Wednesday, December 31, 2014

reflections on New Year's Eve

Good Morning everyone!  Here we are on the last day of the old year about to embark on a new one. For many, many years, I hated New Year’s Eve, partially because it was very likely that I would be spending the night alone and I had little hope that the New Year would be any different than the old. I assumed….and for most of my life….it was…. just the continuation of the same type of existence that I knew, not always bad, but mostly just an existence without much purpose or meaning.  My, how things have changed! If this past week…which perhaps may have been one the best of my life….is any indication, then I have hope that this new year will be one of great joy. Time will tell, but in the meantime, I face the end of this year with complete and humble gratitude, and an anxious, but somewhat nervous, excitement about what may lie ahead.  What a blessed year it has been for me.  My hope and prayer for you today is that at this time next year, you will be saying the same thing!

This morning as I sit and reflect, I can’t help but be grateful for all the new and exciting experiences that happened to me this year, many of them a direct result of this journey. Obviously, the media coverage has been amazing and honestly, completely unbelievable for a small-town girl like me. I still can’t really understand all the fuss….and just shake my head when I think about it all.  Interviews, radio shows, appearing in five magazines this year, traveling around to share my story, appearing on stage in front of more than 1000 people at the casino, more than 2000 group members…..WHY….have I been chosen to be so blessed and WHY do people really care what I think, do, say?  It is a mystery….and yet… I KNOW….that each of us… (Yes, YOU too)….have been given gifts that God wants us to share with the world.  Mine just happened to come in the form of a physical and emotional transformation, and I simply must say, “THANK YOU, God for the ways in which you reveal your presence to me.” 

As amazing as all the excitement has been and the opportunities that have come my way has been,  it is in the day-to-day things in which I have been truly blessed. It has been the one-on-one conversations….the people I have met, both in person and via phone, text, or e-mail, those who have heard me speak and shared THEIR story….…..YOU…each of YOU in the group or on this blog, that has enriched my life and empowered me to continue to keep on track.  I seriously do not know what I would do without each of you; your prayers when I am hurting or weak, your support and encouragement when I am weary or insecure, your friendship and love….and the privilege of sharing my heart, my crazy, somewhat mixed-up thoughts, and my fears with you. You have all empowered me to strive to be better, to keep fighting the fight when I want to just give up, to keep writing, and to embrace the new life…joys and challenges alike…that I have been given. You are awesome….and I thank you today! 

I have said this many times before, but I sincerely mean this: Changing your life is so much more than changing your diet or losing weight. I involves changing the way you think…the way you respond…the way you look at every little thing that happens to you each day. It involves letting go of old hurts and past failures. It involves rewriting your story and beginning a new chapter. It involves surrendering yourself, your life, your body….all of it…to your God (or to that which is your higher power) and believing in your ability to face challenges, push yourself beyond you comfort zone, and embrace life in a new and healthier way. The weight and other physical things will take care of themselves. Mostly, it is about waking up each day and recognizing that the day is a gift and a new opportunity to make a difference for someone and to make the choices which will lead you to a happier, healthier (not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually) life. It is about deciding each day that you want to feel better; look better; act better and be happy and peaceful….regardless of the storms that rage around you. When you truly believe that things can be different, then it becomes easier to make the choices that will lead you to a new way of thinking, living, and being….even, no not even, ESPECIALLY, when you face new things.

I have shared many times and in many venues that it is much easier to change your body shape/size than it is to change your attitude or thoughts. Weight loss is simply making choices about what goes in your mouth. A true life change is much harder because it involves what comes “out” of your mouth; how you speak to people, what you tell yourself, how you react to life. It is often a lot easier to pass up a donut than it is to pass up an opportunity to gossip or insult someone. It is easier to eliminate calories than it is to eliminate negativity. It is easier to take a walk or bike ride than it is to take a hard, honest look at your actions on a daily basis. At least for me; and yet…one without the other….will get you a thinner body, but not necessarily a happier soul. Weight doesn’t make one ugly; attitude and selfishness does.

Even with all the excitement of this past year, this past week has been one of the best ones of the entire year. With the support and encouragement of a friend, I managed to experience….and enjoy…many things that are “out of my comfort zone.” Things that normal people do every day without thinking.  I was surprised with my very first manicure at a salon!  I shared about 6 weeks ago that someone had given me a gift certificate for one, but I’ve been carrying it around in my purse unused since then….but I won’t be afraid to use it now because a friend took me to the mall this week and sat beside me as I got new nails. Not a big deal to most of you….but for me… it was new…and it involved allowing a stranger to invade my physical space and touch my hands.  What a treat….but I can’t type or text very well now until I get used to them…LOL.  It made me feel girly and pretty….and the gift meant so much because my friend was at my side. It’s easier to face challenges and do new things when you have companions on the journey who say… “It’s okay”… I’m here.  JUST like you do for me each day…and I want to do for you on your journey. 

I also went to the movie theater for the first time since the 1990’s. The last movie I saw was Titanic.  Again…not a big deal for most….but for me…it was…because the last time I was there, I hardly fit into the seats and always had to have an empty chair between me and whomever accompanied me.  Not anymore!!!!  Of course, the new theatres have reclining chairs that are like lazy boys!  WOW!   I went to the casino for a little visit…not really to gamble much….but for the experience. I danced in public without fear of total embarrassment. I went out to lunch and dinner several times. Last night I had a “girl’s night” out with old friends from St. Mary’s (where I used to teach/minister) that I hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years.  I slowly let my guard down and am learning to trust, to experience life, to be open to new things and new people….really, just to be open to possibility.  It has been a wonderful vacation mentally and emotionally…..and I will return to reality/routine in a few days as a new person. Stay tuned...there will certainly be more to come this year!

I have some difficult days to come and this New Year will bring its share of challenges as well as joys, but for today… I am grateful….happy…..hopeful……and at peace. I will face the rest as it comes….confident that God is with me…and He will help me to stay focused and on track. Come Monday I will back to work; to eating at regular times; to waking in the early morning; to writing as often as I have words; to ‘real life’…but for the next few days, I will continue to celebrate and enjoy the company of friends and family…and if I can stay awake until midnight, will ring in the new year surrounded by my family.

My friends….it is a true privilege and honor….to journey with you this year; to support and encourage you as you do me; to pray for you as you do me; to share my challenges as well as joys as you do with me; to be a part of your miracle as you are mine.  What a wonderful gift you are! 

I encourage you this week to find some quiet time to think about this past year and to imagine what your life could be like next year this time, and then in the coming days to ask yourself what things/choices you have to make in order to bring that hope/dream to fruition.  It won’t be easy….for you or for me…..but it will be so worth it.  I wish you joy; I wish you peace; I wish you hope in the coming year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

just checking in

Good morning friends.  Just want to check in and say Good Morning. I have been extremely busy this week trying to get things ready for Christmas. The holidays happen at the same time every year and yet, I'm always scrambling at the last minute to get things done. Many of the things on my "to-do" list can't really be done too far ahead of time, but still, I could have did a better job managing my time to avoid some of this stress. Nonetheless, I am confident that everything will get done, I'll arrive safely at my destination, and this will be a joyful holiday season...because regardless of what happens, I recognize that I am truly blessed and I know that NONE of the things that I am concerned/fretting about really have anything to do with the spirit of Christmas.

It’s been a week of parties and holiday gatherings and I’ve been surrounded by goodies. As I mentioned last week, I had three celebrations in one day last week. I managed to stay on track though and yet, still found ways to participate. When my  colleagues gathered for breakfast at a local café, I ordered plain oatmeal. They had an oatmeal item on the menu but it came with a fancy bread and a lot of high-calorie toppings. I knew that essentially those “extras” would turn my “good choice” into a ‘not-the-best” option, so I politely asked the waitress if I could get just a side order of plain oatmeal. I had a small pill bottle of sugar free vanilla creamer in my purse so I used that, along with some cinnamon and sweetener and I was good to go. Others at my table order a breakfast parfait; a Big-man’s platter; and other good-looking items, but I was happy and satisfied with my oatmeal. Although my friends’ plates looked a lot better than mine, the satisfaction I felt about making a good choice lingered throughout the rest of the day….and motivated me to remain strong at the next challenge.  Confidence is gained like that; you are successful in one thing and then the next is a bit easier, much like walking the first few steps or block. Once you know you can master that….perhaps not perfectly….but SURVIVE….you begin to believe that you can do anything!  You very likely ARE going to be in a situation at some point where you find yourself in a similar situation at a restaurant. My advice is this: Don’t be afraid to be ‘different” or the ONLY ONE choosing a healthier option and don’t be embarrassed about asking the waitress or chef to accommodate you.

Later that day we had a pot-luck at the office. This one was bit more difficult, not because of the sight of the food, but the smell. There were crockpots set up all morning outside my office door and the smell of the food filled the air. I kept reminding myself that no matter how good it looked; how good it smelled; or how good it probably tasted that NONE of that even compared to the ability to walk after being immobile for a lot of years. It always comes down to this: What do  want MORE….a Christmas cookie or piece of cheesecake or to continue to enjoy this new life.  The choice was very easy when I put it in that context. I said a quick prayer thanking God for the miracle, and then took my Greek yogurt and apple and joined my coworkers at the table, focusing not on what others were eating around me, but rather on the conversations taking place.

This coming week will not be easy and very likely I will be more relaxed and allow myself some wiggle room to enjoy the festivities, but in my head I am already preparing to be successful and am confident that I will be strong…..because….. I have done it in the past and I am mentally, emotionally, and physically preparing for it. Being on a life-long journey is not easy….not in the beginning….not during….and especially not now….but it is WORTH IT. Trust me….it is worth being “different”; it is worth the extra effort to prepare/pack some things that are on your plan; it is worth being “embarrassed” to speak to the waiter or stick out amongst your family/friends….and it is worth the effort.

Please remember that whatever YOU decide to do this week; whatever choices YOU decide to make; and whatever happens….it is not the end of the world. Don’t let guilt or bad feelings of any kind rob you of the peace and joy of the holidays. In end….like the fact that for the first year ever, I didn’t get any Christmas cards out or I’m not happy with my gift purchases…NONE of it really matters that much. We just have to keep starting over and trying harder. 

a peaceful day today; mine will be very busy…but I’m filled with gratitude.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas is a time for miracles!

You most certainly CAN!

Good Morning.  It’s one week before Christmas and it is getting harder and harder to stay strong and focused on my journey. Fatigue….temptation…..anticipation…..anxiety…... and excitement are all words that seem to become a way of life this time of year.  Sometimes things can become overwhelming and it becomes harder to stay motivated. This is the time when temptation can overtake us… if…..we allow it to.

 Each day I remind myself that there will always be “something” that threatens to sabotage my efforts; the holidays is only ONE of the things. When I get through the holidays, it will be time for my college classes to begin and I’ll be even busier than I am now. Work, relationships, family responsibilities, weather, finances, illness….you name it…..are all a part of life and will challenge us every day of the year. On a daily basis I must remind myself that this journey is for LIFE….not just a period of time, so the concept that “I should just enjoy the holidays and then focus on my journey again in January” cannot even be entertained in my mind for even one minute.  Because you know what….January will come….and so will “other” things that threaten my commitment.  SO…. as difficult as it is to stay focused…..I simply must remain strong. Fortunately, I am not doing this alone; God is my strength and in my weakness, He is strong.

Today I have three….yes, THREE holiday celebrations: breakfast with my co-workers at a local café; an office potluck; and then a holiday celebration and gift exchange with a friend’s family.  THREE times when I will be challenged.....or THREE times in which I can strengthen my commitment: It’s all in how I choose to look at it.  I have no doubt that I will be make good choices…..why????  Because I believe that I can…..not on my own power…..but by the power of God……and because even though I may really want a stack of French Toast drenched in maple syrup for breakfast….I want to WALK; I want to learn to dance; I want to ride my bike this summer and walk down trails to unknown places; and I want to help others……MORE…..than I want that plate of French toast…..or a handful of Christmas cookies…..or any of the delicious treats that will surround me today.  Staying focused will not be easy…..but it is possible….and it is worth it! It’s all about choices….and commitment.

Today, in the midst of the pre-holiday chaos, I encourage you to take a couple of minutes to remind yourself that IF…and I say IF because many people choose to take a break during Christmas (that is perfectly okay; remember it’s YOUR journey, not mine)…..but IF….you really want to stay on track that YES….you can do it; YES…it is possible…YES, it is going to be hard, but it is so worth the effort!  Do what you can today to find peace in the stress; joy in the journey; and hope in the future.   

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Be a better YOU

I want to be a better "ME" every day, not just on Christmas, but I'm very conscious that being a better Me involves more than just what I eat. Essentially, being a better ME means being kinder today than I was yesterday; loving more freely and unconditionally; forgiving....and....(gulp) forgetting the hurts that wound my heart and dampen my spirit; and being grateful for ALL things, including the struggles and trials.  Making good choices throughout the day, not only in what goes IN my mouth, but controlling what comes FROM my mouth will help me be a better person today than I was yesterday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sometimes life is a tangled up mess

Good Morning.  Most people who know me will agree that I am very much a “girly” girl. I love clothes, shoes, and accessories, especially jewelry. I own only a few pieces of sentimental ‘real” jewelry, but I have more costume jewelry than I can wear in a year. One of the problems with this is storing necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc. in such a way that I can access them easily. I’ve yet to find a really good solution to the situation, and at the moment, I have a pile of necklaces on the bathroom counter that got all tangled up because I put a bunch of jewelry in a Ziploc bag when I went on a recent trip: Not a really good idea!!

  I tend to change clothes several times before I finally decide on an outfit, and of course, that means changing jewelry multiple times as well.  Although this silliness makes it appear that I’m really just a superficial diva, I really just like dressing up after so many years of not really caring anything about my appearance. I simply didn’t have the desire or energy to put forth. My, how things have changed and I have a lot of fun thrift shopping and putting outfits together on a limited budget…..but….. my silliness and changing accessories multiple times each morning and tossing them on the counter has resulted in a tangled mess, and…. because I haven’t taken the time (there are NEVER enough hours in my day) to unravel the cluster, I struggle each morning to free the necklace or bracelet that I wish to wear that day. Usually I get frustrated and just choose something else, but vow each morning that I’m going to just take the time to sort things out when I get home so that tomorrow I won’t go through the same hassle.  However… I’m often so tired when I return home at the end of the day and usually have more pressing issues to address….and so, the cluster remains…waiting to aggravate me again.  Sigh……….

For the past few days I’ve been thinking about that tangled mess and asking myself why I’m putting off sorting it out. I’ve come up with many ‘excuses’, but none of them have any merit. Thoughts like, “it’s going to frustrating when I can’t get a knot out”. “Every time I’ve done this in the past I ended up breaking a chain”, “it’s not that big deal, I can wear something else”, “It’s going to be a long, aggravating process and I just don’t have the patience because there are too many other things I need to do,”  and “I just plain ole don’t want to!” I can go on and on…and as a result, each morning I am greeted with the same thing.   I’ve used many of those same excuses to put off making the changes that needed to improve my health and well-being.

I’ve shared recently that my emotions are all over the place this holiday season. One minute I’m excited about Christmas; the next I’m overwhelmed with stuff I need to do. I’ve been looking at old photos and remembering past Christmas’ and I go from smiling at the wonderful memories to being choked up as I think about those I love who will be missing from our celebration. This will be my 2nd Christmas without my stepdad Tony, and I think this one is more difficult than last. I’m happy one minute; melancholy the next; and yet, I am incredibly hopeful for the future because God continues to bless me with wonderful people to share my journey. Still, my thoughts and emotions are like that tangled mess of jewelry on the bathroom counter that need to be dealt with, even if it’s easier to just ‘be busy” and ignore them.  Doing so, however, will never lead to growth and is incredibly dangerous to an emotional eater like me. Too many years of ignoring or stifling emotions led me to a very unhealthy place because it was/is easier to bury the pain; confusion; fear; grief….even the good….with food than it was/is to address it. Unfortunately, things never get sorted out if we are not willing to take the time needed to untangle our thoughts, confront our fears; forgive those who have hurt us, or surrender our pain and sadness….essentially our life to God….and we will never be truly free when we have ‘knotted up, tangled up, or otherwise messed up” thoughts that need to be dealt with.  Even when I throw a towel on the counter, those pieces of jewelry remain buried there, unwearable, unusable, and unable to bring the beauty that the designer intended when he/she created the items. Although we might think that just because we are hiding, burying, or numbing our pain with food, drink, or other substances/behaviors, denying our reality, or putting off doing what we need to do, the truth is that those issues are always going to be there if we aren’t willing to go through the frustration, aggravation, and sometimes pain of sorting them out.  Sigh……. I’m 100% convinced that changing the way we think is as important to our success as changing the way we eat or act.  BUT… it’s not easy. In fact, it’s downright hard!

Right now, the pile of tangled jewelry is not a critical thing on my “to do” list so it will likely be there for me to address after the holidays because it’s going to take a lot of time to sort out. Likely I will just deal with what emotions I need to deal with to get through this holiday season because I’m weary and have a lot to sort out, but I WILL be extremely conscious of my thoughts….acknowledge that they are there….and be very aware of what I eat, making sure that I am using food as fuel, rather than as comfort.  If you find yourself in a tangled web of thoughts and emotions, I encourage you to do the same and ask yourself if you are eating because you are hungry…..or because it’s easier than feeling whatever it is you feel. Nobody said that a life changing journey is easy….but it is so incredibly worth it. I remind myself that every single day.  We will be successful…..we will change our life…..and we will all experience more joy than we ever dreamed possible…..but only if/when we are willing to allow God to sort out the tangled mess that we sometimes create of our lives.

Have a  peace-filled….hope-filled day today!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

You bet....I believe in miracles!

YES.... I believe in miracles.......YES.... I believe in God......YES....I believe that you can do it too!

Friday, December 12, 2014

What you are is so much more important than what you are not!

Good morning..... There is more wisdom in the words of this clip than in anything I could write this morning.  It is so important for us to recognize that we are not defined by our size or our appearance....but when we aren't happy with either......we have difficulty seeing what is truly wonderful about us. As we work to change those things about ourselves that we aren't satisfied with, it becomes much easier to recognize our true goodness....but even if we never lose another pound....we are STILL beautifully made in the image of God.  Work to change your to change your to change how you treat others.....and very soon you will see that you are changing not only your appearance, but your LIFE!   Have a great Friday my friends!!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas makes me feel emotional

Good Morning….
I absolutely love Christmas music! So many of my holiday memories involve the wonderful songs of the season. When I was a teenager, I would always play “Joy to the World” on the piano on Christmas morning when I heard the rest of the family waking up. On Christmas Eve my grandpa would often TRY to play carols on the organ and always had his 8-track player (which he piped through the house) playing music when all 30+ of us gathered for our family celebration. “I just go nuts at Christmas” is a silly song that ALWAYS brings a smile to my face when I hear it because it reminds me of those Christmas Eve’s so long ago. “Away in a manger” always causes me to choke up because it was my mother’s favorite carol. “Silent Night” evokes the same feelings because it was Fr. Sauter’s favorite. I miss them a lot, especially during the holidays. For the most part, the wonderful songs of the season remind me of happy days preparing my former students for the Christmas program at school/church; special parties and celebrations; and other joyful times of long ago.  Yes… I love holiday music…..even if it does rouse deep emotion.

Actually, the entire Christmas season is very emotional for me….on both ends of the spectrum. Most of the time feel joyful and happy when I think about how different and wonderful my life is now than it was just a few years ago. At other times, I feel melancholy and nostalgic when I think of my childhood/young adult days when my parents/grandparents were still with me and how joyful those celebrations were and how much I miss those days. I feel hopeful when I think of what my life might be like a year from now because God continues to bless me and I know He has great things in store for me. I then feel sadness when I think/hear about or witness the pain and heartache of others who are struggling to find even a little bit of peace and joy this year.  Yes, an emotional girl like me with a heart that feels deeply often feels like she is on emotional rollercoaster during this time of year! 

The past two days have been wonderful ones in terms of the Christmas Spirit.  On Tuesday night I was overwhelmed with the holiday spirit because I was able to take my gal-pal Marcia shopping to purchase Christmas gifts for her children. She struggles financially and for the first time in many years (maybe EVER) she was able to purchase some things so that her children will have gifts to open on Christmas morning. She was literally like a little kid in a candy store as we shopped. I’ve never seen anyone so excited….and overwhelmed…..and joyful at the same time.  Oh wait….YES, I have.  I’ve been THERE before….every time I was able to do something for the first time in many years….or EVER….because of my journey to change my life.  That same JOY on her face as she picked out a toy that she says her little one is “GOING TO LOVE” is what I felt when I walked to the mailbox for the first time a couple of years ago. When she said, “Theresa… I never thought I’d be able to do this… I’ve NEVER been able to go to a store and just buy something I wanted without having to figure out how I’m going to pay the bills”…. I KNEW what she meant….not because I shared her financial struggles…but because I KNOW what it feels like to climb to the top of a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan or sit on the top of a dune and be overcome with emotion as I said to my friend… “I NEVER thought I’d be able to do this….I NEVER thought I’d be able to see this… I NEVER knew that life could be like this!”  Yes… I knew her joy; I felt her excitement; I shared her hope that her life can/will be different one day and that more of these empowering experiences lie ahead for her as she continues her studies and grows in confidence and strength. As we cried together in the parking lot of Kmart, I told her that I don’t think that ANYTHING….any song; any gift; any Hallmark moment; any Christmas ANYTHING could have given me more of the Christmas spirit that being able to be a part that little shopping spree and experiencing/witnessing the joy of someone who is working to change her reality. It truly was a moment of joy…..

So…yesterday I was floating on air….and filled with Christmas joy. This morning, that joy dissipated quickly and I was overwhelmed with complete disgust when I listened to the morning news.  The coverage of the interrogation tactics used by the CIA has made me absolutely sick….torture, waterboarding, body slamming....simply horrific.  I typically don’t get political and don’t want to “go there” or debate the war on terrorism or anything like that because each side can make their own case. I just literally hate WAR…death….hatred….destruction…..violence….prejudice, etc…and for whatever reason, the news coverage this morning THREATENED to take away my peace

I almost….almost…..gave in to it. I ALMOST let it rob me of my joy. I ALMOST let it ruin my day.  It is horrible….it makes me sick….it makes me sad to think of those all over the world who suffer for ANY reason… breaks my heart to hear of heartbreak, sadness, oppression….but I recognize that many of these things are ‘out of my control” and I cannot change them, but I can let it change ME….either positively or negatively.  I have a choice.  I always have a choice.  I can dwell on the darkness/evil in the world…..or I can choose to make a difference to those around me by being  a LIGHT and a source of love to each person I meet today.  I can give in to the sadness and feel depressed that the world is a mess or people suffer needlessly and walk around gloomy…OR…. I can choose to try to make someone smile today by telling him/her that he/she looks nice; did a good job; that I’m proud of him/her.  I can say “Thank You”, “I’m sorry”, or “You’re awesome.” I can appreciate the blessings around me and say a prayer of gratitude. I can work to make others feel peaceful; happy; empowered; and hopeful.   I can’t change the entire world or make people stop hating and fighting….but I can change MYSELF….and I can make a difference to those around me.   And mostly…. I can CHANGE the channel!  I could sit and listen to this stuff on the TV….and the other bad news…..or I can turn it off or on to a different station.  The bottom line is that the choice is MINE how I react; what I choose to feel; how I want to spend my energy. You, too, have a choice on how you want to spend this day.

A few years ago, I would have dealt with things much differently. I would have turned to food.  When I was shopping and had a moment of joy like I did earlier this week, I would have stopped to McDonald’s and Marcia and I would have celebrated with a milkshake or apple pie.  I would have sat here eating cookies as I listened to the horrors or torture on the news. I would have ate a bag of chips when I looked at old Christmas photos and felt the sadness that loved ones have passed.  Food would have been my way to deal with the emotions of the season….either happy or sad.

 I was… I am….an emotional eater and this time of year is a challenge and I must make choices every single day to give in to the temptation to cover up the emotion….or to feel it/ experience it/give thanks for it…..or CHANGE the channel; leave the situation; fast forward through the song; or focus on something else. I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum….and bounce back and forth several times a day from joy to sadness….but it is much more pleasant to be joyful and hopeful than melancholy, sad, or lonely. It’s a lot more fun to be peaceful than depressed/anxious. It’s a lot better to be grateful rather than angry.  I CHOOSE today…. to seek joy… seek health……to seek peace. What about you?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

You are are capable....and you are LOVED!

Good Morning.....So many times we think that the answer to our life-changing journey lies in pills, programs, diets, groups, and other things that we DO. While it is true that we have to DO things; make choices; and change our behavior in order to see results....I honestly think that we cannot DO anything until we first change how we think and come to believe that IT IS POSSIBLE....not just for some people; not just for Theresa; not just for someone we read about in magazines or see on TV....but for EVERY PERSON who surrenders one's life and will to God (or whatever/whomever he/she defines as his/her higher power). 

My wish for you today is that each of you come to believe....truly believe and embrace deep in your heart....that are strong; are capable; and are loved REGARDLESS of what you look like; regardless of your struggles; regardless of your circumstances.  When you are able to embrace those truths, then it will become so much easier to change the things that you DO and the choices that you make.

Have a wonderful day today!!!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It truly is better to give than receive

Good morning.... my post today is a re-run of a true story of a Christmas miracle that happened to me several years ago. It's a long, but heart-warming story. I'm posting it again for those of you that joined the group since last Christmas..... I hope it puts a smile on your face, but more importantly, inspires you to do something good for someone today.   Theresa

My mother taught me many things. Some things, like tying my shoes, simply made my life easier. Other things, like “love your neighbor” and “stay close to your siblings” have dramatically impacted my life. She was a remarkable woman of great strength and compassion. A widow at a very young age, my mother raised three small children alone and still managed to be a self-less example of charity and love. Although she endured pain, loss, and loneliness, she still made serving others a priority.  One cold December day several years ago, I finally understood what she meant when she said, “The more you give away, the more you will receive”. Mom had said that phrase to me many times as a child, but I thought she was only trying to convince me to give away some of the toys that were cluttering up my room. I had no idea that she was teaching me a life lesson that would one day change my life. On this particular winter day, only a few days before Christmas, I was nearly robbed of my faith in humankind when a group of thugs entered my car and stole boxes of food and gifts that were waiting to be delivered to the poor in my community.

I worked as a Director of Religious Education for a small Catholic elementary school; and like the children in my classes, I was anxiously looking forward to Christmas and the break from school that would accompany the holiday.  The weeks since Thanksgiving were very busy at the school and the children spent their days making gifts for their parents, rehearsing songs for the Christmas program, and collecting food and toys for the needy. One could sense the excitement when walking down the hallway. The lobby was packed full of boxes of canned goods and other non-perishables; teddy bears, games, and dolls were stacked up everywhere waiting to greet a happy child on Christmas morning. The children certainly had outdone themselves with their generosity. One of my last jobs before taking the well-needed holiday vacation was to deliver this food to the local food pantry for distribution. The task was huge and the boxes were heavy, but the knowledge that I was helping to make someone else’s holiday a bit brighter made the job of loading the car seem effortless. I was walking on air; that is, until I went out to my car with another box of food. My car was parked right outside the door of the school with the doors open, making it easy to stack the boxes in the back seat. I trudged out the door, carrying a box overflowing with macaroni and cheese and singing, “It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas”, a song my student choir would perform later that evening during the school’s annual Christmas program. When I reached the car, I literally dropped the box to the ground, causing cans of soup and peas to roll underneath my car.

What? Am I losing my mind? What happened to the rest of the boxes?  Where are the gifts I had purchased for my family? I stood there, my mouth wide-open, in total shock. I was speechless and could not believe my eyes. Was someone playing a practical joke on me or did I just get robbed, right here in broad daylight, only a few yards away from an elementary school full of students? I quickly glanced in the front seat and confirmed my worst fear. Not only had some thoughtless thugs stolen the food for the poor and the gifts I purchased for my family, but they got my purse as well! Shock gave way to anger, then to panic and fear, as I realized that my driver’s license, checkbook, credit cards, and several hundred dollars of cash were gone. Tears began to flow down my cheeks as I plopped to the ground in a pile of snow.

I had never been the victim of crime before; in fact, I didn’t even know anyone who had ever been robbed.  This was a small, friendly town and the police station was directly across the street. How could this possibly have happened? As I sat there in the snow, my fear turned back to anger as I realized that this one act of crime would affect so many others, people who were already victims of unemployment and poverty. The tears continued to flow when I thought about those who were dependent on the food to feed their children, as well as my own personal loss. I had just cashed my paycheck and without a credit card or proper identification, I would not be able to replace the gifts that I had so carefully purchased and wrapped for my family. What about all the credit cards in my wallet? How would I ever notify the card companies before the thieves used them?

I was completely overwhelmed with emotion when the maintenance man came out with another box of food. I told him what had happened and he helped me to my feet.  We went back in the school to notify the police and I noticed the last box waiting to be loaded. “Well, at least we have three boxes of food left to feed 75 families”, I muttered sarcastically as we entered the school office.  The principal quickly ordered a lock-down of the building. The children, oh dear Lord, the children; I had forgotten about the children! Thank goodness no one got hurt. I began to think about the horrific possibilities had an armed thief entered the building filled with students and staff.  The ending of this tale could have been so much worse.

After the police arrived and took the report, the principal suggested that I go home for the rest of the day.  I was an emotional mess so I took her advice and I headed to the comfort of my home to begin the process of cancelling my credit cards. The quick drive home seemed to last an hour. I entered my house, which was beautifully decorated for the holidays, and I began to weep again. This time it was sadness propelling the tears. I sat down in front of my Christmas tree and looked at the nativity set that meant so much to me. My grandfather made the stable for me the first Christmas that I lived on my own, and my mother had purchased the delicate porcelain figures for me as a gift the year I moved into my own apartment. I treasure this nativity set now because both my grandfather and my mother have passed away. I sure miss them; my mother would know just what to say to make me feel better. I tried to focus on the faces of Mary and Joseph, and think about how frightened they must have felt that first Christmas. I looked at the gentle smile of the poor, perhaps cold and hungry, shepherd boy and tried to somehow reconcile my anger and sadness with “the true meaning of Christmas”; but my spirit was broken. The thieves had not only robbed me of worldly things, but they may have taken my Christmas spirit as well.

I sat there crying until I remembered that I needed to begin notifying my creditors of the robbery. “I’m sorry to hear of your misfortune, Miss Borawski, certainly we will cancel your card and send a replacement in 10 -14 business days, and by the way, Happy Holidays”, was the standard reply I heard a dozen times.  “Happy Holidays”, are you serious, I thought. How could I ever have a happy holiday when I don’t even have a gift to give to my nephew, or my sister, or my grandmother? How am I even going to direct the Christmas program tonight, when my holiday spirit was riding around with a car full of stolen gifts? Sadness turned back to anger as I muttered to myself, “So this is the thanks I get for trying to do something nice for someone else.” I would have been better off to just be a selfish scrooge; who said it was better to give than receive, anyway. I was angry, sad, and frustrated all at the same time. My head was pounding, my eyes were swollen, and I was physically and emotionally spent so I headed to my bed, pulled the covers over my head, and tried to fall asleep. Maybe I would wake up to discover that this was just a bad dream.

 A couple of hours later I woke to face the reality that not only had I been robbed, but I also had an obligation to the children who had worked so hard to prepare for that night’s holiday program. I quickly showered and changed into my festive attire and headed back to the school, trying to fight back the tears as I passed the holiday decorations lining the light poles along the way. I had to turn off the radio in my car because I could not bear the sound of the joyous holiday carols. “Fake it, Theresa, just fake it”, I told myself as I traveled the snowy road.  This certainly was not the first time that I ever had to smile when I felt like screaming. I gave myself a pep talk and entered the building, already filling up with proud parents, grandparents, and nervous youngsters waiting to perform.

Word of my misfortune had quickly spread throughout the small parish community, and I was greeted with hugs and words of comfort as I worked my way to the front of the stage to make the last minute preparations before the show began. “The show must go on,” I told myself countless times when I felt the tears well up inside of me. Satisfied that everything was set to go, I took my place in the front row to wait for the show to begin. A nervous child let out a scream at the sudden darkness and the principal appeared in the spotlight. The principal always opened the Christmas program with a prayer and welcoming comments, and tonight was no exception. She began:

This morning something terrible happened here at St. Mary’s. Miss Borawski’s vehicle was robbed as she loaded the boxes of food that you so generously donated for the poor. The thieves not only took several boxes of food, but they took her purse and the Christmas gifts that she had purchased for her family members. We have never experienced anything like this before, and although we are saddened by the news this unpleasant event, we are thankful for the safety of Miss Borawski and all the children and staff. Food and gifts can be replaced, but human lives cannot. Still, we are all grieving the loss of our security and our holiday spirit as well, but once again, the kindness and generosity of this parish has been overwhelming. Miss Borawski, please come up here on stage.

I was stunned. What on earth was she doing? Doesn’t she know that my legs are already weak and I’m barely holding it together now? What is she trying to do to me?  I slowly made my way onto the stage. Blinded by the stage lights, I turned to face the crowd. I heard the curtain open behind me and the principal asked me to turn around. The stage was full of stuff. Boxes of food and toys and gifts were piled on top of one another. I did not understand what was going on.

“Miss Borawski, all of this is for you, from your parish family”, the principal said while handing me several envelopes. She continued:

I made a few phone calls this morning and word quickly spread about what had happened and all afternoon donations have been pouring in. The food is for the poor, and the boxes of gifts are for you to give to your family and friends. The envelopes contain cash and gift cards to help you through the holidays. Please accept these things with our love and appreciation. We cannot thank you enough for all you do for so many people and we will not allow some thieves to rob you or us of the Christmas spirit.

 “But there is so much,” I quickly protested, and “these gifts are much nicer than the ones I lost”, I kind of chuckled.  “Well”, the principal replied, “I guess the more you give away, the more you receive”. Just then, a bell went off in my head. Had she just said what I think she said? Where had I heard that before: The more you give, the more you receive? Suddenly I remembered my mother and the words she had said so long ago, and I longed to see her again to tell her that I loved her and that I finally understood.

Tears began to flow down my face again as I lovingly thanked the audience and made my way back to my seat. In that moment, I suddenly understood the joy of the shepherd boy as he bowed humbly before the newly born Christ Child, broken and poor, yet overflowing with the feeling of peace and good-will, and for a brief moment, I swear I could smell my mother’s perfume.          

Monday, December 8, 2014

Do what you can with what you have....where you are

Good morning.  The month of December used to be one of my favorite months.  The holiday season seemed almost magical as a child.  I grew up in a family where holiday treats, preparations, and celebrations were always in full swing during the weeks before Christmas. I remember helping my mother make dozens of cookies and candies, especially her famous peanut brittle. I loved to decorate the house and my life was deeply rooted in strong family traditions involving my grandparents and extended family. Christmas….not just the day…but the entire season….was a really big deal, and it had little to do with presents, but rather with the experiences and traditions set forth by my parents, grandparents, and my dear priest friend, Fr. Sauter. The memories of those days are very much on my mind this year….and although they bring joy when I recall them….they also leave an aching and longing in my heart because those special people in my life are no longer physically present and the food, treats, goodies, and family moments are no longer a part of my daily life. 

While it is good to remember and give thanks for special times and moments long ago, I am well aware that there is also a danger in clinging to the past because it can quickly lead to sadness, especially if one’s current life is anything less than a “Hallmark movie” type of existence. Do people REALLY gather with multiple generations around a blazing fire sipping eggnog and singing carols by candlelight?  Do lovers REALLY walk hand-in-hand in a blanket of freshly fallen snow to see a massive holiday tree in a city park in the moonlight? Hallmark says so…but the reality is that for many of us, there is stress, loneliness, pain, and exhaustion during this time of year.  Instead of becoming melancholy that my life isn’t like the TV shoes, I am going to attempt each day is to give thanks for those times and to live out those experiences where love, laughter, generosity, kindness……faith and family……in my life NOW….as it looks NOW….where I live, work, worship NOW….and in my personal journey.  My past experiences have helped me become the woman I am today and even though my holiday celebrations aren’t what they once were…..those things I learned are very much alive in my heart, and I’ve come to realize that COMPARING our reality/holiday/life/relationships to others will cause us to miss the glorious, joyful moments that are all around us, especially this time of year, and is a potential stumbling block to one’s journey to well-being.

 While it is true that the holidays can be a time of great joy for many, I recognize that there are many who struggle as well, especially those who have experienced loss. I suppose that it is inevitable as I age, but it seems like so many people I know have died in this past year; not immediately family whose absence will dramatically impact my holiday season, but rather friends, neighbors, and people that used to be a part of my life in Rockwood. Many of you have lost parents, grandparents, and loved ones this year. Others recognize that this might be their last Christmas with an aging/ill parent or spouse; perhaps even your own self as you struggle with illness.  My heart aches for all who are grieving any type of loss because I know well how difficult it is to carry on and celebrate when one’s heart is full of sadness. Some have gone through a life change or break-up, or for some other reason, perhaps even deployment or relocation, are unable to be with loved ones. For them (you), their/your holiday will be different this year, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there can’t/won’t be moments of joy. Comparing your life/reality to another can be detrimental to your peace of mind and can be a stumbling block to your journey.

I also am conscious of those who are struggling financially and how difficult it is to find the holiday spirit when they/you are barely making ends meet and they/you so desperately want to make Christmas special for their/your children/loved ones. There was a time in my past when I was unemployed and although I didn’t have children, it was very difficult for me to accept that my traditional holiday gift giving was going to be different that year. I think my family received poems that year, but you know what, they loved me nonetheless; perhaps even more because they knew I was barely surviving, not just financially, but physically and emotionally as well.  It’s really hard when we want so desperately to do something but are limited in what we can do, and yet, in reality, the PRESENTS we give mean very little compared to the memories we make by our PRESENCE. Can you REALLY remember what you received for Christmas for the past few years?

As I’ve been going through my album of Christmas photos, I can’t remember specific gifts, but I certainly can recall the experience of decorating cookies with my mom and sister, Christmas caroling with my cousins marveling at my Grandma Borawski’s massive village under the tree (which had more lights on that any tree I ever saw), smiling at Pip’s silly Christmas hats and outfits, and enjoying Grandma’s homemade cinnamon rolls (sigh…….a big sigh….lol).  THOSE things are most important and cost very little. You may not be able to provide everything that you want to for your children/grandchildren/loved ones, but chances are, if you give them gifts and experiences from the heart, they will become more precious than anything money could buy; it just might be appear like that to them THIS year or when they are young.  Comparing what you receive/give to others can quickly lead to depression and unworthiness, and can/will be stumbling block to the true meaning of the season.

I have received more e-mails and messages than I have had a chance to read from people all over the world pouring out their heart and sharing their despair/pain/disgust with their current state of health. So many people want to change and yet, don’t believe it is even possible. Many times it’s about weight, but not always. Many people….in fact, most people in this world….would like to change SOMETHING about themselves. I certainly do! None of us are perfect; in fact, we are ALL a work in progress and have room for improvement. I struggle every day to do the right thing; to stay on track; to be positive; to be kind, loving, forgiving and NOT to give into the negativity that threatens my journey. Life is not easy and some days are better than others. Even those who seem to have a “perfect life” with perfect children, a great job, good health, a happy marriage, etc… are likely struggling too, just perhaps in a different way. Some are just better at hiding it….or burying it…..or worse, denying it and pretending it doesn’t exist. Each of us has our own cross to bear and the ‘weight of that cross” varies at certain times in our life, but nonetheless, we all have things we would like to be different. It’s important, at least for me, to focus on what I do have, the blessings that greet me each morning, and the ways in which God is present to me, rather on those things that I would like to be different. Otherwise, a life of gratitude could turn into a life of misery. Comparing what we have to what we don’t is a surefire way to cause sadness, depression, resentment, and  will very quickly rob us of the joy and peace that comes from life. Giving in to doubt that life could and will be different, feeling sorrow for oneself, and wallowing in the “I can’t….It’s too hard….I’ll never be able to….I’m a failure… name it” is a MAJOR stumbling block to your journey.

This week my focus is going to be on the words of the clip with this post:  Do what you can with what you have, where you are.  While I accept and recognize that life isn’t perfect; that Christmas isn’t what it used to be or what I hope it will be one day; that the people in my life sometimes disappoint me; that I can’t be with loved ones either because of death or distance; and that I am not physically, emotionally, financially, or spiritually all that I one day hope to be….. I choose today to recognize that I am so incredibly blessed. So are you! I am going to do what I can….with what/those I have….where I am….while trying each day to be more loving, kind, generous, and compassionate….and working to continually make positive changes in my life so that I can truly celebrate the miracle of Christmas, not just in December, but EVERY day of my life.

I encourage you to do the same!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Charity begins at home

My mother always used to tell me "Charity begins at home." I used to HATE hearing that, mostly because those words were typically said in an attempt to get me to be nicer to my siblings, or to help around the house; neither of which were very appealing to me. Have you ever noticed that it is often easier and more desirable to help others than it is to help those closest to us? For me, it was easier to be nice to those ‘outside’ my family than those I lived with each day. I would never even considered being rude or disrespectful to my friend’s parents or a teacher, but it sure was easy to sass back to my mother or blame her for EVERYTHING that went wrong. I was always willing to help out at school or church, but made all sorts of excuses when my mother needed to me help at home.  I’m guessing I’m not the only one?????

Many times when we find ourselves in situations where our life is less than what we’d like it to be, we seek to alleviate our own guilt and responsibility by blaming others, especially those closest to us. Thoughts like, “It’s not MY fault that I’m overweight; after all, look at my family members. They taught me these bad eating habits” or “EVERYONE in my family drinks too much; I inherited this addiction.” Even, “I’m like this (whatever THIS might be…..rude, selfish, obese, lazy, ungrateful.....) because… parents got a divorce; my dad/mom were mean to me; we take care of our OWN first, let someone else help THOSE people; I drew the short straw” etc. 

While it is true that our past experiences and thoughts can contribute to our current way of thinking/acting/believing, they do not have to define our future. When I ask myself WHY and HOW did I ever allow myself to get so obese that I could hardly stand up, I can come up with all sorts of reasons; many of them very good ones in my opinion, but none of them are really EXCUSES. They are merely ways to alleviate guilt about my own behavior and choices, and shift the blame from my own ‘out of control behavior” to someone else. It’s not MY fault. After all, I lost my job; my parents died when I was young; I grew up around food; I got sick…..the list goes on and on. For many years, I mistakenly thought that my misery was because I was victim of life’s cruelty; it was my cross to bear; it is what it is, and so forth.  Ironically I never even thought that it might be because I simply ate too much or was out of control.

Do I think that life circumstances, tragedy and loss, and learned behavior contributed to my obesity and pain? Absolutely, but it was only when I…THERESA….was able to look at my reality honestly and realize that much of my misery was the result of my OWN actions, behavior, habits, and response to the hardships of life that I was able to begin to make the changes that would ultimately transform my life. It was only when I was able to admit that I was powerless over the situation, to acknowledge that, “Yes, I had some pretty difficult things happen but I didn’t handle them very well,” and to accept my responsibility for my future, that CHANGE could happen. It was only when I was able to say, “ENOUGH is enough; God I can’t do this anymore….help me” and surrender my thoughts to God that I was able to take the first steps in forgiving myself and others…..and transformation could begin.  I had to look WITHIN….and accept my responsibility and forgive myself. I had to look WITHIN my own family and close relationships and recognize that I was trying to blame others for my reality. I needed to look at those closest to me and realize that thoughts like jealousy, unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness, anger, hurt, even sorrow and disappointment were preventing me from becoming all that God wants me to be. I was clinging to emotions that needed to go. I was using food to cover up pain that didn’t need to be there in the first place. I was treating myself and those around me very poorly and blaming everyone and everything for my obesity and immobility. 

 But then…..the light came on, if you will, and God showed me that things could be different. I just didn’t know HOW different and how wonderful they could be! I had no idea how God would use this miracle to help others. I’m not sure I even comprehend it yet, but I am so incredibly grateful.

These days when I hear the phrase, ‘Charity begins at home” I don’t necessarily think of being kind and loving to those in my household or circle of friends and family. I don’t think of helping only those in need that live in my community. Rather, I am reminded of the importance of looking at MY OWN thoughts and behaviors and being kind to MYSELF; forgiving MYSELF; accepting responsibility for MYSELF; and doing things to improve my own well-being FIRST….so that I can BE a light for others.  It means that I take the time each day to pray and reflect; to feed my body food that will be nutritious and energizing; to surround myself with people that bring out the best in me…and yet challenge me to grow and change; and continually recognize that I cannot do ANYTHING on my own, but rather, I depend completely on God’s grace, love, and mercy to get through the day. It means treating those I meet each day with love and kindness… that the words I write and speak are not merely words, but are a reflection of the real “THERESA.”  It means asking God to transform my thoughts and heart and change ME on a daily basis….so that He can use me to help others change as well. It means loving and forgiving myself  and those closest to me first….so that I can love and forgive others.  Charity begins at home….means allowing God’s grace and love to consume me….so that He can use me to help others.

Today…. in this wonderful season of giving….. I encourage you to take a few minutes to reflect on those words…charity begins at home…..and ask yourself if you are harboring any resentment, bitterness, blame or anger within yourself or those closest to you, and if so, to ask God to help you to let it go. Recognize that you cannot truly love others until you are able to love yourself first. It’s okay…..and actually….incredibly important….to take time for yourself; to invest energy into your own well-being; to focus on your own needs for a little while each day. Forgive yourself for your faults and failings…and make it a better day today.   Do you remember the Golden Rule....“Love others the way you love yourself?”  Do something TODAY to change your life….make a positive step today to feel better about yourself or improve your reality….so that in turn, you can make a difference for someone else.  

Make it a beautiful day today!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Focus on what you do right!

December is hard......really hard.....but how about looking at it a bit differently?  Instead of beating yourself up for every cookie or treat you about COUNTING and CELEBRATING every one you pass up?  Focus on what you are doing RIGHT rather than dwelling on what you feel like you are doing wrong.  No one is perfect.....but every time you resist a temptation or do something positive....anything positive; every time you bite your tongue or count to 10 before speaking; every kind word or gesture is worth celebrating.....instead of dwelling on the things you wish you hadn't eaten; said; thought; or did.   

Is it worth "undoing" the damage?

HI everybody… It’s hard for me to comprehend how quickly time seems to pass this time of year. A week ago at this time (yes, at 4:00 a.m.), I was in a Meijer store downstate taking advantage of some of the awesome Thanksgiving Day sales that were advertised. I didn’t really want to be out shopping on Thanksgiving Day, but since I am an early riser, I was dressed and in and out of the store before anyone else in my sister’s household even woke up. The discounts were great and I ended up spending more money than I had planned, but managed to get a lot of gifts before returning home and getting back into my pajamas.

After dinner and dishes were done on Thanksgiving, my sister and I went out shopping for Black Friday and again, we both made a lot of purchases. The sales were great, but both Kelly and I readily admit that we came home with things that we weren’t even shopping for……just because……  Because why?  I can’t speak for her, but for me, it was the ‘hype” and advertising that made me believe that I needed to have this and couldn’t possibly live without ‘that.’ It was peer pressure…or really ‘stranger” pressure. When I saw someone else grabbing an item and people going crazy trying to snag something, I fell victim to the… “Well, if THAT person wants it, it MUST be a good deal…”  Because….. the excitement of the crowds, the sounds of the holiday music, the thrill of the tradition of ‘shopping till you drop.’ I succumbed to all of that….and as a result, I ended up with stuff I didn’t need or want.  Essentially, I, like an awful lot of people, fell victim to EMOTIONAL SHOPPING…..very much like I/we do with emotional eating.

This week, I began the process of “undoing” the results of that emotional shopping by returning many of the items that were purchased in the middle of the night, when I was tired, excited, and not thinking very clearly and ended up purchasing things I didn’t want/need/or intend to buy.  Fortunately, I had saved the receipts and Kohl’s is pretty good about returns, but still, it required an hour of my time after a long day at work, a trip to Mt. Pleasant (45 minutes away from where I live), and the hassle of waiting in line, digging through a pile of receipts in my purse, and an unnecessary trip to the store.  I have items to return to Meijer and Macy’s as well, but have yet to go there. I live 1 ½ hours away from Macy’s and need to return items purchased online…what are the odds that those items will make it back to the store? Judging from the lines at Customer Service, and the amount of time I waited on the phone for Macy’s to answer my call yesterday, there are others like me that are ‘undoing the damage” of some emotional Black Friday shopping! I’ll likely end up keeping….and paying for things…I shouldn’t have bought in the first place….very much like those extra pounds that we gained but never got around to losing because it was too much hassle or work.

All week I have been thinking about all the time we spend trying to “do it over” or “undo” things we wish we hadn’t done; take back things we wish we hadn’t said; or make up for things we wish we hadn’t eaten.  Sigh…….Perhaps you are trying to make up for the extra calories you ate this past week that you wish you hadn’t.  Like those things I purchased in the middle of the night, it seemed worth it at the time, but now….well, now, you have to ‘undo” the damage. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy to negate the effects of a late night binge or weekend of partying. Fortunately, though…..IT ISN’T THE END OF THE WORLD…..and every day you get a new change to start all over and start again. It just takes more work and effort.  If I had just been strong and made good choices on Black Friday, I would have avoided the return trip to the store and had an extra couple of hours in the evening to do whatever. I COULD have said NO the first time…..but I didn’t…..and therefore, I have two choices: Keep the ‘stuff” I didn’t want and pay the bill when it arrives OR return the items, recognize that I gave into emotional shopping, and vow to make better choices in the future. You might be in the same situation…. You ate it….perhaps you enjoyed it…and now you have two choices….try to avoid doing it again and work extra hard to get back on track.

We do this ‘dance’ every day, don’t we?  Our weight loss journey (really any life-changing journey) is often a ‘two-step’s forward, one step back” process. We lose a few pounds, we hit a plateau; we lose another few pounds; we give into temptation and have a gain….and so forth.  This time of year is difficult and we might find ourselves doing the ‘up and down dance” because we give in to emotional eating….or simply because we choose to take a break and enjoy the festivities and the treats that often accompany them. I’m certainly not going to judge your choices any more than I would want you to judge my Black Friday purchases. If my sister would have said, “What are you buying THAT for….you don’t NEED another scarf…. That’s ugly; you don’t want that, do you” when we were shopping, I would have likely wanted it even more. I don’t like to be told what to do…do you?  Doesn’t it make it worse when someone takes something from your hand and tells you, “You’re not going to eat THAT are you” or “You can’t HAVE that”?  Even though the person is probably right and is trying to help, it ultimately comes down to me making the decision….FOR MYSELF….about what to eat; what to buy; what to do. Our journey is about each of us making choices….all day long….about what is right for us, but also about paying the consequences for those choices.  Sometimes the consequences are worth it; sometimes the action can be ‘undone” with minimal efforts; but more often than not, we’re left with regret, extra pounds, and stuff we don’t need or want.  Why?  Because we gave in to emotional eating, shopping, drinking….outbursts….WHATEVER.  Sometimes, however, it can’t be undone and we don’t’ get an opportunity to ‘do it over” or take back our words.

This week I am going to try to be more conscious of the choices I make AND the emotions behind them. I’m also going to recognize that there are some things that cannot be undone…words that cannot be taken back; opportunities to help that I have not responded to; and moments that I’ll never have again. More importantly, however, I am going try to be more conscious of my choices so that I don’t have to “undo” the damage or suffer the consequences of a choice I later regret. Mostly, I am going to give thanks to God for the gift of a new day and the opportunity I get each morning to ‘do over” and “do better” today than yesterday.  We can return items to the store that we don’t want and we can ‘work off” or negate the results of a binge….but it certainly is easier to make the right choice the first time around. I’m going to ask myself…. “Do I REALLY want it? Do I REALLY need it” first….instead of later.

Have a good day today!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Do what you can; give what you have

Good Morning…..
I was talking to a friend the other day about the classic holiday TV programs that are beginning to fill the airwaves. One of my favorites is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with Burl Ives. I think it’s been on for close to 50 years and I’ve watched it every year for as long as I can remember. The narrator, the big ole singing snowman, sings a song, “Silver and Gold, silver and gold……” I’m not sure I even know all the words of the song, but that TV show is one of the only places I ever hear that song so it sticks in my mind when I think of the show.  Anyways, when my friend and I were talking, I immediately began to sing those simply words. That was a couple of days ago, but like so many things in my life, a random conversation often becomes a catalyst that causes me to ponder things that stir my heart and inspire me on my journey.

Like many people, the holiday season is a time when I have so many outside forces trying to rob me of the peace that typically fills my heart. There are many demands that come with the holidays and there are many times when I am tempted to give in to negative thinking and am surrounded by others…..the media……messages……that try to convince me that “ I NEED MORE…”, instead of “I am so blessed; I have ALL I NEED!”

 More……TIME… do all the things that SOMEONE….THE TV……The Magazines…..Media….WHO????  says are necessary for a wonderful Christmas season.  Really?  Are people really going to count the number of different Christmas cookies you made this year?  What????….Aunt Mary, you only made 16 different kinds of cookies instead of 22?  Isn’t the smile on someone’s face when you offer someone his/her favorite cookie and cup of coffee, or you bring a small plate of goodies to someone that is unable to bake any more important than the NUMBER of different kinds? Isn’t the conversation and memories being made when you gather with friends and loved ones and bake the cookies/goodies more important that what you’re actually baking?  What we need MORE of is TIME spent with loved ones; conversations and traditions that will linger long after the cookies are gone, and the memories that will be passed on for generations…not TIME to do things that are expected this time of year, but have little meaning to most.

The stores and weekly ads tell us we need more MONEY….to buy MORE presents….that your child/grandchild/friend will very likely be the ONLY one that doesn’t have one of this….or one of that….or doesn’t get the latest toy or gadget.  While it’s true that like many of you, I have more bills and debt than funds, and I would like to buy gifts for everyone I know, the truth is that I have what I NEED and my little home is warm and the I have food to eat and clothes to wear.

 On Christmas Eve, the children in my family will have piles of gifts to open and honestly, if I were to ask any of them this year what I purchased for them LAST year, I would likely be met with blank stares. So often we buy gifts because we are expected to and we end up giving/receiving things that are not appreciated….and we don’t even realize that there are many people that will not even receive a single gift or are unable to provide even the simplest things for their children. This year my focus is on those individuals who have little….and on the gifts of LOVE….friendship…..caring…..and compassion.  You know, very likely, a letter to an old friend; a phone call or visit with a lonely neighbor; an offer to run a few errands or help decorate someone’s house; a quick note with a candy cane put on someone’s desk; or simply a smile at a stranger…..all things that ARE FREE and COST NOTHING…..and are gifts that will be remembered and cherished.  We don’t need a lot of MONEY to make a difference or show love at Christmas; we simply need a giving heart and the willingness to share love and kindness.

The newspapers are full of FREE things to inspire you this season: walk-thru nativity scenes or Christmas pageants or programs put on by local churches; holiday concerts; plays by the high-school students or community players; light shows and displays, etc. abound this time of year. Many are free or cost very little, but what a wonderful experience they could be. Why not load up your vehicle and invite someone to go with you?  How about a visit to a nursing home or care center or volunteering at the soup kitchen or something like Toys for tots?  Any of those things are likely to help remind you that you are blessed beyond measure….whatever your financial situation might be. Instead of focusing on what I DON’T have enough of, I want to celebrate what I do have.

Those little words…. “Silver and Gold” appear in one of my favorite scriptures as well. Acts 3:6 says, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give to you……in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”  I realize that there are many in this group that do not embrace my faith perspective so I really don’t want to get too religious here, but those words….brought to mind by a silly thing like the Rudolph TV show, really truly inspire me on my journey….especially this time of year.

I am surrounded by people that are in need….financially, emotionally, spiritually…..and I do not have the means to help them.  One of our group members is living in severe poverty and needs money to fix his car….but I don’t have the money to give him. Others are dealing with grief and sadness due to the recent death of loved ones or the reality that there will be an empty chair at the table this Christmas, but I can’t take away their pain.  Some are struggling with illness, and no matter what I do, I can’t make them better. The list goes on….and on and perhaps due to my profession, I’m surrounded by/aware of more situations than you…..but I can’t fix it or make it better.  Silver and gold have I none……BUT…..what I have…. I give to you…….What do I have?  I have hope; I have time; I have a story; I have smiles and experiences….I have LOVE; compassion; forgiveness.  While we often don’t have the answers…..we certainly have SOMETHING to share; to give; to make a difference.

You could very easily apply this principal to your own journey.  Some of you want so desperately to change your life, but you feel that you don’t have what it takes. You can’t exercise due to physical limitations. You can’t afford to purchase fresh fruit and produce because of costs. You can’t join a weight loss support group because you don’t transportation, etc. You can’t….because of many reasons….  “Silver and gold have you NOT…”   But I challenge you to finish that sentence with….” BUT WHAT I HAVE……I DO/give, etc…”   You are right… you can’t walk or exercise every day due to limitations…..but you know what….neither could I….at first. I used a walker remember??????  But what I could do was move my legs in the lazy boy or lift soup cans until I got stronger. I was eventually able to take a few steps…and then a few more…and a few more…and now, I can walk freely.  Perhaps you don’t think you could go ‘cold turkey” and give up candy or cigarettes or sugar……but you CAN….do something, even a little bit….to help. You could alternate one bottle of soda with a bottle of water. You could trade your full size candy bar for a fun-size one or the bag of chips for a snack size bag. You COULD cut back on the amount you eat. Even a small change or step is progress. Do what you can.

Finally, I recognize that I CANNOT do it for you. I cannot give you the answers. I cannot pay your bills or take away your sorrow. I cannot say some magic words to motivate you to change  your life or inspire you to keep going. Silver and gold have I not…… BUT….what I have I give to you.  What I CAN DO…and I PROMISE I WILL DO….is to be here for you; to remind you that you are capable of more than you realize; to tell you over and over and over again that I believe in you and that you are worth it. To remind you that YES…YES…YES….it is possible and that miracles happen every single day and that it is so hard to do, but it is so worth it.  I can continually encourage you to keep trying and start over and over again and never give up.   I cannot do it for you….but I certainly can and will… it WITH YOU!

Today….. and tomorrow….. and the next day… I am going to look for all those opportunities that I am given each day to make a difference and instead of focusing on all the things that I HAVE NOT….like time, money, answers, etc…. I am going to focus on all the things that I DO HAVE and be grateful. I encourage you to do the same.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Be kind

Sometimes it is so much easier to be kind to others.....even strangers....than it is to be kind to ourselves. Today.....I am going to try to give myself a little slack; realize that I can’t possibly accomplish everything on my list in just 24 hours; say “Thank You” when someone says something nice to me instead of immediately rebutting with…but I am; I look; I’m really not……etc.; and remind myself that like each of us, I am a work in progress.  Being kind to others and seeing good in them is often easier than recognizing it in ourselves……and YET…..unless we treat our bodies well by getting enough rest (hear that, Theresa?  LOL); eating nutritious food; and moving as much as we are able, we won’t have the energy, desire, or ability to be kind to others. 

Forgive yourself for your shortcomings and slip-ups, but resolve to do better today. Let go of regrets about poor choices in the past, but challenge yourself to make better ones today.  Quit beating yourself up for the bag of chips you ate last night or the weight gain reflected on the scale after last week’s festivities, but make a decision that THIS WEEK will be better. 

You ARE amazing….you ARE wonderful… do have value regardless of what you feel like; look like; where you live; what you drive; or the circumstances of your life. 

A miracle won't happen with a donut in your hand.

Trust me.... it won't work.....regardless of what the advertisements say; your friend's tell you; or the infomercial that you watch over and over again in the middle of the night when you can't sleep.  YES....YES......YES.... I believe in miracles and I know that I AM A MIRACLE....but the miracle is not that I lost weight, but rather that God continues to transform my thoughts about food, relationships, life.......and BECAUSE I think differently about food, I eat differently.....and day-by-day, the miracle continues to manifest itself.    YOU, TOO....can be a miracle, and can bring about the changes you desire in your life.......but ONLY if you are willing to do your part.   Miracles happen everyday.....but yours is unlikely to happen if you don't put the donut down or dump out the soda.  Don't lose hope....yours will happen too!