…..WE CONTINUE TO CARRY THE PAIN AROUND WITH US….. “Just in case we might need it one day” much like those 6 extra tubes of lipstick in my purse. It doesn’t have to be that way.

As I’ve said many times before, “Changing the way I THINK has been key to my journey.” When I decided to change my life a few years ago, I obviously made some major changes in my eating habits, but I also spent a lot of time working on my “thinking habits.” These are both areas of my life that will ALWAYS need attention if I hope to continue to become healthier and enjoy my new life.  I had/have to continually ask myself, “Theresa….are you REALLY hungry….or are you trying to avoid dealing with whatever feeling/thought/emotion that is bothering you at the moment?”  More often than not, it’s an emotional thing.  When someone disappoints me, I want to eat; when I’m tired, I reach for a protein bar; when I’m stressed….. agitated…..or even excited/happy; I often confuse that with hunger.  It is so much easier to treat an emotion/feeling/thought or even boredom with food than it is to deal with, confront, or process it in a healthy way.  It’s much easier to “hang on to it” than it is to “forget, forgive, ‘talk about it’ or let it go”….just in case we need it someday (for what….a fight down the road….a reason to be mean….and excuse not to do the right thing, or just “because” we feel justified in being mad, rude, hurt or  unkind?).

 Like tubes of lipstick in my purse, I sometimes accumulate “Emotional stuff” that I absolutely DO NOT need to carry around with me; it just weighs me down and makes life harder. It certainly doesn’t make me the kind of person that I want to be. It does, however, make me less desirable to be around; usually only “like-minded” negative people enjoy the company of others like them. (birds of a feather….?)  In my former life, that’s exactly what I wanted….to be alone in my pain so that I didn’t allow others to get close enough to hurt me again….or die.  A bag of chips or pizza could only disappoint me if they were stale or burnt. But… I didn’t want to live like that anymore….and I don’t want to be that person either. I want to be free from that “stuff”. How about you?

We are all a “work in progress” and so today, I am going to focus on one thing:  I’m going to work on getting rid of any of those ‘emotional things” I’m hanging onto that are weighing me down. In just a few minutes, before I leave for work, I am actually going to go outside in my driveway with a bottle of bubbles and I am going to blow bubbles into the air….and as each one rises to the sky…. I am going to ask God to help me “let go” of any of those “things…..hurts….pains….fears….anxious moments….petty jealousies….undesirable weaknesses and traits (God will show me those things when I spend a few minutes praying about it) so that they don’t weigh me down and hinder my progress on this journey.  I’m also going to ask that any temptation or desire to eat things that are not nourishing or essential to my body be removed as well and replaced with the hunger/desire to do good and help others.  (YES….I’m really going to do this as soon as it gets daylight…and YES, I’m glad I live in a rural area! J)

These kind of symbolic things work for me, but likely won’t for many/most of you, but that’s what a personal journey is all about: Finding a plan, tools, and lifestyle that works for YOU!  I do encourage you, however, to find a few minutes this weekend to think about those things that you are hanging on to…..and ask yourself if they have anything at all with the reason you overeat or indulge in other behavior you’d like to change.  Chances are, there may be a connection….and if so, I encourage you to “let it go!”  Let’s not carry around things we don’t need; things that weigh us down. Even if it has nothing to do with your weight or burdens, certainly letting go of those things will make you a kinder, more loving person, even if you never lose another pound or give up an unhealthy habit.  Have a great day, my friends… I’m off to blow bubbles!  LOL