Saturday, November 29, 2014

A quick check in

Good Morning all.... Just a quick note to say hello and wish you all a wonderful weekend. I hope everyone had a great holiday and are peaceful today. I went shopping with my sister and nieces at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday night, came home and slept for 2 1/2 hours around 330 a.m. and then was back at it yesterday. Managed to get several gifts......but the BEST part of the trip was the super duper $1.00 clothing special  yesterday morning at the Goodwill!  I came home with 5 big bags of bargains....for $40.00 so I'll get to play "dress-up fashion diva wanna-be" when I return home!  When people ask me what motivates me to keep on track....well.....being able to shop AND buy clothes in a regular store (well, if you call thrift stores regular, but you know what I mean) as opposed to a mail-order catalog and NOT cry in the dressing room or go home depressed REALLY MOTIVATES me!  I had a great time yesterday but the body is aching today.  As they say...the spirit is willing...but the body is weak????

I'll catch up with you all later as things begin to settle down. In the happy; be peaceful; and don't beat yourself up if you made choices this weekend that you regret. Just start all over!

Here are a couple of pictures from Thanksgiving at my sister's house. The first is my niece Amirah...and the other is my sister, Kelly.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Planning to stay on track for Thanksgiving

Good Morning!

Like many of you, I have found myself in the midst of yet another incredibly hectic and busy week. I know…I say that EVERY week! Hopefully, unlike you, I have discovered that the stress of the holiday week has left me a bit frazzled and in a bit of a whirlwind as I struggle to check things off my list to prepare for Thanksgiving and the festivities that come with it. In times like these, I have to continually remind myself that ‘The reason for the season” doesn’t necessarily just mean Christmas and shift my focus from one of chaos to gratitude. After all, the entire purpose of Thanksgiving is to celebrate the many blessings in life, NOT to create anxiety or allow irritability or frustration to cloud the festivities as I prepare to travel. Still, I’m overwhelmed with more things to do than time in the day, and I’ve found myself awake an hour earlier than usual (it’s 2 a.m.) just to get some things packed and some laundry done before work. I also recognize that the past couple of weeks have been emotionally charged with my friend’s surgery, the death of my cat, work stressors, and inclement weather so I’m being gentle and patient with myself…and others….as best I can. How’s it going for you all this week?

On Sunday, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for me and a friend because I will be heading to my sister’s later this week to celebrate the holiday with a large contingency of family members. This quiet, dinner-for-two, was a ‘rehearsal’ if you will, and gave me a chance to practice my willpower and test my commitment to stay on track. It worked…and I managed to not only cook/prepare a big dinner, complete with treats and desserts, but also to resist giving in to the temptation to eat them. YES, my friends, it IS possible to enjoy a nice meal and still stay on track. 

So…you might be wondering…what did I eat?  Well…. turkey, in-and-of-itself, is a safe food…provided I don’t eat the skin and stick with the white meat. I also made mashed potatoes, but used unsweetened almond milk instead of whole milk to mash them, and took a small amount out before I added the butter to the mix. I ate a couple of spoonsful with just a small amount of gravy. When I say SMALL amount, I mean I use my fork to dip in the gravy and just drizzle a bit on top. 

My friend is not fond of vegetables, sweet potatoes, or squash, so I could prepare those dishes in a way that made them delicious to me, but limited the calories.  Both the butternut squash and sweet potato is easy for me because I just microwave them and then season them with sugar-free maple syrup (only 20 calories for ½ cup…that is AWESOME), salt, a bit of Splenda and some cinnamon. I love both of these dishes…and prepare them often this time of year. I also made cucumbers and sour cream…but used just two tablespoons or so of non-fat sour cream mixed with my own salad dressing that I create out of balsamic vinegar, some spices, Splenda, and sugar free raspberry vinaigrette dressing that I can get at Meijer/Walmart etc…..only 5 calories a serving.  I make the dressing using water instead of oil and keep it in a jar in the refrigerator. I use this dressing for coleslaw, salad, or cucumber salad, and always carry a small pill-size container with me whenever I eat out. Salad dressings will add unnecessary calories to a salad very quickly so be careful of them. I also ate only about 2 bites of stuffing (just stove top…not homemade).

Like most people during the holidays, I ate until I was full, but unlike many, I felt good about my choices and didn’t really stray too far. While my total calories for the meal was likely a bit higher than a typical Sunday dinner, I was pleased that I was more than satisfied and didn’t feel a bit deprived. If you FEEL deprived and have a “poor me” attitude, then you will quickly sabotage your own journey.  Remember…you CAN eat anything you want; you just are CHOOSING not to. That mindset is key to success because it puts YOU in control of your own destiny.

What I DIDN’T EAT was:  deviled eggs, cookies, shrimp, biscuits, or dessert, or more than 2 spoons of potatoes/gravy/stuffing.  Because it was just dinner-for-two, I didn’t need to make a bunch of appetizers or munchies. At my sister’s later this week, there will be an entire table of appetizers, cheese-crackers, chips & dips, finger foods, etc. to tempt me. This is a danger zone for me and I could easily blow my entire calorie allowance if I gathered around the kitchen with the rest of the family and tasted “this or that” and sampled many of the treats there. This type of mindless-enjoying the conversation-catching up with family members-eating could sabotage my journey very quickly if I allowed myself to participate. A plate of some of those appetizers (my favorite WAS those little sausages wrapped in biscuit dough) have as many calories…or more…than my dinner plate. My strategy will be to “STAY AWAY” and play with the children present, watch the football game, or browse the Black Friday sale papers…anything to keep me out of the kitchen. I’ll also have some cut up fruit just in case.

This will be my 4th Thanksgiving on my journey. I have gotten through the first three without slipping up…even a little…and I am planning NOW to do the same this year. Just because I choose to stay on track, does not mean that I will judge your decisions in any way. Many of you will elect to enjoy the festivities and just get back on plan on Friday. That choice is YOURS to make; not mine because your journey is just that: YOUR journey. Please do not feel badly about your decision to eat/not eat on the holiday.  The day is about GRATITUDE, family & friends, so any stress, anxiety, or guilt about food really can ruin the day. Just be aware, in case you doubt that it is possible, that YES, you can enjoy the day and still manage to stay true to your eating plan.

So… in a nutshell….here are a few on the tips that I will use to keep on track:

Watch out for toppings, dressings, and condiments. If you are going to indulge in traditional foods, use low calorie/low fat salad dressings, non-calorie butter spray, sugar free syrup in recipes, non-fat sour cream or whipped cream. You can cut calories just by substituting things in recipes…and chances are that nobody will even notice.

Keep yourself busy in conversation or looking at sale papers to minimize mindless eating BEFORE or AFTER dinner.

Fill your plate with things you can’t get at other times of the year… Do you really need that bread/bun or chips and dip? Skip those and spend your calories on things that are only served on holidays. If you’re going to indulge, try just 2 or 3 bites, instead of a regular size serving. 

If you are asked to bring a dish to pass, bring something that you can eat guilt-free so you know for sure that there will be something there that is low calorie. When someone insists that you try their dish…simple say, WOW…that looks great and smells delicious, but I really need to stay on my plan, but thanks anyway. I’m sure it’s WONDERFUL though. Don’t let someone ‘guilt’ you into straying off track.

Stay away from the appetizers and desserts.  I will have cut up fruit, Greek yogurt, a fiber one bar, and a package of baked rice cake snacks with me so that IF…and only IF… I feel like I need to eat before/after dinner, I will have some healthy options to choose from. 

Consider making a low calorie dessert option…even if it’s just for one….like a baked apple or any of those pumpkin recipes that are out there.

Bring a steam-fresh microwavable package of veggies with you. It takes only a few minutes and you will have an entire plate full of veggies WITHOUT the cream toppings or cheese sauce. Don’t be afraid to bring your own food choices. If your family members really support you on your journey then they will not be offended.  If they are…well….then…that is THEIR problem, not yours.  Remember, the day is about giving THANKS….not food….and our commitment to our journey is certainly something to be grateful for!

Mostly….be mindful of what you eat….but more important…WHY you are eating. If someone gets up for a 2nd helping, or to get dessert, and you feel ‘peer-pressure” to join them, but aren’t even hungry….well then….it’s not a good choice.  Also…be gentle with yourself and remember that Friday is a new day. If you indulge on Thanksgiving and give in to temptation, don’t allow it to become an excuse to blow your plan ALL WEEKEND! Get back on track on Friday morning and plan ahead for eating out while shopping on Black Friday.

It is POSSIBLE to survive the holidays without sacrificing your journey. You CAN still enjoy the day without giving into temptation….but the decision is ultimately YOURS, not mine.  I know what I intend to do….and I’m planning to keep on track. What about you?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thinking about my dad today

Good Morning!
  Thank you for your kind thoughts yesterday as I faced the death of my cat, Camper. As I expected, the vet determined that the best course of action would be to put her to rest because she had multiple issues going on. I never realized how she had sick she was because until a few days ago, she never made a sound, but she did sleep a lot in recent weeks. I have been asking myself since yesterday how she could become so sick and I never knew it, and dealing with a bit of guilt as I wondered if I could have done something different. Yesterday was certainly a tough day, but today is a new one and I will try to shift my thoughts and focus from sadness to gratitude.

Today, November 21st, is another day of remembrance from me, and for the past week or so I have been thinking about my biological dad, Phillip. He died on this day 43 years ago, and even though so many years have passed, I STILL find myself thinking about him every year when this day comes. Although I was just a little girl when he died and God later sent other wonderful men (my stepdad, Tony & priest, Fr. Sauter) to fill the void after his death, I have a deep love and gratitude to the man who gave me life.  He taught me many things in those short eight years and I can see how his love and presence in my life shaped me into the woman I am today.  Over the years, I have been able to replace the sadness and guilt I felt for many years about his death with the gratitude I feel today that God gave me a wonderful father for those short years, and that the life lessons and love I learned from him continue to influence me today.

While I recognize that I much of what I know about my dad was learned from other family members and the stories they told/continue to tell about him, I do have some very wonderful memories of my own. Those memories, along with the ones I’ve gathered from others over the years, give me joy and comfort, but also strength on my journey, as I remember how he handled his own journey of illness.  Today, I give thanks to God for the gift of my dad as I reflect on all those things he taught me in our short time together, namely an unshakeable faith IN SPITE of struggle; the hope that things would be different; a desire to celebrate the journey; and a love that death could not diminish.

My dad had rheumatic fever when he was a child and spent many weeks in the hospital, but recovered and eventually returned to school, got a job, and married my mother. No one knew, however, that his heart was damaged by that earlier illness, and he had his first heart attack when I was only one month old. He spent weeks at a time in the hospital, had open heart surgery, and several other issues in the next seven years before a stroke/heart attack took his life. In the midst of those struggles, however, he was able to return to work at Chrysler and my parents added two more children to our family. Things would be okay for a while; then another set-back and months in the hospital; and so forth. He had open heart surgery on my 4th birthday and he was hospitalized for several weeks at a time at other times during my childhood, at a time when kids weren’t allowed in the hospital.  I certainly felt his absence and missed him terribly, and yet… I always knew he loved me…even when I couldn’t see him or kiss him goodnight. Throughout his years of illness, pain, and suffering, he never lost faith in God. In fact, his faith was unshakeable, and I have vivid memories of the later years when we had a hospital bed in the house of him reading scripture, praying the rosary, and taking about God. During those last couple of years before he died, my priest friend Fr. Sauter was assigned to our parish in Rockwood, and I remember him coming to our home to visit my dad, pray with him, and bring him communion. Of course, I was always in the midst of all that and it was then…when I was just 5 years old, that Father Sauter and I first became friends.  I learned compassion and faith from both of these men and would later be privileged to care for Father Sauter and be at his bedside when he died, in much the same way that he did for my dad. God had a plan! 

No matter HOW bad things got; no matter how much my dad suffered or how bleak the situation looked, my dad never lost his faith in God and always had hope that things would get better….but knew that no matter what happened…..God would always be there. That faith, taught to me by my parents, helped me through some pretty tough days…and continues to guide me on my journey today.  That same faith kept me alive in those years of darkness 10 years ago when my life hit rock-bottom, even though I had lost hope back then and almost succumbed to despair. That same faith keeps me going EVERY SINGLE DAY on this journey, and even though, like all of you, I have days when it is tested; I am weary and feel burdened; and doubt creeps in; I am always able to find my way back to the assurance that I am not alone on this journey….no MATTER how hard it gets; how much I want to give up; or how bad/sad the days are. Certainly, like yesterday, I have my share of sadness.

Another thing my dad taught me was to CELEBRATE the life you have. Even when he was sick, I still remember joy in my home. Christmas was a really big deal when I was a young child. The outside of our house was always all lit up with lights and holiday decorations and family celebrations for the holidays and other times was a priority. Earlier this week I put up my Christmas tree in my own house and I carefully unpacked a silly, beat-up, Styrofoam Santa Claus face that has been part of EVERY Christmas for the past 50 years, as well as a plastic Santa figurine dressed in a dingy velvet Santa suit that my grandparents purchased for my first Christmas. Both of these old “pieces of junk” as others have called them are incredibly precious to me and remind me of the importance of CELEBRATING… and family…even when it/they are not perfect.

Holidays were important, but so were ordinary days, and family meals/gatherings/picnics/weddings etc….even when he was not feeling well; even when he knew his days were likely numbered; even when he could no longer participate like others who were present.  A few hours before he died, he played a marble game called Aggravation with my mom and grandparents for a little while before he could no longer do so and needed to rest. I remember that day like it was yesterday and it taught me to enjoy life as best as I can; to never give up trying; and celebrate the gift of life….regardless of how bleak it might seem.  That principle guided my journey and taught me the importance of celebrating the small victories of my journey….like fitting into a smaller size; walking my first quarter mile without a cane/walker/ getting under the 300 pound mark for the first time, etc.  Even though I was/am not where I want to be, I recognized that there was still/are many things to celebrate. Life is a gift…to be enjoyed NOW…regardless of what the scale says!

Finally, he taught me love… a love for his children and family, but mostly a love for my mother. Those two had a love affair like none I’ve ever known.  They married much later in life than others during that time period (they were 25) and their short 9 year marriage had much heartache and sadness, but produced three children, and was strong and loving. When I was in my teens, my mother showed me a very large scrap book, overflowing with cards and letters that the two exchanged. Cards for every occasion…or none at all….expressing his love and gratitude to my mother for her presence in his life; letters expressing his desire to come home from the hospital and how much they missed each other; and offering thanks to God for the gift of each other. WOW….although I’ve been in several relationships over the years and have been blessed with the love of others, I have yet to understand/know a love like that. Perhaps, their love was a rare gift from God to help them through what would be turn out to be a relationship that had more than its share of sorrow and heartbreak.  Still….my dad taught me that, first, THAT kind of love is possible, second, that love does not depend on physically being present and carries on beyond the grave, and most important, that love….not just romantic love but love for ALL people and in all forms, is a gift from God and I had better be sure to let those I love know it because life is very short.

As I sit here in the darkness, thinking about my dad, I am so grateful that I was blessed with him for eight years, and that the things I learned from him continue to motivate and influence my journey today.  I encourage you, when you have time to think about your own journey, to try to identify those characteristics and traits you need to succeed in your own life-changing quest.  In my option, while physical things….like exercise, diet, support groups, etc….are important parts of your ability to succeed…emotional/mental/spiritual traits are even more critical to draw from because there will come a time when you will not be able to exercise due to age/illness or loss of desire/motivation, and there will be times when your eating habits will be challenged or abandoned for a celebration or whatever.  There will be times when you will want to quit and will struggle to find the motivation you need to keep going or start over. You will have some difficult days when temptation is overwhelming.

 During those times when you feel hopeless, sad, or experience struggle; when grief or illness threaten your peace of mind; when days are difficult for whatever reason (maybe even as ‘what some may call as insignificant as losing a pet) it will be those internal characteristics that keep you going and will help you get through the day. It will be FAITH…HOPE….LOVE….that keeps you going and encourages you to start over.

What characteristics/ past experiences/memories do you have like that…..Stubbornness….determination… unshakeable faith….and so forth….that has guided you through life thus far and has molded you into the person you are today? Who taught you those things?  Those things are far more important to your success than a pair of sneakers (although sneakers are pretty important!!!)  because, long after your sneakers wear out or your treadmill quits working, those characteristics will keep you going.  Another important thing to reflect on is “What are YOU teaching others by the way you live/act/think?  I want to be a better person today….because I spent some time thinking about what a wonderful man I am blessed to say is my “dad.”   

Have a great day today….

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It doesn't have to be like this forever

You can see clips like this....others may tell you things like this.....but until you believe it.....they are just words. Believing, hoping, and trusting that life can be different.... is such an important step in the process of changing one's life....but it is often the hardest part.  My hope today is that each of you that are doubting or hurting in some way today may come to REALLY BELIEVE that miracles are possible....and then....that you find the strength to take the steps necessary to change your reality.  

One of the most important pieces for me on my journey was to recognize that the victory and freedom was won for me long ago on the cross....and that GOD can set you free from all that weighs you down.  Sending good thoughts today to you....not sure WHICH one or more of you....but I think that there is someone out there right now that needs to be assured that Things do not have to be this way.....and you CAN change your reality.  Hang in there....

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better

Good Morning from snowy, cold Michigan.  Ready or not, here it comes: winter that is! Another snowy night last night has created a beautiful scene this morning as I look outside. I guess my declaration that I’m not ready for winter to arrive yet had little effect on Mother Nature’s timeline. Imagine that! LOL.  Nonetheless, winter is here whether I’m ready or like it or not, but one thing I’m reminding myself this morning is that, even though the wind chill is only 2 degrees this morning and the ground is covered, it will get worse before it gets better, and in the near future, I will be wishing it was 14 degrees outside rather than below zero. Knowing what is to come and that the weather WILL get worse will not likely make it easier, but at least I will hopefully have a plan in place to deal with it.  It’s all about perspective.

My friend, Bob, is making progress from his surgery and we both offer our sincere appreciation for your prayers and good wishes during the past week. One of the discharge instructions given by the doctor before we left the Surgical Center warned us to expect bruising, pain, and swelling to increase a couple of days after the surgery. In other words, he would look/feel worse before things got better.  When I stopped by to check on him last evening after work, it was evident that the doctor was right because he looks like he was in a serious fist fight because his surgery involved incisions on both eyes. He is getting stronger and feeling better each day, but it certainly doesn’t appear that way. The doctor was right and he looked much worse yesterday than he did a couple of days ago. While knowing that he should expect it to get worse before it gets better didn’t make it easier, it did help him/us to have a plan in place to deal with it and to be more peaceful about the situation.

I often marvel how God uses the everyday things…like weather and surgery…. in my life to teach me valuable lessons for my journey. Yesterday, I had a conversation with a student that just confirmed the “things will get worse before they get better” lesson.  I was asking the student how she was handling the pressure of college and she said, “Theresa, this is the hardest part of the semester. People often think finals week is so tough, but it’s actually right now… about 3-4 weeks before the end of the semester…that is hardest because all the work/papers/projects are coming due. It’s really stressful NOW, and I am so glad that you told me that it would get worse before it gets better.”  She then thanked me for warning her at the beginning of the semester when she was feeling overwhelmed as she adjusted to being a first-time student that, even though it was really hard THEN, it would get worse as the semester progressed.  While it doesn’t make the NOW any easier to cope with, knowing that things would get worse before they got better, helped her put a plan in place and be prepared and she gained confidence in her abilities as she met each challenge and passed each test.

Should I consider it ‘coincidence” that in the last 24 hours, I had three reminders of the same thing: the journey is hard…absolutely….but it’s going to get worse before it gets better?  I don’t believe in coincidences; I believe in God and that EACH thing that happens, EVERY person I meet, and all that I experiences if part of God’s plan for my life/journey. If nothing else, it teaches me a lesson. Should knowing that it will get harder before it gets easier mean it will be impossible?  NOPE!  It means that it is important to take each day as it comes, face each challenge, and have a plan in place for the tougher days down the road. This is so true for each of us as we prepare for the holidays that are creeping up on us. While it’s REALLY HARD to stay on track each day….the next six weeks will be even more challenging and your temptation is likely to increase before it gets better, not only in terms of weight loss or addictive behavior, but because other things like grief, unemployment, financial difficulties, depression, and loneliness are harder to cope with during the cold, dark days of winter.

On this cold, snowy morning, I have two choices: Stay home and look outside all day….or face it head-on.  While it is easier to stay in my pajamas….I’m not going to. I’m going to bundle up; put on my boots; drive slowly and carefully down the snow covered roads; and ask God to travel with me on my journey, protecting me from harm and keeping me warm.  But FIRST and most important… I am going to offer a prayer of gratitude for the furnace that is running as I type this keeping me warm; for the vehicle that I expect to start in the cold weather; that I am able to WALK across the driveway to the garage to start up the truck to let it warm up; that I have a job to go to; for the warm coat and boots to protect me from the elements, and that I have angels to protect me on my way.  Sure, the drive will be challenging, but I know that, even though it isn’t going to be easy, it’s going to get MUCH worse as winter progresses. AND….I have a plan in place.  My truck is full of gas; I have a shovel and bag of cat litter in the back; and a blanket, candle, and flashlight in the back seat…so that I’m prepared for what might lie ahead.

My friend has two choices to deal with his recovery: either he can follow the doctor’s recommendations so that he heals quickly and with minimal discomfort, or he can ignore them and prolong/hinder his healing. I recognize that I cannot cause my friend to think/feel/do anything because I cannot control his thoughts, actions, or emotions, but I can continually remind him that he was very blessed to have made it through the surgery and that the bruising and swelling would continue to improve in the coming days. I can show him as much patience and care as possible so as to distract him from his pain and discomfort. I also am very aware that, even though this surgery was challenging, at his advanced age, there will likely be days, procedures, and medical situations down the road that will be much more difficult. It doesn’t make these past week easier, but it did remind us that we need to have a plan in place for the future when/if his health declines, and to be grateful for the gift of each other TODAY.

My friends….I know how difficult it is to change one’s life and how hard it is to stay on track, especially when life gets hard and challenges keep coming our way. The cold weather and darkness has made my morning walks impossible and although I COULD walk the hallways at the college before work, I’m having a hard time motivating myself to do so when it’s so dark in the morning and I’ve become increasing busy with other things. I’ve not yet given into eating anything off my plan, but I have been eating more calories than usual and although my pants still fit, they feel tight today. I need to remind myself that even though it is ‘healthy” food like butternut squash or fruit, when/if I eat when I’m not hungry, it doesn’t matter WHAT I eat if I don’t need it. Being conscious of WHY I’m eating is often more important that WHAT I’m eating. This life-long journey is not easy….but yet… I know….that it will get worse in coming weeks.

Thanksgiving is only 10 days away and I will be surrounded by all sorts of delicious foods. Holiday preparations/shopping will consume my already ‘too-little” free time and make it tempting to eat ‘whatever’ I can find or whatever is quick and easy, rather than what is good, wholesome, and nutritious. I received the first invitation to a Christmas party in the mail yesterday and will likely have several others down the road. These come with more temptation.  These next six weeks will challenge me emotionally as I remember loved ones that are no longer physically present to me; physically as I cope with the busy schedule, traveling, and holiday demands; and mentally as I am surrounded by opportunity to give into temptation.  It will not be easy…but it is DOABLE!  I just have to make a plan to succeed.

In all of these situations, while it is important to be aware that circumstances will likely be harder; weather will become more treacherous; grief will increase with the holidays; schedules will become busier; and temptations greater in the coming weeks/months, YOU….YOU….YOU….will be able to face them and get through them…..BECAUSE….you are stronger than you realize; more capable than you imagine; and are never alone on your journey. 

As you get through TODAY….today’s hardships/challenges/temptations/struggles……as you confront TODAY’s doubts and fears……as you  do what you need to do TODAY by remaining positive, taking SMALL steps and making good choices one meal at a time, by treating each person you meet with kindness, by surrendering your journey/will/life to your higher power, by recognizing how incredibly blessed you are….IN SPITE OF HOW IT APPEARS, and by making a plan to succeed in coming days….YOU will become more confident in your ability to meet EVERY challenge, not matter how hard it is. You will gain strength in times of trouble; peace in times of turmoil and stress; joy in times of hardship and trust me…God will give you everything you need to get through every challenge….regardless of how much it snows, how busy you become, how difficult or painful the situation, and how GOOD the food looks and smells, how BAD you want a cigarette or drink, and how much someone tries to push your buttons or challenges your patience.  You CAN do it….you WILL do it….. We ALL will do it…..WHY?  HOW?  Because we know that NO MATTER WHAT….we have God on our side and we have each other to share the journey.  Are we blessed or what?????

Monday, November 17, 2014

You CAN do meal at a time

“One at a time” has been my mantra throughout this journey: One day; one pound; one step; one meal…..etc.  It’s Monday morning, and although I’ve been up for a couple of hours already, I’m feeling a bit sleepy. I’m also feeling very comfortable as I sit here in my big warm robe, drinking hot coffee, and looking out the window at the blanket of freshly fallen snow. It snowed most of the day yesterday and the ground is now covered. It’s beautiful….but it’s the FIRST snowfall. The FIRST few are ALWAYS beautiful, but come February….or sooner…. I’ll be longing for spring. Still, the glorious white cover certainly does look better than the dead, brown remains of the summer gardens.  BUT…. I’m sitting inside looking out. In a couple of hours I’ll be driving in it for the first time this season, and just like a “journey to better health” it will take some time to get used it and adjust to the conditions. I really don’t have much choice because the ‘weatherbug” on my computer is flashing a winter weather advisory and warning me of more snow on the way. I’d like to stay in my jammies all day and watch the snow fall, but that isn’t an option, so I’ll get moving soon and take on the day.  

So…. once again….I remind myself that there isn’t anything I can do about the weather here in Michigan, so I will approach the day like I do my journey.  ONE…at….a…..time.  I’ll shovel one scoop at a time; I’ll drive one mile at a time; I’ll deal with one student at a time; and get through the day one hour at a time. A lot of times when the task at hand seems difficult or challenging, it is easier to do nothing at all than it is to face the situation head-on, especially when the task is less than appealing….like driving in the snow; dealing with someone who aggravates us; or making physical changes to improve our health and well-being.  It’s easier to hold a grudge than forgive; but the relationship won’t heal if you do. It’s easier to eat a donut or visit a drive-thru for lunch than it is to make a healthier breakfast or pack a lunch; but you’ll never see progress if you do. It’s sometimes easier to be negative and complain when we’re tired or irritated than it is to find good in all things; but it won’t contribute to a peaceful spirit or make us pleasant to be around if we do. And it would, undoubtedly, be a lot more enjoyable to get another cup of coffee and sit here in the warmth of my home watching the snow fall  than to get dressed and ready for work; but the light bill wont’ get paid if I do.  SO……. I will do what I have to do…

Today….. I encourage you to do what you have to do as well to get the results you want to get.  ONE….at….a….time.  Walk one step further today than yesterday; give one more compliment to someone you interact with, even a stranger; think one more positive thought or  speak one kind word to someone; and  make good choices one MEAL AT A TIME.  Don’t let the fear/anxiety/apprehension about the ENTIRE drive in the snow overwhelm you….drive safely…. one mile at a time. Don’t let the dread of getting through the entire work day or dealing with sick babies or whatever is on your plate today frustrate you… with it one hour at a time. Don’t let the … “I can’t resist temptation ALL day” cause you to do nothing; instead take it ONE MEAL AT A TIME. Get through breakfast…and then worry about lunch.  You CAN do it… WILL do it…..but it won’t happen by itself. You have to take action…even a little action….and you will see results!

Have a great day today….let yesterday’s struggles and slip-ups go; It’s a new day today!  Make it a good one!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Be happy today.....

Good morning! Some might challenge our thinking by saying that we would not be seeking to change our life if we were truly happy with our current state. In some cases, that is true and most of us who are already on a journey, or those of you seeking to start one or get back on track, would likely agree that we want to change some things in order to be happy.

 Certainly my life was the pits when I weighed over 400 pounds, was unable to walk, and was in constant pain, but still, in the midst of that, were some moments of happiness spent with loved ones and at my job; the joy was just buried under layers of excess weight and often hidden behind the pain, but it surfaced from time to time. As a gardener, I like to imagine that joy like a tulip bulb yet to blossom….and yet, it was THERE….just not fully experienced. Those days were difficult, no doubt, but by no means were there a total waste of life/breath. After all, there is value even in struggle, it’s just really hard to see it when we are in the midst of the heartache when all we can do is try to get through the day.  Today I am able to look back and realize that without those dark days/experiences/losses, I would not know JOY like I do today, for they were part of the process of transformation. Learning to be grateful and find a bit of joy/peace/happiness in the dark times is something I really desire because life is a mixture of day/night, rain/sun, good/bad, and there will likely be difficult days in the future.

  Happiness, I think, is a bit different than contentment.  Contentment, to me, means being satisfied with “What is” and not really believing or desiring to have it any other way. “Yeah, so what….life isn’t what I hoped it would be; in fact some days, it stinks; I guess I’ll always be fat, poor, unappreciated; taken advantage of….this ISN’T how I thought I’d be at 30 or 40 or 50 but I guess it’s the hand I was dealt” kind of thinking might mean one is content…..but…..does that mean that life can never be any better? Contentment is a good trait in some ways, but in others, it may cause one to stay ‘stuck’ in a situation/reality that could be so much better.  Thoughts like, “Well, I have to die of something, why should I try to quit smoking or drinking” or “So what if my blood pressure is high, they have medicine for that” or
“My husband likes me ‘just the way I am so why should I try to lose weight” comes from being content with one’s reality and often keeps one from taking steps to improve one’s health.

I always want to be GRATEFUL for everything, but at the same time, to seek ways to be better; try harder; draw closer to God and make a difference to the world. To me, happiness….a deep down joy….comes from knowing and believing that God is present in the midst of all things and that He is directing the orchestra that I call “life” REGARDLESS of the clanging, sometimes off-key, sounds coming from the instruments!  It’s knowing and believing that even in the midst of struggle; even if there are things that I want to change; even though there are habits I want to break; and pounds I still want to shed, that GOD is present and will help me improve my reality, but nonetheless, I can find happiness in the HERE AND NOW….as well as in the journey…..and when I reach my goals. 

Too often we think that accomplishing a goal; reaching a target; losing the weight; or graduating from school will automatically make us HAPPY.  TRUE….you will find great joy in achieving your goal….BUT…..unless you work to change your thoughts and work to change the “inside” then any happiness at the end will only be temporary.  Once you reach your weight loss goal and buy a new wardrobe; once you earn the 60 day or 1 year chip and feel like you are finally ‘smoke/drug/alcohol-free”; once you get your last child through college or are able to retirement and can take a vacation, you will, no doubt, be happier than you are today.  BUT….how long will it last….and more important…..WHAT IF…you don’t get there?  What if you never find a spouse; never get a better job; never are able to buy a new house or have a grandchild? Why put off being happy UNTIL then?  Why not seek JOY now…during the journey?   I assure you, if you really look for it, you can find peace and happiness along the way. CELEBRATE the journey; rejoice in the small victories; enjoy the process of change NOW…..don’t put it off UNTIL…….because “UNTIL” may never come, and if it does, you might just be a thinner, healthier version of the OLD YOU with more time/money on your hands. That doesn’t necessary mean “HAPPIER!” 

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say.  I am so much happier today than I was 3 years ago. Losing weight has literally changed my life….but it has done more than change my size….it has changed my thinking; my reacting; my behavior; my outlook on life.  Being free from the bonds of obesity and immobility is an incredible gift….but being free from shame, fear, pain, and hopelessness is even better. Of course I’m happier these days than I’ve ever been…..and no doubt, I’ll be happier a year from now than I am today….but only a small part of it will have to do with weight.  Weight loss made it easier to recognize true JOY and allowed me the experiences that bring happiness…..but there is and was happiness before, during, and after…..I just didn’t see it.  Losing weight has helped me take the focus off my misery and provided me with opportunities and experiences that allow me to make a difference and help others. It has also brought some incredibly wonderful people into my life….people that I would have likely never met before. I has brought the freedom to be able to walk and move and do things I never dreamed possible. It has brought confidence in knowing that I can, with God’s help, do whatever I put my mind to, and it has caused me to feel “useful” again.  THAT…is where my happiness/joy comes from! 

Knowing GOD is has blessed me with a miracle and being able to share that miracle with others equals JOY. Knowing God has set me free and is transforming my mind and heart and being fully aware of His presence in my life equals HAPPINESS.  Knowing that God is with me and in charge of whatever comes my way; whatever struggles/heartaches/temptations or set-backs might lie ahead……AND……in whatever incredible experiences/sights/people that are on my horizon equals PEACE.  My heart is overflowing with gratitude for WHAT IS....and in many ways, WHAT WAS……and WHAT IS YET TO BE!

My wish or you today, my friends, is that you are able to find happiness TODAY….in the NOW…..and yet, at the same time, to know that as you change your life, you will come to know a joy like you’ve not known….but it has only a small part to do with your physical reality.  I encourage you to try to find something for which to be joyful for today…..and to celebrate the journey as well.  Don’t put off happiness…it can be yours today!  Have a beautiful Sunday!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The changes aren't always visible......but don't give up.

Happy weekend to you!!! are changing your LIFE...not just your body or health.  You can't always visibly see the change in your thoughts and heart..(well...unless you count the peaceful smile on your face or the sparkle in your eye)....but it's happening.  Don't let a number or the lack of physical change drag you down. Our journey is for a life-time....not just until we reach some magic number or milestone.

If you ....are kinder today than yesterday.....if you.....stop yourself before saying something negative;  if you.....make even ONE person smile today for no reason at all; if you....feel more peaceful, loving, or joyful; if you.....make at least ONE change or take ONE more step in the right direction to improve your health and wellbeing......well, then, my friend.....YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL. Those kind of changes aren't always visible on the outside right away.... but they are even more important than the ones that are visible because if they don't happen....well, might just end up being a thinner or sober person.....with a not so lovely heart. There's nuttin worse than a beautiful outside with an ugly, selfish, negative inside!

Have a great day today!!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Change the ending to your story

Each of us is adding pages to the “story of our life” each day. Some of you are in writing quite an adventure story. Some are in the midst of an incredible love story; others are writing tales of trial and tragedy, but longing to write of triumph and adventure.

Regardless of your reality, it’s important to remember that YOU (and your higher power as a co-author) are in charge of your story….and YOU can determine how your story is going to end.  If you don’t like the chapter you are on…..start a new one!  Pick up a different pen….and start using different words….like I CAN…I WILL…..I BELIEVE…..I AM……. Instead of WHY ME….IT’S TOO HARD….I CAN’T…..and I’LL NEVER.   Each of us can have a happy ending….if we want to….but our story will NEVER change if we keep on doing….keep on believing…..keep on thinking….the same things we’ve always done.   

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Do you feel responsible?

Good Morning….
I’m taking my longtime friend/companion, Bob, for surgery this morning. While he is not one that shares my faith perspective, I’m sure he would appreciate your positive thoughts and a quick prayer. I know I certainly would….not only for the surgery, but for the coming days of recovery. I’ve been in a position many times before where I was privileged to care for/help someone who was ill or going through some medical situation, and I recall that it’s not always easy, especially when the sick/injured/elderly person becomes difficult to be around. Even my dear priest friend would lash out and made me cry on more than one occasion, and yet, I knew that he loved me deeply and appreciated my presence in his life. He was just sick/hurting/frightened…..and a whole bunch of other stuff that I couldn’t really understand and I he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just “fix” everything and make him better.  While I didn’t comprehend it then….and I was often hurt, frustrated, and wondered why on earth I was doing what I was doing when he would say hurtful things to me, I have since learned that sometimes things are not “about us” but rather simply a person’s way of dealing with their own struggles, and often lashing out/blaming/resenting, etc. is the only way they know how to cope. Learning that was a valuable lesson and it never excuses one from doing/saying/acting in ways that hurt another; however, we’ve all likely been on both ends of the situation.  I’m not anticipating any of that kind of thing in the next few days, but I’m prepared to be as loving, patient, supportive, and kind as I can.

While I’ve not really experienced this to a great extent, I know that many people live in this type of reality….EVERY DAY….because they are surrounded by people who seem to think that their misery is the fault of everyone but themselves. Perhaps this is your reality and you have people in your life that think that everything that is wrong in their life is YOUR fault. They are sick….and somehow YOU are responsible. They are depressed and it’s because you didn’t do something right. They get angry and you are to blame. Somehow they think that everything that goes bad in their life is because of you….and they make it a point to let you know that by lashing out, blaming you, being miserable to be around….and doing everything in their power to rob you of any peace, joy, or self-worth you have.  What a horrible situation to be in….and yet….so many deal with this on a daily basis…..or have come from a childhood/past relationship/job…..where this was their reality.  Maybe you know someone that is in this situation now….and it’s painful for you to watch. Maybe YOU are the one that is miserable/sick/hurting/struggling….and you, without even realizing it….are the one that is blaming others and making them suffer too.

I had a conversation with a student yesterday that really confirmed my thinking about this subject. He is failing three of his classes….and wanted to withdraw from them. He was frustrated and agitated and his future financial aid eligibility is on the line. In the course of the conversation, he blamed EVERYONE involved, including me, for his situation: The instructor won’t accept late work; the class expectations are “ridiculous”; the policy is ‘stupid’ and so forth. His misery was the fault of everyone else….but he didn’t want to accept any responsibility for his situation.  It took me a long time before I was able to get him to admit that HIS own lack of effort and time management was to blame; not someone else. It was HIS choice to spend time in the Student Center; walking around talking to friends; cutting class; and doing other things besides homework/studying that got him in the mess.  I recognized his frustration and listened patiently….but was not about to let this become MY fault or walk away thinking I was a bad advisor; I scheduled him for classes that were too hard; I was to blame in any way. His agitation was NOT about me.  A few years ago, however, I would not have thought that way. I would have accepted his rudeness and irritability and somehow thought that I played a role in his reality.  I would have tolerated his behavior because I was in a different place “in my head.”  My journey has been about weight loss; yes, but the transformation/change in my thinking has been the bigger miracle.  As you lose the weight or give up the addiction…be prepared to lose more than just the excess weight. God wants you to be free from the ‘thoughts’ that hold you bondage as well as the behavior.

When I think back to the “Old Theresa” days when life was nothing but a struggle, I can recognize times when I behaved just like that student and my priest friend. I lived alone and therefore I didn’t have people in my life to lash out at or bring into my misery, but I certainly “blamed” others for my situation and was angry and frustrated. I was unemployed and struggling to pay the bills…..and it was all the “Church’s” fault that I lost my job….or so I thought.  I was obese…and it was because I was taking high doses of steroids; I was in pain and couldn’t move around; I come from a long line of obesity…..the list goes on and on. It was everyone else’s fault….or so I thought. I was in constant pain from the RA and taking so much medicine my hair was falling out in chunks; I was miserable…..but I didn’t know who’s fault that was… I was angry at God. My life appeared to be harder; sadder; worse than everyone around me...but I couldn’t blame them; instead I felt jealous and resentful. Because I didn’t have anyone at home to suck into my misery, I ate potato chips and junk food. It was my way of ‘lashing out” and making myself feel better.  YIKES…what a horrible place to be!  It was only when I began to realize that I was partially to blame for my own reality that my life began to change for the better. Yes, certainly I had things “happen” to me; I lost my job; I lost loved ones; I got sick; someone burned down Pip’s place; and so forth. I didn’t choose any of those situations….but I chose how to deal with them….and those CHOICES were partially responsible for my reality.  Learning to recognize that and accept my role in my situation was an important key in my weight loss.

My friends… might be able to recognize yourself on either side of the coin. Perhaps you are the one being brought down by someone else’s misery, but maybe you are the one blaming others for your pain.  Neither is a good place to be mentally, physically, or emotionally. Both places can destroy your self-esteem and rob you of the peace and joy that God wants you to have.  If you are on the receiving end of the negativity, I encourage you to try to recognize that YOU are not to blame for the misery of someone else…and try your best not to let someone else’s mood/comments/actions sabotage your own life or make you feel worthless. Don’t let others drag you down with their negatively and bad moods, but at the same time, try to be as loving, supportive, and encouraging as you can.  If you are the one who is struggling, try to be conscious of your actions and your words and how they affect others. When others are eating good food around you and you are choosing not to….it’s difficult and you might want to lash out and be angry; but don’t do it. Remember…you CAN eat whatever you want to….but you are CHOOSING not to!  If you’re trying to give up a habit or quit smoking, remember that it’s not your kid’s fault that you are going through withdrawals, so be conscious of how you treat them when you want a cigarette. Remember….you CAN smoke or take a drink if you want to…..but you are CHOOSING not to. It’s not YOUR fault that someone else is struggling…and it’s not THEIR fault that you can’t have a cookie or whatever.

Goodness……life isn’t easy is it?  Fortunately, God gives us the grace we need….to care for those around us; to support those that He places in our lives; and to make the choices we need to change our own lives.  Be strong….and recognize that your self-worth comes only from God….not the scale, not what others think or tell you; not from the bank statement or the car in the driveway. Only God….and He thinks you’re pretty awesome!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Be a "bottle of water' for someone today

I have never run a marathon….nor do I aspire to do so, but I have great admiration for anyone who can run at all. I can’t really understand WHY people like to run because I have no desire to do so because I don’t like to sweat or be out of breath.  In fact, the friend from Boyne City that invited me to visit/speak at his church, Pastor Charles Fowler, once told me, “If you EVER see me running, you better run too, because it means something really big is chasing me!”  I laughed at that one because I share the sentiment, but at the same time, am in awe of those who are able to run/jog at all, especially those who run any kind of race.

The news media often covers the major marathons in the country, and one thing I am always fascinated by is the way the runners are able to grab a bottle/cup of water from those on the sidelines that are there to provide them with that much-needed refreshment. The runners can often grab the bottle and take a drink without missing a step or interrupting their stride. Often, taking a quick drink is all that the weary runner needs to get a burst of energy and keep running.  What a great thing ….to be either the one who provides the water…..or the one who receives it along the way.

I have always referred to my quest for a new life as a journey; not necessary a sprint, but rather a slow and steady walk that will end only when I draw my last breath. Though I’ve never run a race, I can imagine that one who has, likely feels many of the same things I have felt in the past few years of my own personal journey. I have experienced highs and lows. I have had moments of great energy when I was moving at a quick pace, making great progress, and times when I was so weary that I didn’t think I could do this another day. I have journeyed through days of “sunshine” and had moments of incredible grace….and times of trial and sadness when all I wanted to do is sit down and quit.  There have been times when it seemed like I was walking ‘uphill” and fighting a losing battle….and others when things were ‘smooth sailing” and the journey was easy.  The journey has taken me places that I never imagined I’d see and  provided me with the opportunity to experience things I never ever dreamed possible; allowed me to meet some pretty incredible people who have walked with me; and provided me with a joy (runner’s high??) that I have never known. This is a journey….a race….a walk…..that I will travel for the rest of my life.

Throughout this journey I have never had someone stop me along the way, and LITERALLY hand me a bottle of water…but I certainly have had MANY that provide me with a figurative one to refresh and renew me.  God provides me with that “living water” each day that comes from His grace/presence in my life. YOU….your words of encouragement and appreciation; your willingness to share your own story with me; your presence in this group and in my life….. provide me with that bit of refreshment each day that revives my weary soul and motivates me to keep going. Throughout the day, I find/experience so many things/people/situations that are just like a bottle of water to a runner….things that quench my thirst; renew my spirit; energize me; inspire me; and remind me that I AM NOT ON THIS JOURNEY ALONE: Even when it seems like I am the ONLY one on the road; the ONLY one not eating dessert or a special treat; the ONLY one trying to do the right thing; the ONLY one who understands my desire to help/inspire/bring hope; the ONLY one who knows how important it is for me to keep on walking. I KNOW….beyond a doubt….that I am not alone; that God walks with me AND he sends people into my life to journey with me. 

All day long there are ‘water bottles’ along the way. Sometimes I recognize them; sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I need them more than others; sometimes I am just fine and can walk on without them. The important thing that I want to always remember is that THEY ARE THERE. God provides them; God gives reveals His presence and provides us with all that we need to change our life. All we have to do is learn to look for them; recognize them; and  pick up those “water bottles”; reach out and grab all the blessings around us; allow Him to work through others to strengthen us on the journey; and above all, say THANK YOU and be grateful.

My friends…. Thank you….for  offering me a ‘bottle of water” on my journey; for standing on the sidelines to cheer me on; for inspiring me to keep going when I’m tired and want to give up; for walking the journey with me. Mostly, thank you for your words of encouragement and appreciation. I write each day for my “own” personal growth, but I share my thoughts with you only because you are willing to read them.  You are a gift to me and I am grateful for the part you play in my journey.  I too, want to be that for you. I want to provide you with that “nourishment” to motivate you to keep on track. I want to share with you all that I’ve seen along the way and the things I’ve learned. I want to warn you of the ‘pitfalls’ in the road and point out areas of the journey that might be harder than others. I want to walk WITH YOU…and share in your joy as well as the heartache.  What a privilege….to be both the GIVER and the RECEIVER of the water bottle! 

Today…. I encourage you both give and receive as you walk your journey.  Look for all the ways that God sends you strength; all the messages of encouragement He gives you; all the ways He reminds you that you are not alone. And….at the same time….look for all the opportunities He gives you to ‘be that bottle of water” for those around you. A smile; a word of encouragement; a “Hey, you rock” or “Thank You”; a gesture of kindness or love; even an act of forgiveness or patience can be all that someone needs to keep on their own journey to a better life. You never know….YOU….might be all that someone needs to keep on track rather than give up. You have the opportunity to change not only your own life; but the life of others….just by walking your own journey.   What a privilege; what a joy to be a ‘water bottle” for someone today!

Enjoy your day today….don’t get so caught up with getting to the finish line that you fail to enjoy the journey or you miss the blessings along the way!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Just for today.......

Good Morning…..

For the first time in a very long time, I am struggling to find words to describe the thoughts swirling around in my head. It’s rare that I am left ‘speechless’ but someone gave me an incredibly kind and generous gift yesterday for no particular reason. I haven’t known thoughtfulness like this before and I am still shaking my head this morning as I try to process the surprise gesture. Perhaps at some time I will share more about it, but for now, I just have to say I am overwhelmed in a good way and leave it at that. In time I will come to understand how it all fits into God’s plan for my life, but for now, I am grateful and humbled beyond words. We sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed with blessings, as well as difficulties, and we find it hard to ‘figure it out” or understand it.  The good thing is that we don’t have to understand….we simply have to say “Thank You” and trust that God is in control. For me, however, it has always been much easier for me to give than to receive, but considering the unexpected blessings that seem to keep coming my way, perhaps…no not perhaps….but rather, God is trying to teach me that part of journey is not only to try to “be” a blessing to others, but also to humbly and graciously receive them as well.

Sometimes when we think about our journey we can become so overwhelmed by the task at hand and we don’t think it is even possible to reach our goal, so we just ‘do nothing.” This is especially true if you have a lot of weight to lose or are giving up a habit that has been part of your life for many years. I had a friend tell me recently that he has smoked for more than 60 years and he can’t imagine NOT smoking. It’s overwhelming for him to think he could possibly do something different after all these years, so he won’t even try to quit. Another person shared with me that she needs to lose more than 200 pounds. Once again, it’s an overwhelming number. It’s like standing at the bottom of a staircase that rises hundreds of yard into the sky. It’s too high and we cannot even imagine getting to the top, especially if we can’t even get to the first step or we’ve climbed a little way up before and came crashing down.  You can likely think of all sorts of things in life that seem overwhelming and you think it might be easier just to forget about trying.  The job is too big; the debt is too large; the road is too long…..and so forth.

Perhaps you’ve been hurt so deeply and you think you will NEVER be able to forgive that person and let it go. Perhaps you are in such a dark place or feel so lost that you don’t think you will ever find your way out. Maybe you are surrounded by people that are so content to be miserable and negative and you can’t imagine ANYTHING that could make them be more pleasant to be around. Perhaps you feel that your life is such a mess that you can’t imagine it being any different. It’s just too overwhelming to think about it…and so you do nothing to change it. It’s easier that way.

Today I want to remind you that we don’t have to do it all at once. You don’t have to worry about losing 50 or 100 or more pounds. You simply need to worry about the first five…then the next five. You don’t have to worry about how you are going to go the rest of your life without a cigarette or a drink. You simply need to get through the first hour…and then the next.  You don’t have to worry about how you are going to rebuild a relationship or get through Christmas without a loved one. You simply need to ask God to help you get through today….and tomorrow….and the next.

 I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to keep the weight off for the rest of my life or what the gift I received yesterday means for the future. I don’t have to worry about what God wants me to do with the rest of my life or how I’m going to write a book or whatever.  All I have to do is worry about TODAY… I am going to stay on track today; how I am going to remain strong today and resist temptation; how I am going to make a difference for someone TODAY; how I am going to use the gift of a new day for God’s glory….and so forth. In ‘due season’ all the other stuff will work out and I will come to see how God is working and what it all means. 

Today… I encourage you to focus only on TODAY…..Don’t become overwhelmed. I don’t have to understand why the person sent me such a wonderful gift yesterday today; I just need to take it one day at a time. You don’t have to be concerned about how far away your goal is or the enormity of the task at hand.  Keep in mind that true change happens one step….one day….one conversation… choice… meal….at a time. 

Make TODAY a good one….

Monday, November 10, 2014

Don't forget to make a difference.......

How can it be Monday already?  Goodness, the weekend went way too fast, and although I didn’t manage to accomplish too many things off  my ‘list’, the past couple of days were “people-productive” because I was able to spend some time with friends, both in person and via phone, attend the basketball game and cheer on the Mid Michigan Community College (my workplace) Lakers, take a friend to church who is searching for a God’s grace and help, cook a nice dinner for a friend and some extra dishes so that will have some leftovers to make it easier for him with his pending surgery later this week.  At the end of the day (or weekend) I guess that’s what really matters to me anyway….that my life can be changed by the presence of others and that I, in turn, can make a difference for someone as well. Although my laundry didn’t get done, my winter clothes are still in the bin on the corner, and the house is a mess, if I look at it ‘another way’ that it was a good weekend. I hope your weekend went well too!

As I was reflecting, (okay, you got me….wishing….. that the weekend had ONE more day so I could get some of my own ‘stuff’ done) my mind went to the scripture from 1 Corinthians 13 about love. If you are familiar with scripture, you might recognize the passage because it used often at weddings. I’m not thinking about romance or relationships this morning, or the whole  Love is patient, Love is kind…..words of the entire chapter, but just the first couple of verses and how these words connect to my journey:

My priest said something at Mass yesterday that is also on my mind this morning. He said, and I’ve said it myself often, that he doesn’t think that when he dies God is going to ask him about how much money he has; what kind of car he drives; whether he is a Republican or Democrat, a U-M or State fan, etc….but rather…. “What did you do to help someone in need….what did you do to feed the hungry…etc.” 

As I sit here thinking of my own death, I wonder what God will ask me.  I’m guessing it WON’T be the type of questions I get asked on a pretty regular basis…. “SO, Theresa, how much weight did you lose?  How did you do it?  What size do you wear…..what about the excess skin….what did you eat for breakfast…. And so forth…”  I’m guessing that NONE of that will matter in the end, and I’m thinking I might be asked, “SO, Theresa…. I blessed  you with a 2nd chance at life; I helped you change your reality; I helped you walk again and changed your sorrow into joy……so….what did you do with that… did you use that new life to help others?  How did you use this miracle to make a difference for someone else?”

It would be much easier to answer the weight related questions...but I know in the end, my life will be measured, not in pounds or sizes, but rather in love.  It was REALLY hard to lose the weight and change my life….and it’s even HARDER to keep it off….but neither of those will be as hard as it is to answer THAT question, and yet I realize that God is helping me change my life on a daily basis solely so that I can use it to help others.  This is a true joy and privilege, but also a responsibility and mission that I must remind myself of on a daily basis. It also means that many of my own ‘stuff” gets left undone and I’m often weary. Please continue to pray for me…to have the energy I need; the words to console; and the wisdom to make good decisions.

If I were to take the liberty to ‘paraphrase’ the words of the above scripture a bit to capture my thoughts this day, it would read…. “If I am blessed with the gift of a day, a new opportunity to try again, but spend it worrying about tomorrow or fretting about the mistakes of yesterday….then the day is just 24 hours of meaningless time. If I am blessed with a miracle…and don’t use it to help inspire others and give hope to the discouraged, then it is nothing more than a story used to sell magazines or fill up space in the newspaper.   If God helps me lose 250+ pounds, helps me regain my mobility and become a participant in life again….and I spend all of my time and energy focused on things that do not really matter or sweating the small stuff, do not continually ask God to change my thoughts and transform my INSIDES; do not offer gratitude for ALL things….then I would be nothing but a smaller version of “Old Theresa” with a bunch of clothes that are much too large. I could go on and on…but I think you get the drift. Try it with your own ‘paraphrase’.
The weight loss….the 6X clothing I used to wear…the “Theresa doesn’t live here anymore” signs or the empty walker….the words I write…the presentations I give or the pictures I post…..would be/are meaningless if I don’t use them for God’s glory ….and Yet, I recognize that it was virtually impossible for “Old Theresa” to do anything but get through each day…without the weight loss. I was merely existing….and secretly hoping to die and escape my reality.

I am so grateful for the changes that God has helped me make in my life, but I recognize that they are merely a ‘visible” sign of His grace. The most important changes are the one that happen each and every day….in my heart and in my mind.  It is no wonder that the words of this clip today resonate so deeply within. 

Create a life within that feels good on the inside not just one that looks good on the outside. 

Weight loss, sobriety, being smoke-free, being physically fit (whatever your goal) is AWESOME…but it means nothing without kindness, compassion, and love.  Likewise, a spotless house; a sizeable nest egg; a fancy car or jewels; good health; an intelligent mind; retirement; or the gift of time……while still incredible blessings from God….mean little if we don’t use what we have to make a difference for someone else.

As you continue to make the changes in your life to improve your health and well-being, I encourage you today to seek ways to bring hope, love, and joy to someone else. Certainly, focus on YOU…your journey…your needs…your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health because that is so important…but don’t forget to express gratitude; spread joy; and do what you can to help someone today.    Without love….everything else is just “stuff’; a new day is just a check mark on the calendar; and a healthier, trimmer body is just a place to put smaller size clothes.

Have  a wonderful day today…..

Sunday, November 9, 2014

sugar free/fat free pumpkin mousse....sounds so good!

I guess I must be getting anxious for the holidays because I'm already counting the days until I visit my sister, Kelly Aabed and her family for Thanksgiving. My sister is an incredible cook and the house will be full of delicious foods, so my thoughts have been focused on how I plan to stay on track during the holidays. The past two weekends I've been cooking various winter squash but without at the calories of the traditional holiday dishes and now my mind is stuck on pumpkin. I haven't tried the pumpkin pie recipe from yesterday but now I found this one for pumpkin mouse and it sounds tempting as well. 

I encourage you to start thinking ahead....there is NO EXCUSE for going completely overboard and undoing all your hard work just because it is a holiday. I've managed to enjoy the festivities now for 3 Thanksgivings without giving can do it too....if you make a plan...and that plan includes something special that is STILL within your program.    

Does anyone else have any good tips or recipes to share with the group?

Sugar-Free & Fat-Free Pumpkin Mousse

This recipe will make 4 servings. 

1 1/2 c. cold skim milk (divided)

1 small box sugar-free instant butterscotch pudding

1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1/4 t. ground ginger

1/4 t. ground cloves

1/2 c. pumpkin puree

1 c. fat-free Cool Whip, thawed

Start by putting the dry pudding mix and the spices into a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 c. milk and the pumpkin puree.  Then whisk in the additional cup of milk.

When it’s all combined, it will start to thicken.  Refrigerate for about 5 – 10 minutes.  Fold in the Cool Whip and spoon the mousse into serving dishes. (If you want to be fancy, you can put the mousse into a large zipper seal bag and cut off the corner. Then pipe it into the serving dish!)

Your taste buds won’t believe that it’s not a rich, high-calorie dessert! can....

Happy Sunday morning!!  I don't mean to exclude the wonderful men in our group with this clip because this applies to you as well....BUT.....I love this clip....not only because the outfit is pretty cute....but because the words are so meaningful to me.

You may not  be able to run a marathon or even walk a mile, but if you can walk a couple hundred yards; then do it!  You may not be able to give a fortune to help someone in need, but if you can spare a few cans of food, then give it! You may not be able to spend an entire day visiting someone who is lonely, but if you can spend a few minutes, then call or send a note.  You may not have everything you want, but you have more than many, so give Thanks!  Your day ahead may not be the one you'd like because of life's circumstances, but it is a gift, nonetheless, so do what you can to make the best of it.

Every thought, choice, or step you take to improve your own well-being and the lives of those around you is a thought, choice, and step in the right direction... I encourage you today to focus on that and do something positive today.   Have a great day!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Amazing grace..........

Oh my goodness.... just saw this on pinterest....and I LOVE, LOVE,!  Amazing sweet the sound that saved a wreck like me.  I once was lost....but now i'm found....was blind but NOW  I see!!!!!      At this moment, as I sit in the darkness waiting for the dawning of a new day, I can close my eyes and go back 15 a very happy time as I recall playing my guitar with the children's choir at St. Mary's and looking at them when I got to the verse of this song that starts out..."Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come....tis grace has brought me safe thus far...His grace will lead me home!"  Before I'd sing that song, I'd look my wonderful choir kids with a twinkle in my eye and say to them...Bring it on home..... and they would just belt out that verse.  

Little did I know that 15 years later....I'd be a new place....with a new life....and those words will STILL resonate within my spirit!  My friends....Don't let shame, despair, discouragement, past failure, or your current state of existence DEFINE YOU.  It does NOT have to be that way....You can...change your life....

What a blessing and an encouragement to find that clip on i'm pumped and ready to take on the day!!!!    Have a  good one!!!!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Do you love yourself enough to change?

Good Morning Friends!
I have been in some pretty ‘icky’ places emotionally in my old life, but I think the worst place to be was the one that told me, “This is what you deserve.” Somewhere, somehow, when times were difficult, I developed the irrational, completely untrue, but incredibly damaging notion that somehow I deserved the sadness, pain, and loss that I was experiencing and that “I must be a very bad girl” because of the reality of my life.  Don’t ask me HOW I got to that place; don’t ask me WHY I thought those thoughts; don’t ask me WHO ever told me those things…..because I don’t know.

 I was raised in a loving environment with parents, grandparents, and aunts/uncles that adored me and were very good to me­, but somehow I convinced myself as a young child that I didn’t deserve to be happy.  Very likely it came from my father’s death when I was a little girl because for most of my life, I thought that God had punished me because I fought with my brother; I sassed my mother; my room was a mess; I didn’t kiss him goodnight the night he died and the unknowing comments that my mother uttered… “if you kids don’t settle down, you’re going to give your father a heart attack.”  It all seems foolish now, but to a child who is unable to process things rationally, thoughts like that can do serious damage to one’s well-being.

I remember being afraid….a lot….that my mother would die too if I wasn’t a good girl or that more bad things would happen to me, so I tried really hard to be the best I could be. I worked really hard in school to earn good grades; I volunteered for everything I could do to help others; I became the model employee at my Kmart job, often working overtime or during my lunch hour…off the clock; I became a ‘church mouse” and spent most of my high school and young adult years involved in church stuff and prayer groups…..all in an attempt to be a ‘good girl’ and avoid future heartache.

I worked through most of that “stuff” in my mid-twenties and life was very good for a while. I had a great job at the church; I had friends and relationships; I spent the summers up north; and was very happy. But, when my mother died very suddenly (literally a few hours after I spoke to her on the phone) when I was in my 20’s, I once again slipped back to that place and began to wonder what I had done “this time.”  Yes, I know, it is irrational….but those thoughts were ‘very real” and subconsciously controlled my actions. They led me to distrust others; to keep people at a distance; to call off a wedding engagement and turn down dates; and became a reason to live in fear.  Fortunately, I had developed a close relationship with God as a small child, and although I was somewhat fearful of displeasing Him, He never left me and continued to reveal Himself as a loving, forgiving God and  I was able to get through those tough days. Deep down, however, I still carried that “you get what you deserve in life” mentality and it would rear its ugly head once again in my 40’s.  Even now I often struggle with it, especially when I receive kind words, accolades for my weight loss, or requests for interviews and such. I’m so incredibly grateful for the gift of my miracle, but I still often wonder, “WHY ME, GOD?”  Why have been so abundantly blessed? 

Two job losses; several deaths of very significant people in my life; an arson; unemployment; the RA diagnosis (Blah,blah, blah….you’ve heard it; read it; etc.)later….and  there I was….physically and emotionally at rock bottom.  And you’ve likely guessed it: Somehow I thought that “I deserved it….this was my ‘hand” in the card game of life; this was God’s will for me life; this was ‘how it was supposed to be’…..and other silly, completely false, irrational thoughts that ALMOST….cost me my life.  I don’t know how I got there. I don’t’ know WHY I thought those things. I don’t know WHAT made me think that I deserved any of it, and even though I couldn’t/didn’t verbalize those thoughts, they were at the root of my addiction.   I should have sought counseling; I should have talked to someone; I should have reached out for help….but I didn’t.  Should have/could have/would have......but I didn’t. Instead I ate chips; I avoided friends; I went to bed and wallowed in my pain….by myself.  I can’t go back….but if this is your reality….you can do something different:  reach out for help….before it’s too late!

But……GOD….in His incredible mercy set me free from that life. He helped me see that “I am not a bad girl” and I was not being punished….but really….the mess I was in was partially the result of my own CHOICES….not a punishment for anything I did wrong.  YIKES!!!!!!!    What???? You mean I….ME…..THERESA……was creating her own misery?????  WHAT???? You mean….. I….ME….THERESA….could do something about it?   WHAT?????? You mean…. I….ME….THERESA….could CHANGE my reality…..and was WORTH the effort it was going to take?????    

This reality…..the process of realizing that I am lovable (wrinkles, flaws, and faults); that I am worth the effort, time, money (do you know that fruit costs more per pound than meat?); that while I am a work-in-progress and make many mistakes, I am not inherently bad; and that I can….with the grace and help of God…..change my life….has been the key to my journey.  No diet; no exercise plan; no pill or procedure…..nothing….. would work (been there and it did for a while, but I gained every pound back) UNTIL….I began to  love myself enough to change my reality.  I continue to struggle with this….every day….but day-by-day I am learning to think differently….which in turn….causes me to act differently and pray differently:  Change my thoughts, oh God; make them ever true; Change my thoughts, oh God; May I THINK like You!

So many times, our lack of self-worth causes us to remain in situations that cause us pain. If you are in an abusive relationship because you think that ‘nobody else will love you” I pray that God will help you believe that you are lovable and NO ONE….deserves to be emotionally, physically, or financially abused….and it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you are using food/drugs/alcohol or anything else to cover up your pain or keep others away….because you don’t think you deserve to be happy…. I pray that you begin to realize and believe that YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON…..You deserve to be happy….and YOU CAN change your life.

 If you are grieving a loss, sad, despondent, or lonely….i pray that you become to understand that sometimes “things in life happen beyond our control”…..people die; accidents happen; other people do stuff that disappoint us and so forth…..but these things don’t happen because we are bad or we deserve them. They are often beyond our control and we can do nothing to stop them. We can, however, control how we react to them, and we can begin to accept responsibility and acknowledge that oftentimes, we control our own destiny by the choices we make.

Sometimes, but not always,  we are in situations because we choose to be. We may have health issues because of the food we eat or the way we treat our body. We may have financial issues because we choose to spend our money on frivolous things and make poor choices. We may have relationship issues because our actions alienate those we love or cause them to react negatively to us. Sometimes….but not always….our reality is the result of our choices….but is not because we are NOT LOVABLE or WORTHY of a better life.  I pray that you begin to recognize what things you can change…and you find the strength to make those changes.

No one deserves to be sick; no one deserves to be sad; no one deserves to be obese….addicted….immobile….unloved; no one deserves bad things to happen…..but sometimes they do. They have nothing to do, however, on whether we we are good or bad.  Believing that we are lovable; believing that we are worth-while; believing that change is possible; and learning to love ourselves…..can set us free and empower us to make the choices we need to change our reality. It won’t take away those things beyond our control; it won’t bring people back from the dead; it won’t make someone else love us or treat us better; and it won’t make us rich….but it will make us WANT TO make changes….to be better people; to be healthier; and ultimately,  HAPPIER….in spite of the reality around us.