Monday, February 23, 2015

Good thought for the day

Can't think of a better sentiment to begin my day, other than a prayer of gratitude that I have been given another day of life.....even with a wind chill factor of 41 degrees below zero!  As I go about my day today, I want to be consciously aware that everything that happens (yes, even the things that don't go my way or threatens my peacefulness).....every person I encounter (yes, even the ones that push my buttons)......every step I take (yes, even if they are painful)....are a gift from God.  My strategy today....when I feel hungry, bored, tired, or to try to find something to be grateful for instead  of reaching for a snack.

Hope everyone is doing well….I’ll be very happy when spring arrives and my college classes are finished……getting tired of the cold weather and homework, but GRATITUDE is a conscious choice to make the best of all things.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The season of Lent is upon us

Happy Ash Wednesday to my fellow Christian group members!  For those that are not familiar with the celebration of Ash Wednesday, it is the beginning of the church season of Lent; a period of 40 days during which Christians are encouraged to prepare their hearts for the celebration of Easter.  It is customary for Christians to try to grow in their relationship with God by praying more, fasting from food, drink, treats, or habits, and/or giving time, funds, or other items to charity.

 When I was growing up it was always a big deal to think about what I would “give up” for the 40 days (plus 6 Sundays) of Lent.  Most kids gave up candy, sweets, or soda and all Catholics gave up eating meat on Fridays. Sometimes adults gave up, or at least cut back, on smoking or drinking.  Sometimes I tried to give up fighting with my siblings or sassing back to my mother, neither of which lasted very long! Often we would pray together more often as a family or I would attend Mass every day….and of course, there were the traditional things like Stations of the Cross, the rosary, and other rituals meant to strengthen one’s faith.  Lent was a really big deal when I was a kid.

As I matured, I began to think differently about Lent and I decided that instead of ‘giving up” something, that I would try to “take something on,” so I tried to think of a habit or practice that I could do to help me become a better person.  As I mentioned above, it often involved more prayer or religious practices. Sometimes it was reading a good spiritual book or a devotional or scripture mediations designed specifically for Lent. Often I’d volunteer to help at the Church or other charity. All of these were good things…and they certainly didn’t HURT me…but I never seemed to be able to stick with them after Easter. 

In recent years, and again this year, I have decided to observe the season a bit differently. I don’t eat candy or sweets anymore so I can’t really give them up, although I have committed to being a bit more careful in my food choices because I can feel my clothes getting tighter. I have, however, decided to fast from “thoughts” that keep me from being the best I can be. I am going to attempt to give up ‘negative thinking”.....thoughts of worthlessness, guilt, fear, and doubt.  I am going to try to be more conscious of the words I speak….gossip, sarcasm, and irritability.  I want to give up the thoughts that tell me that “I don’t deserve this……or….I don’t think I am capable of doing….this or that……….or……I’m afraid of…..whatever.”  I want to give up thoughts of selfishness, self-doubt, and anxiety….and try harder to trust, believe, and be kind.  After all, those type of thoughts will sabotage my journey quicker than a candy bar (which I won’t eat anyway).  As I’ve said before, “There are a lot of skinny people that are ugly, rude, and mean.”  Changing one’s eating habits only help change one’s body shape, whereas, changing one’s thoughts will transform your spirit and enhance your beauty regardless of your size.”

I’m also going to try to BE a more thoughtful person……so every day I will try to say “THANK YOU” to those around me; the stranger that holds the door open for me or helps me find something in the store; the co-worker who says, “good job” or the student that comes to his/her appointment prepared; the people that make me smile on a daily basis….and the God that gives me life.  I will try to smile a bit more….even when I don’t want to or am tired. I will try to see the good in everyone….even those that get on my nerves or disappoint me. I will try to be more active…more organized…..more productive with my time….and more in tune with the world around me.  Sigh…..this all sounds more challenging than giving up soda…..but yet, these are the very things that will transform my life and make it easier for me to stay focused on my weight loss journey.  Too often we use food to fill an emotional void or to cover up other issues of stress and anxiety, whereas, if we focus on liking how we “act” and becoming a nicer person, we may find that we are less focused on food and it is easier to say No to temptation.

None of this will be easy and I will fall time and time again in the coming weeks. I will be tempted to lash out, especially when I am tired. I will be tempted to eat when I am not hungry, especially when I encounter emotional distress.  I will be tempted to blame others when things don’t go as I want them to. I will be tempted to be cranky when I have more things to do than hours in the day; irritable when I’m lonely (long-distance relationships are tough); and negative when my body aches…..but…. I will keep trying.  No one is perfect….and just like you on your journey….I will have days when I wonder if it’s worth it. I will have days when I fail and blow it. I will have days when I want to give up…..but hopefully…. I will be blessed with another day to start over again.  And through it all….. the real goal….is to grow in my faith; to strengthen my body; and to make a difference in someone’s life.

How will you observe Lent?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Find a penny....pick it up

Good morning.  I returned home yesterday after spending nearly a week away attending a professional development conference for the college and an extended weekend with Bruce. It was an awesome time away but it’s time to get back to the routine today. I learned many things to benefit me professionally, but mostly, I learned a lot of life lessons to enrich me personally and I am peaceful and happy today.

A couple of days after Christmas Bruce bought me a pair of diamond stud earrings….”just because.”  While it is evident to most that I am a ‘girly-girl” and I have a lot …..okay…too many…..clothes, shoes, accessories, etc., most of my things are second-hand or thrift store finds. I have a lot of costume jewelry but own only a few things that have any monetary value. These earrings were my first diamond earrings and although I was very flattered, I admit, I was also a bit apprehensive about wearing them because I was afraid I would lose them. I even went and had a 2nd set of holes pierced in my ears a few weeks back so that I wouldn’t have to take the earrings in and out, increasing the risk of dropping one down the sink or otherwise losing it. I am just now getting to the point where I am comfortable enough to just leave them in the top holes and forget about them.

My fear became a reality on Valentine’s Day afternoon when Bruce said, “Where’s your earring?”  I gasped as I reached up to find an empty hole. I was immediately overcome with sadness and SHAME….and felt my throat tighten and my eyes filled up with tears. I became somewhat frantic and I began to scour the hotel room for that earring. “See,” I told him, “this is why I shouldn’t have anything valuable….I don’t deserve nice things because I don’t know how to take care of them….” Other similar sentiments poured out as I tried to find the words to convey my sorrow and apologize for losing his gift. I really was devastated, but not just because of the monetary value of the earring, but because I felt like I had disappointed him by losing it. As I look back on it now, it seems a bit silly that I reacted so strongly because it was just an earring, and although the pair cost a couple of hundred dollars, it was still just an earring….not an ear, as Bruce reminded me while trying to comfort me, and I didn’t lose it on purpose; the back just came loose and the earring fell out. He was great about the whole thing and handled the incident beautifully…..remaining calm, wiping my tears, telling me it was okay, and assuring me of his love. He later told me he had to fight back a big laugh as I sat there with tears rolling down my cheek when I told him that, “from now on….ALL future jewelry that he purchases for me should be cubic zirconia!”  

Even though I felt a bit better after his comforting words, I wouldn’t be able to make peace with the situation until I looked for the earring, even though the odds of finding a small solitaire earring in a large hotel would be nearly impossible. I called the places where we were that day to alert them; I went through my clothing piece by piece, stripped the bed of the covers, checked around the hotel room floor and said all the prayers I knew to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost items.  Still, no earring. As a last ditch effort, I decided to retrace my steps through the hotel to the car, knowing that the likelihood of ever seeing that earring again was slim to none. The hotel was packed this weekend with families enjoying the Valentine’s/President’s Day/Winter Break weekend with their children and the weather was cold and snowy, which meant the hotel carpet was full of crumbs and pieces of salt tracked in from the sidewalk. How would I ever find a little diamond earring?  Common sense told me it was a hopeless cause, but my strong will (better known as stubborn bullheadedness) told me that I would never accept reality and forgive myself until I tried my best to find it.  And so I went, retracing my steps……down the hall, on the elevator, through the lobby, into the subzero temperatures to the car….with no luck. I felt deflated and sad.  Well, at least I gave it my best effort, but I said one last  prayer to St. Anthony as I made my way back to the hotel, now full of people and a bunch of little kids checking in. as I entered the lobby, I kept my head down because I didn’t want anyone, especially a child, to see me crying. As I walked, I happened to look down and noticed a penny lying on the ground on the salt covered carpet, surrounded by a group of people. Typically I would have just walked by that penny….subconsciously thinking that its value was not worth the effort of bending down to pick it up….but the little ditty, “find a penny, pick it up, all day long, you’ll have good luck” came to mind and I certainly needed a bit of luck, although I don’t believe in luck; I believe in God’s blessings.  I reached down to pick up that penny and lo and behold….lying right there, next to the penny….in the midst of a room full of people….was my earring!   WHAT????? Seriously?  Are you kidding me…..there’s people everywhere….there are children all over the place….I hadn’t been standing at that desk since early that morning……REALLY??????   Yes!  I reached down and sure enough…my earring was there….fully intact….not even bent from being trampled on or anything.  I was elated!!!!  Thank you God!

I was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to tell Bruce. He was as amazed as I found that earring.  Although I am incredibly thankful for finding the earring, I am more grateful for the life lesson involved. God often allows things to happen to us to teach us things….or perhaps better phrased….God speaks to us in ALL THINGS if we look  and are open to Him. And so… I prayed and pondered…..what/why/how would my journey be strengthened by a little earring?

  As I thought about the little penny lying on the ground, pointing to the earring, I couldn’t help but think about how many times I walked by a penny….simply because I didn’t think it was worth the effort to pick it up. After all, how much is a penny worth these days anyway?  It’s just an insignificant little coin that the world puts little value on; I’d never pass up a quarter, or even a dime, on the other hand. Hmmm………I thought, as I asked myself…. how often I walked by, ignored, or shrugged off that which the world considers “insignificant, simple, of little worth…” etc.  How many people have I considered, “not worth my time or effort” because they are different than me?  How many times have I mumbled or felt bad when I lost just a “pound” or none at all, or took just a few steps when I was regaining my mobility when others were making faster progress?  How many times did I fail to give thanks and rejoice that I got through “one meal” without giving in to temptation; or cut out 100 calories, or made just a tiny bit of progress?  How many times have I failed to rejoice in what the world considers an insignificant victory….5 pounds….1 week without a cigarette… quarter mile….10 sit-ups?  How many times have I failed to say THANK YOU….to God and to others for the simplest act of kindness….the smallest sign of progress……the littlest blessings that surround me always? How many sunsets…or wildflowers….or birds singing….or smiles from strangers have I failed to notice? More times than I care to admit.  AND YET……and YET…..and YET……just like that little penny….those things that are most insignificant….those little victories….those individuals that are the ‘least among us”…….often point the way to that which is of more value.   Had that penny not been there to catch my eye….had I just walked by like I’ve done countless times…..had I not decided for whatever reason that today it was worth my effort to pick it up…. I would have likely never found that precious earring and had I not lost that earring, I would not have had the opportunity to see how Bruce would react to my disappointment; my accident; my tears. All turned out beautifully….and once again….God spoke to my heart in the midst of the ordinary.

My friends…. As you continue through your journey, you are going to encounter times when you feel like you are not making any progress. You are going to encounter plateaus, set-backs, and periods of stagnation. You are going to encounter times in your prayer life; your relationships; your job when you feel like your efforts are futile and worthless. You are going to feel like it is hopeless and that you are  never going to get where you want to be…..physically, mentally, emotionally. You are going to want to give up….but I encourage you….when those times happen….think about that little earring….and begin to look for the “little things”….those little ‘pennies” if you will in your life….the smallest amount of progress….the little victories…..and stop and thank God for them…..because those little things, often overlooked by us and those around us…..will likely point to the bigger blessings in life.  I seriously doubt that I will EVER walk by a penny again……even if it’s just to stop and pick it up and hand it to someone else!  Every pound you lose….every step you take…..every positive conversation or thought you have….every day you are blessed with life….is a gift from God.  Rejoice….and be grateful…..for YOU ARE…making progress and YOU ARE….changing your life!!!!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Who said salad was good for us?

Good Afternoon... I swiped this from Alice Witten Buschleiter​ and the Harrison TOPS group. It's great! It reminded me of the 'Old Theresa" days when I used to think eating a salad at the college cafeteria was a good choice for lunch. Imagine my surprise when I purchased a calorie counting book and discovered that my "good choice" had about 1200 calories in it, thanks to the bacon, cheese, and about 3/4 cup of blue cheese salad dressing that I put on top!    I hope everyone is doing well and having a good day.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Keep starting over

Don't ever quit starting over. While it is true that it's much easier if you just keep moving in the right direction, or at least you tread water and fight the currents in life that try to knock you backwards, the reality is that Life gets really had sometimes and challenges you in a way that you never imagined. Remember, it takes a lot more strength to keep trying and not give in to the desire to quit. You are stronger than you realize and you have the ability to succeed. More important is the reality that God is stronger than anything you're facing or dealing with.

  It's a new day....don't try to do it all today....simply ask God to give you the strength to get through the first hour or the first meal....and then the next and so forth.  It is incredibly hard to focus on one's journey when other 'stuff" or life issues get in the way, but each day we are given a chance to start do keep focused. Don't stop giving up and never lose hope. You will get through this!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Have you been encouraged today?

What a pleasant surprise to receive this lovely bouquet of flowers at the office on a day when I really needed something to lift my spirits and remind me that God is always with me. Thank you, Bruce Starkey, for your kindness and thoughtfulness!!

 Earlier today, when I was eating my lunch, my favorite little bird, a black capped chickadee, perched on the ground directly outside of the college library window where i was sitting and reading my homework. I smiled and said a silent prayer of thanks  because there is no logical reason why that little bird would land in such a spot; after all, there is a lot of snow on the ground and there are no trees/shrubs nearby. It is not a typical spot for birds. Somehow I know that God knew I needed a nudge and a gentle reminder that He is with me in my struggles of late.
Throughout my entire journey, I have been blessed with little signs of encouragment, strength, and inspiration to remind me that I am not alone on this journey. For many years, those signs were just shrugged off as 'coincidence" or insignifincant little occurances. Often they went unnoticed...UNTIL... I began to pray for them and look for them.

  My friends...,you are surrounded ALL DAY by signs of inspiration, hope, encouragement, and love....but perhaps you just don't see or expect them.  God knows whatever it is that you are seeking to change or improve in your life; whatever you struggle with; whatever it is that weighs you down and dampens your spirit. He is there in your temptation. He is there when you want to quit. He is there when things get hard and if you look really hard, you will see his presence....and you will be filled with all you need to succeed and change.  

Sometimes it comes in the form of a bird; sometimes it appears wrapped in a vase of gorgeous flowers; sometimes it comes in a word on Facebook or a conversation. And sometimes, it comes in the form of the people that God places in your path to share your journey!  How have you been encouraged today? 

Monday, February 2, 2015

What do you want most

Good Morning….. It’s the 2nd day of February already and although it’s hard for me to believe that a full month of 2015 has already come and gone, it has certainly been an eventful and exciting, but very emotional, month. The year thus far has been full of ups and downs, good and bad, joy and struggle, but it has been a month of new feelings and experiences and self-discovery as I daily learn what it means to love and be loved in return and  find time to balance work, college classes, family, a new long-distance relationship, while trying to keep myself focused on my journey. It hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s been downright hard, but each day I’m learning to trust…in God; in others; and in myself and I am becoming more certain that God is directing my steps down a new path into a world I don’t really know much about it and admittedly, am not really all that good at: Love.

I wasn’t really good at weight loss either when I started this journey, but I managed to learn along the way by continually asking myself what I wanted most……(to walk again and live)……or to continue to live a life of pain and obesity.  Four years ago I didn’t know what it meant to be free from the burden of fear and weight because I had always (with the exception of about a year in the late 80’s) been obese. I didn’t what it was like to be average (not thin…. I won’t likely ever be thin) size; to be able to buy clothes in a regular size store; to go to the theatre, a ballgame, or restaurant without even giving a 2nd thought to whether I could fit in the chair or booth; or to be out in public somewhere and not get noticed because I didn’t stand out. I had forgotten what it felt like to be normal.

 I didn’t know how to “do that kind of stuff” when I started this journey but I learned it along the way……but it wasn’t easy…..not a bit easy. I would often look at myself in the mirror and not recognize the reflection I saw looking back at me. Who is that?  Who is this new “Theresa?”  I didn’t know how to deal with the fuss and attention (still don’t really)…but I’m learning….but it’s not easy. I didn’t know how to deal with the emotions and the triumphs/struggles….but I’m learning day-by-day…but it’s not easy.  I can honestly say that letting go of the fear….of failure; of abandonment; the unknown; and loss…has been harder than letting go of the sugar.  Saying no to FEAR is harder for me than saying no to Ice cream….but I must do so if I want my life to be different tomorrow than it is today.

So…..How did/do I do it? Every day…..multiple times a day… I am faced with the challenge of the words in the clip art attached here: “Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.” Over and over and over again throughout the day we are given that choice and we must ask ourselves… WHAT do we want MOST?   In the weight loss part of my journey, it was easy to answer that question. More than anything I wanted to WALK freely; to ditch that walker/cane/wheelchair. I wanted to LIVE…not merely watch my life pass by. I wanted to be FREE from the burden of weight and pain. I knew what I wanted…and I wanted those things MORE than anything, so although it often meant I made some tough decisions and was often hungry, frustrated, and angry, it was easier to make the right choices back then because I knew that life on this side would be much better than the state of my existence at that time. That, and the reality that my choices didn’t involve people, but rather food, and my choices didn’t affect anyone but myself. These days it’s not the case….but yet…the same principals apply.

I arrived home last night after spending a weekend away with my new friend, Bruce. It was a truly wonderful couple of days and we had a great time, even though we didn’t do anything extraordinary other than be together and enjoy each other’s company.  On Saturday, we went to visit my dear friend, Sr. Therese Michael Dudek, IHM, at the motherhouse in Monroe. It was her 84th birthday and although Bruce only met her for the first time on New Year’s Day, he purchased a beautiful birthday cake for her and brought it up with him from Ohio. We spent a couple of hours visiting her and she was beyond thrilled with her cake. We had lunch; spent a couple of hours in a crazy nail salon; ate lunch; danced to music on YouTube; swam in the hotel pool; went to Mass; and just talked and laughed and talked some more. He is a wonderful man. He even showed up with about 8 bags of grocery items that are on my weight loss plan…..soup; fruit; yogurt; sugar free items…..even a butternut squash….and a new sweatsuit and pair of sneakers because he has pledged to help me  to keep focused on this journey. Goodness….what a gift God has sent my way….and yet….I nearly sabotaged it all…..because I was/am struggling to make the choice to “give up what I want now…(namely to be right or compromise) for what I want most”, because it means letting go of someone that has been part of my life for many years.  And yet… I now realize that I cannot move forward if I am not willing to make the hard choices.  This is so much harder than giving up sugar; soda; or potato chips, but just like our personal journey to wellness, we can’t have it both ways.  Each day I must choose life/health over sugar; I must choose kindness over selfishness; I must choose trust over fear; I must choose faith over doubt; and I must choose to seek God’s will, even if it takes me down a path to new places.  Mostly, I must remember that I am not alone.

Perhaps some of you have experienced the same type of struggles in your own personal journey. If you, like me, have struggled lately, I encourage you to join me in making a new commitment today to do whatever it is you need to do to get you to the place you want to be a year from now. Be gentle with yourself when you fail; forgive yourself when you make the wrong choice; and vow to be better today than you were yesterday, and remember, that even though it won’t be easy….not a bit easy….you are capable of anything when you remember that God is on your side.  

Please pray for me in the coming days and be assured that you are in my thoughts and prayers as well. God put us together on this journey for a purpose and even though we may not always recognize it right away, He gives us what we need to be happy, fulfilled, healthy, and peaceful. We simply have to make the decision to pick what we want most over what we want right now.

Have a good day…..