Thursday, December 24, 2015

merry christmas

Merry Christmas Eve. It’s about 3:30 in the morning and like usual, I’m awake and ready to begin the day. Christmas Eve is the big day of celebration in my family with festivities beginning mid-morning and lasting through midnight/late night mass tonight. Typically it is a day of great joy and celebration, but today our hearts are heavy with grief. Many of have heard/read that my 56 year-old cousin, Tammy, died  this week as a result of a horrific accident in her own driveway. Her father, my uncle Fred, was moving his motorhome and somehow Tammy got smashed between the motorhome and her truck. It was truly a tragedy. We will bury her on Saturday.

My family is not the only one who are hurting this year; so many of you have lost loved ones in this past year and sadness/grief/longing will intersperse with the joy and excitement of the festivities. My heart goes out to each of you that is hurting; whatever the reason. It is times like these when we have to really dig deep and work hard to seek the positive and be grateful for the blessings we do have, rather than dwell on what we’ve lost……certainly not an easy task.

I’ve been struggling all week to find words to say to comfort my uncle, Tammy’s husband and children, and her siblings, but I am at a loss. There really aren’t words to make sense of it all. There isn’t anything that I can say to bring her back. I don’t know why God took her home or why all of this happened. It is simply one of those times when I must trust that God is present and in control.  I felt the same emotions multiple times this past year when other things happened that didn’t seem fair or I didn’t understand.  Why did my dear friend Carol have to have not one, but both, legs amputated this year? Why did my co-worker and his wife lose his son to brain cancer? Why did a terrorist blow up a plane or shoot innocent people?  Floods, fires, storms…….war, violence, death…….sickness, depression, grief…….Day-by-day we are bombarded with news of yet another tragedy, and yet, in spite of it all, I am ABUNDANTLY blessed. I cannot change the things that happen around me, but I certainly have the power to change how I react to them; therefore, this morning I am pondering what Tammy’s death has reminded me of: Life is a gift, and each day is precious.

In a few hours I will be surrounded by 35+ family members. There will be noise and chaos and excitement. There will be tears and laughter; sorrow and pain; old and young. There will be wall-to-wall people, coats piled on the bed, gifts stacked all over the place and more food than we need.  Mostly, there will be love. In reality, nothing else really matters, does it?  Suddenly, it doesn’t seem that important whether or not there were 14 different kinds of cookies on the cookie platter or whether the gifts are wrapped in such a way that the wrapping paper lines up perfectly. Petty jealousy, grudges, past hurts and insults seem trivial now; let them go. “This one spent more money on a gift”……”that one is thinner or has more money”…… “why did she send YOU a card; I didn’t get one”…. “She never does anything to help clean up”…. “Their kid is a brat…..she did this or that…..”  Thoughts, sometimes spoken, other times left to fester……that contribute nothing to one’s well-being and personal growth, and mean absolutely nothing when you think about how quickly life can be taken away. What is truly important is the conversations we have with one another; the meal we share; the way we speak and act, and the love which binds it all together.

My wish for you and your family is that you will discover and dwell on that which is truly important…..and let the rest go. Stay focused on your journey, but cherish your celebrations and the gift of each other. Life is VERY VERY short and none of us are given a guarantee for tomorrow.  Please keep my family in your prayers as we face these coming days.  Merry Christmas to you and yours…..

Thursday, November 19, 2015

avoid emotional eating

Good morning. I swiped this clip from one of our group members and think it is a very worthwhile thought for this day. Things have been stressful and hectic in recent weeks with some changes at the office and I've been mentally and physically dragging by the end of the day, so I haven't had the energy or time to write, but my thoughts are always with this group. Watching the news coverage of the recent terrorist attacks, both the plane that went down and in Paris only added t...o it. Throw in the horrific weather all over the country displacing people from their homes and devastating lives...and COULD become a perfect excuse to give into emotional or comfort eating.

I remind myself multiple times a day that LIFE is a gift.....and, although I cannot control the 'external things" that happen around me.....I can control how I react to them and how I respond. Eating a cookie or a bag of chips isn't going to change the news....or the weather; it isn't going to make my piles of work get smaller; it isn't going to ease the sadness in my heart when I think about loved ones that are hurting right now; and it certainly isn't going to ease the stress that sometimes comes with life. it might distract me temporarily.....but after a life-time of emotional and comfort eating, I KNOW that it only makes life more I WON"T....give in to the temptation.

So many people in this group are going through some pretty rough times right now. As we approach Thanksgiving next week, things are going to be even tougher for those that have lost loved ones this year or have faced other life-changing situations. I encourage you to be strong....stay focused...and draw strength in comfort from God......not food, drink, or other harmful habits. You can get through the tough days at a time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Choose wisely

I'm fortunate that I am not overly tempted by candy, but for many of you, Halloween is a difficult time to stay on track. As you can tell from the calorie count below, there are some options for those of you that absolutely do not want to avoid the treats altogether, but I simply don't trust myself to even have just one. A fun-size treat has less than calories than a large if you have the will-power to eat just one, well, then go ahead and enjoy one. It's simply not worth it to me and one will lead to two and then to a dozen.

Just because we are trying to lose or maintain weight (or give up another habit) doesn't mean the rest of the world is going to go without, so we need to figure out how to let others enjoy the season and the treats that accompany it, without making them feel guilty or without feeling deprived ourselves. I purchased Halloween treats yesterday for my students. My strategy? Purchasing candy that I don't like! Another strategy i've learned is to give away the left-over candy after the holiday.

Plan ahead to be successful.....and if you plan to partake in a treat or two, then simply adjust your other food choices appropriately to account for the calories. We cannot simply stop living....changing one's life means changing one's way of thinking. Halloween and other holidays are going to continue to come whether we are on a journey or not, so we need to find ways to live....and make good choices at the same time.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

a weekend with family

Hello friends….

It’s dark…and quiet, this morning and I’m sitting here with my coffee reflecting on my recent weekend out of town to visit some friends and family members in my hometown about 200 miles away.  I have not been ‘home” in more than 7 months, actually since my broken engagement, and although I was a bit emotionally apprehensive about the trip, it was a long overdue visit. It was good to see my dear friends, Jim & Carol Tilley, and my nun friend, Sr. Therese Michael, as well as my family members.  The highlight of the trip was a big family reunion Halloween party. My cousins from Florida came in; I hadn’t seen them since my grandmother died in 2011. Overall, it was a great, but short trip, and although a car problem grounded me for most of the day on Friday, I still managed to enjoy myself.

The first thing I did when I got downstate may seem strange to some of you, but it was a spur-of-the-moment thing that I just felt like I needed to do:  I stopped at the cemetery to visit my grandparent’s gravesite. I typically don’t visit cemeteries very often because I believe those loved ones who have died are with me always, but for some reason, I just felt like I wanted to go that day. Many of you have read or heard me say that I truly believe that my miracle began when my Grandma Florence Borawski-Forrest died. Grandma used to pray for me on a regular basis, and even though she rarely brought it up, I am certain that my obesity was a great concern for her, especially since she lost her son….my dad… age 34 to heart disease.  It was troublesome for her to see my crippled up and in pain, and yet, she couldn’t do anything but pray for me.

 I am 100% convinced that on the day she died, she and God had a little chat, and my life began to change. I like to imagine that she pointed down from heaven at me and told God, “see that one….right there….that’s my granddaughter, and you really need to do something for that kid before it’s too late!” It may sound foolish, and I’m not a theologian, but I firmly believe that God heard her plea…..and a miracle was born! What else would prompt me to boldly proclaim….at 428 pounds and sitting in a wheelchair….at her funeral, “You just wait and see what God is going to do for me now that Grandma is in heaven”?  There was no diet; there was no surgery; there was no gym or trainer…..and yet….I was blessed with a moment of epiphany….beginning at her death and continuing for 5 weeks with God sending multiple messengers to me, finally culminating with that now famous conversation with my sister and another proclamation, “Just watch me!  I’m going to show you!”

I hadn’t really thought much about any of that in recent weeks, but somehow last Thursday afternoon it all came flooding back to me and I pulled into the cemetery…..BECAUSE…..I wanted my grandmother to see me walk! Yes….I know she sees me every day and is with me always….but at that particular moment, I just wanted to go….and take a few minutes to say a prayer of thanks to God for His goodness and to walk!

The rest of the day was filled with visits with my Aunt Barb & Uncle Clive, and surrogate parents Jim & Carol Tilley, as well as dinner with my sister and nieces. It was great to see everyone!  On Friday, I found myself stranded in my sister’s driveway with a frozen ignition, but fortunately, my brother was able to get me back on the road in time to head to the convent motherhouse to visit another dear friend, Sr. Therese Michael, before heading to a high-school football game that my cousin was playing in and catching up with an old classmate I hadn’t seen in about 25 years!  Yikes…has it really been THAT long?  I even managed to stay up past dark!

Saturday was another busy day. I did a bit of shopping with my sister, another visit with the Tilley’s, and then off to the family reunion Halloween party. What great fun! By the end of the day I was very tired and my body was sore, but I had a wonderful time.  Before I left on Thursday my washer quit mid-cycle leaving me with a washer full of water that wouldn’t drain; the car problem on Friday, and then I arrived home yesterday to discover that I left a large bag of clothes at my sisters…..but in spite of all that….it was still a nice weekend, and I made it home safely. 

My guess is that the trivial details of my life aren’t really of much interest to most, but there is one point that I would really like to focus on with this post:  NONE…..NONE…..NONE of those trivial experiences would have been possible had I not taken the first step several years ago to change my life.  My visit to the cemetery would have involved a drive-by, hoping to catch a glimpse of a familiar headstone. My trip to the motherhouse would have been nearly impossible in wheeled walker. There would have been no way that I would have even considered climbing a set of bleachers to watch a football game (it was hard enough as it were).  And absolutely, I would not have dressed in a Halloween costume for a party. Rather; I would not have even ATTENDED the party because it would have been just simply too hard and too embarrassing.  This, my friends….is what it means to “get your life back.”  This is what it means to be a ‘participant in life” rather than a spectator.  THESE experiences are those things that many people take for granted….and many who are struggling with obesity….long to be able to do again, or for the first time. These are moments where I simply and humbly say, “Thank You, God!”

And so….today….Monday morning….I ask you…. “What moments in life are you missing?  What would you do if you were free from the bondage of weight, addiction, depression, or immobility?”  Perhaps the more important question is, “What do you need to do to get your life back….and Are you ready for a change?”  If so…. I encourage you to take one small step and make one small change….so that you, too, can post of your ‘trivial or not-so-trivial” weekends away. You can do it!!!! I know you can!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

God is good in any language!

The translation makes this a bit hard to read, and i'm not even sure what language this latest publication is, but i'm guessing it's an asian country. Nonetheless, as long as others are inspired and given hope, and god is glorified, than i'm humbled and honored that my miracle continues to circle the globe. God is great and greatly to be all languages!

Friday, October 9, 2015

When did THAT happen?

How/When did that happen?  As I was driving home from work yesterday I noticed that the large maples near my home have now been clothed with brilliant color. Weren’t they green on Monday? As I drove into my driveway, I noticed that the one in my backyard has nearly shed its leaves already. I pondered to myself…Hmm….when did that happen?

One of the joys of Facebook is that I can connect with so many people and share in their lives. I enjoy seeing photos of children and grandchildren, and reading posts, especially at the beginning of a school year when parents lament, “I can’t believe my baby is starting kindergarten; going to high school; leaving for college, etc.” The same sentiment occurs in many of us when we notice for the first time that our loved ones have slowed down, gotten frail, or grown old, often without us noticing.  Hmm….when/how did that happen?

So often we become so busy with “life” that we fail to notice things happening/changing around us.  Worse than that: we fail to notice our blessings.  Kids grow up; parents get old; the seasons come and go….and we are busy ‘living”….whatever that means.  For many of us, “living” means “making a living, working, cleaning, running errands, doing ‘stuff”….that takes up our time, but often robs us of the time to really realize how quickly time passes.  Some of us get so preoccupied with “reaching our goal….losing that magic number….etc.” that we fail to enjoy the process of getting there.  While all of the above, including changing our lives, are worthy and necessary tasks (after all, we have to work, clean, eat, etc.), we have to remember that time is a precious gift that can’t be taken for granted.  Finding balance is so critical….so that we don’t wake up one day and realize that we missed out on time with loved ones, time to enjoy God’s creation, and time to give thanks….has run out.

In terms of our personal journey, we can also wake up one day and ask ourselves, “Hmm….how/when did that happen?”  How did we get to weigh over 250 or more pounds? When did we go from a size 8 to a 3X? How did we end up addicted?  How did a particular vice turn into such a problem?  Oftentimes, a serious medical scare occurs and suddenly we realize that those 10 pounds we’ve gained every year that went unnoticed have now become 100.  . Sometimes, it’s discovering that a couple of beers with friends has turned into a nightly habit or that the people we live with are more like strangers than loved ones and we have to face the hard question of “when/how” did that happen?

So often the pounds creep on and we don’t even notice; we simply buy a bigger size….and then…..we see a picture of ourselves and we’re shocked or we step on a scale and we are horrified. When…how….did THAT happen?  I had absolutely no idea that I weighed over 400 pounds when I started my journey.  Certainly I was aware that I was overweight, but not a number; I simply didn’t care. I was too busy just trying to exist/function/cope with the pain, loss, and disability of obesity and RA. I can’t even remember when I realized that a cane no longer was enough to support my weight and I needed a walker/wheelchair. It just “happened” and I just got heavier and heavier, without even really noticing it….UNTIL…. I hit rock-bottom. 

A major part of my healing/journey has been to seriously reflect on the “How/why” did I ever allow myself to get to that point in my life. It just sort of “happened” without my realizing it, or perhaps, dealing with it was just too painful so I chose to ignore the reality. We do the same thing when we allow ourselves to become too busy/committed with STUFF we think we have to do so we don’t have to deal with the wayward teenager, accept the frailty of a loved one, confront our addiction, focus on a problem, grieve a loss, etc. We use food, work, exercise, booze, shopping, busy-ness….you name it….to fill a void that we often have no idea even exists.

When we finally realize that we have to make some changes in our lives, it is very important that we remember that we didn’t gain all of our weight in a period of a few weeks/months, barring pregnancy.  We didn’t just become a 3-pack a day smoker the day we lit our first cigarette. We didn’t become addicted to pills, booze, shopping, overnight. While I’m not an expert in addiction, I think it is a gradual pattern of behavior that just escalates until one day we realize that we have a problem.  The point I’m trying to make isn’t how we become addicted to things, but rather that it took time to get to the point where we have a serious problem to address. Likewise….it takes time to become well/healthy again.  It’s not going to happen overnight, even though the latest ads of TV or in the magazines promise that it will!  We aren’t just going to lose 100 pounds in 2 months without some medical intervention.  We aren’t going to restore/repair/heal a broken relationship in a couple of hours.  We are on a journey that is a day-by-day, often excruciatingly SLOW, life-long process of transformation; one that takes consistent, daily effort and attention.

Because our transformation is often so slow and we….or others around us….don’t seem to notice our progress, we can often become discouraged and want to give up.  We might change our eating habits and be consistent with our exercise for weeks at a time, and the scale doesn’t seem to move. We might even drop a size or two and our spouses or friends don’t even comment….or notice.  We might look in the mirror and see the same fat person staring back at us and feel depressed and wonder why we are even trying.  But yet….just like those trees that are changing color right before our eyes and those children/grandchildren that are growing up around us….THINGS are happening.  We ARE being changed from the inside out; we might just be too hung up on the other STUFF like ‘numbers” to notice it. We  might just be too busy to even realize how much progress we are making.  Little things…like zipping your pants up without having to lay on the bed and suck in your gut; bending down to tie your shoes and realizing you can do it without hyperventilating, or moving your belt over a notch are happening right in front of our eyes and are the good kind of things that make you go, “Hmm….when did THAT happen?” 

I spent a great deal of time early this morning reflecting on my own journey and I realized that there are so many blessings around me that I fail to notice because I am so busy. The autumn color lasts only a few weeks in northern Michigan so this afternoon I am going to take a drive in the country to enjoy the sunshine that is promised for later today. I am going to remember to give thanks to God for everything. I’m going to focus less on how much I have to do this weekend and more on how grateful I am for the improved health that allows me to do so. I’m going to focus less on how hard it is to eat healthy all the time and more on how blessed I am to live in an area where fresh fruits/vegetables is readily available. I’m going to focus on the wonderful people in my life, rather than on the things that need to be done before winter, so I don’t wake up one day….old…alone…sad….bitter….whatever….and wonder, “When/how did THAT happen?” 

PS…on a practical note… make sure you take a lot of pictures as you progress through your journey so when you have a moment of doubt/discouragement you can look back and realize, that CHANGE…is happening, even if you don’t notice it!

Have a great weekend!