Monday, August 31, 2015

new beginnings

Happy Monday!  It’s a brand new day….the beginning of a new work-week…..almost the beginning of a new month…..and for most college students, it’s the beginning of the new semester.  College freshman around the country moved into dorms and apartments this past weekend; many of them leaving home for the first time.  This morning my college, Mid Michigan Community College, will welcome new (and returning) students to our buildings.  Just like the many ‘first day of school”  I experienced while teaching at the elementary school, my guess is that I will see many of the same bewildered, albeit older and more mature, looks this morning. It doesn’t matter what age one is; what the ‘new’ thing is; whether it’s a new job, new school year, new relationship, or a new journey to a better you….there are almost always feelings of apprehension, the fear of failing, that overwhelming sense of ‘I don’t really know how to do this’ hidden behind that nervous smile we project to those around us.

What if I can’t find my classroom?  What if I’m not smart enough to pass my classes? What if……my classmates or professor doesn’t like me? What if……this or that……. Many of us feel the same things on our own personal journey, but perhaps the words are a bit different.  What if I just CAN’T stick to my new eating plan; after all, I’ve tried many times before?  What if I’m the biggest person at the gym and the others just laugh at me because I look so terrible and I can’t keep up?  What if they don’t like me at my new job or I can’t catch on fast enough?  What if I can’t quit smoking; after all, I’m addicted to nicotine.  I seriously don’t think I can totally give up drinking….or gambling…..or drugs…..or ….being negative; after all, I’m only human, right?  What if I do manage to lose a few pounds…..and I gain it back?  What if….this or what if that? 

Fear, apprehension, anxiety are all a normal part of new beginnings, but we can’t allow those feelings to keep us stuck in a rut or prevent us from beginning a new journey.  Sometimes we just have to take the leap of faith and trust that if God has led us to it….if God has spoken to our heart and presented us with a new opportunity…..if God has moved our heart to make a change in our life, then HE will help us; He will be with us; He will sustain us on our journey. 

For me….after more four years on this journey, I still have to surrender my thoughts, desires, appetite, body…all that I am and all that I do on a daily basis….to my higher power, my God and admit that I cannot do ANYTHING without His grace., but in and through Him, I can do ALL THINGS!  Personally, I think that believing that is the hardest part of the journey; certainly harder for me than resisting a chocolate chip cookie.  It’s also the most important, because fear of failure can cripple us emotionally and physically and it can be the biggest excuse ever for NOT trying to change. 

As I’ve shared in recent posts, I’m beginning a new job at the college. I am the interim, hopefully soon to be permanent, Success Coach for a new grant program just awarded to the college. These past two weeks have been very challenging and overwhelming. I’ve worked long hours, have a steep learning curve as I scramble to learn new rules and regulations about the grant, and attempt to enroll students in this new program. After an incredibly stressful week, I was ready to ‘throw in the towel’ on Friday and just resume my regular job. “This is too hard; too much work for the same pay; what if I can’t motivate these students to succeed and finish their degree; what if I can’t handle the work load; what if this and what if that?

 It doesn’t matter what we are beginning….the fear, apprehension, anxiety is often the same.  Just like I have had to do multiple times on  my weight loss journey, I had to remind myself that, YES, there will be times when I don’t know what I’m doing; after all, this is a brand new program…..but I’ll figure it out.  YES, there will be times when I want to give up and quit…..but there will be those moments when I witness the joy and satisfaction of a student who gives a speech successfully or passes a test…and I will be empowered to keep going.  YES, there will be moments of complete exhaustion when I wonder if it’s all worth it….but then I’ll hear someone say, “Thanks, Theresa….because of you, I didn’t give up.”  My job will be to work with low-income, first generation students…..and I was both, and because I’ve been there, done that…..and know first-hand how college can change one’s life, I will work really hard to help them along the way.

My friends…..I think we ALL….regardless of whether we are just starting…..or just beginning to think about starting…..or have been on a personal journey for a long time…..face apprehension, fear, and fatigue as we go through the day.  It’s normal and to be expected.  The key, however, to success is to fight through it; work through it; allow yourself to feel it if you must….but DON’T LET IT STOP YOU!  YES, you will want to give up; but then someone will notice your efforts and you will be renewed. YES, you will want to quit because you think you can’t do it; but then you will have a break-through and you will break through that plateau. YES, you will have set-backs and temptations and moments of weakness; but one day you will walk to the top of the steps and realize that you are not completely out of breath or you will put on your belt and discover that it is too big.  YES, it will be one of the hardest things you have ever done….but you simply must just keep trying!  Today is a new day; a new opportunity to get it right; a new chance to be better people today than we were yesterday. 

My dear friend,  Chuck Bowden, who also was/is the most influential teacher I have ever had, once told me,  and thousands of other students through his tenure, “The key to success is simply, SHOW UP…and DO THE WORK!”  Those words inspired me in the classroom; they inspire me in my professional role as teacher/mentor/advisor; and they have inspired me each day of my personal journey. If we want to be successful on our personal journey to wellness……we simply have to embark on the path, put the effort into it each and every day….and do the work; whatever ‘work’ is necessary to reach your wellness goal.  Students are not going to earn A’s in their classes if they don’t come to class and study; Employees are never going to earn the accolades of their superiors if they don’t show up for work and put in the effort to be productive, and we are never going to change our life if we don’t wake up each day, believe that we can change, and do something…even a small tiny ‘something” to improve our life and make a difference in someone else’s life.  

TODAY…is a new day; I encourage you to first believe that YOU CAN…and YOU WILL….change your life…..and then… what you need to do to make it happen!  And don’t forget….that we are NEVER alone on our journey!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

i'm here to help

Good morning..... I am a member of the Retention Committee at the college where I am employed. Last year we initiated a college-wide campaign for employees to welcome students back to campus, become more visible and available to help with questions and issues. We all wore "I'm here to help" buttons for the first couple of weeks of the semester. It was well-received and we are wearing the buttons again now as we prepare to begin the semester on Monday.

This morning as I was getting dressed to work, I put my nametag and " I'm here to help" button and it just sort of hit me in a different way.  Aren't we all really HERE....put on this help others?  I sincerely believe that I AM....and I want to try every day to help, inspire, and comfort others, not in the same ways that I would do at work, but in ALL WAYS and ALWAYS!   I believe that one of the main reasons that God chose to bless me with this miracle; to give me a second chance at life; to set me free from the bondage of obesity and disability was to be a light in the darkness and help others.    Certainly I could...and I did help others BEFORE my journey began, but it definitely is a lot easier now that I can walk, move, and get around better. matter where we find ourselves along the matter how heavy we are, how addicted we feel, how sick, lame, depressed, poor, stressed, etc.. we are.....WE ALL ARE HERE TO HELP. How we accept struggles and infirmities in a positive way helps others who are facing the same thing.  How we forgive those who hurt us, even when we are full of sadness and disappointment, teaches others to forgive and show mercy.  How we react when others have more than we do, lose weight faster than we do, make more money, have an easier time in life, seem to "have it all"....when we are happy when good things happen to others....when we are sad when others are hurting.....when we give thanks for all our blessings.....and when we keep trying when we fail or an opportunity to HELP others.  And it has nothing to do with the size of our britches or the number on the scale.

This evening I will be doing a 2-3 hour Skype interview for a TV production company that wants to feature me on a television show in Japan.  To be honest with you, the interview is late (for me) and will last well after my bedtime and I'm already tired from long hours at work this week and I really, truly am not all that excited about it....but I will remind myself that " I AM HERE TO HELP" and perhaps, just perhaps, if they go through with the show, it will help someone on the other side of the world.  Things are not always about US....but about how what we do....what we we act  can help someone else.

Today as I face a very long day on only a few hours sleep, I am going to try to be very conscious of all the opportunities that I encounter to help someone else....because really.....when we help others, we change, not only their lives, but our own as well.  

Make it a good day for you....and for someone else too...and remember.... WE ARE HERE TO HELP!!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

catching up

Good Morning!  The craziness of my life has caused me to feel a bit disconnected from you all so I decided to get up an hour earlier this morning (well before 3 am) just to catch up a bit and to remind you that even when I don’t post every day, you still are in my heart and thoughts.  We have had several new members join in the past week. WELCOME!  I hope you find support and inspiration here; we have some incredibly wonderful people in this group.

I remember about 5 years ago when my life consisted of nothing but eating, sleeping, and work.  Literally those things made up the majority of my day. I was not LIVING but rather just existing and taking up space….a lot of space! It was the pits, and honestly, I never imagined that life would be any different……but it certainly is now!  I still eat….a lot….but certainly much differently now and I still sleep….but about ½ of what I used to…..and I’m busy all the time.  I definitely have a longer ‘to do list’ than hours in the day….but even busy, life is so much better now than it was 5 years ago!  Now my ‘busy’ involves living rather than simply existing.

Things at the college have been exciting, but chaotic. The college was awarded a TRIO grant from the department of education to assist low income, first-generation, and/or persons with a disability to complete a college degree. The grant will provide over $200,000 per year to the college to run this program and a couple of new positions will be hired to administer the grant funds.  It is a very good thing for students, but as a result, my job duties have increased as we scramble to get things in place before the semester starts next week.  I have been asked to take a new position at the college in the interim, but will need to go through the whole application/interview process in the coming weeks to make it permanent.  I will be transitioning out of the Retention department, and have been named the interim SUCCESS COACH for the Trio grant.  I LOVE THAT JOB TITLE….Success Coach!  My job will be to work with a cohort of 140 students from start-to-finish to encourage and support them from admissions through graduation.  I will also be teaching about 6 or more sections of a semester-long college course called Student Success Strategies.  These new job requirements have required extra hours at work and a lot of extra effort to get things rolling, but I anticipate that this change will be very rewarding for me. Hopefully the extra work involved will give me ample opportunities each day to make a positive difference in students’ lives. The job is a lateral move so there is no increase in compensation, but certainly the reward of helping, coaching, encouraging others is one that fits me well.  Hang on , my friends….it’s bound to be an exciting, but challenging semester!

On another note…. I have been contacted by a TV company out of San Francisco that wants me to do a television show for them in….get this….JAPAN!  They found my story on the internet and want to feature me in their show. The show will consist of an on-camera interview and then they will hire actors to reenact my journey.  I haven’t given them my decision yet but have a 2 ½ hour SKYPE interview scheduled for Thursday evening this week. The show will be shown in japan only and when I asked for a dvd of the show before it airs, I was told that they don’t allow that, so I’m not sure if I will pursue the offer or not. I need to make sure that this show will portray my story in a positive light and not exploit a painful past or use it a way that goes against my principles ( like the National Enquirer did a few years ago!)  Keep me in your prayers as I discern God’s will in this latest endeavor.

Around the house…… the garden is full of color and although many of the perennials are done blooming for the season, others are just beginning to display their glory. Autumn is in the air this week with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s during the day and a lot of rain.  The weeds have taken over the patio area and I just can’t seem to keep up with them, but nonetheless, the garden still brings me great joy.  I have two grapefruit size watermelon on my vine and a lot of ripe tomatoes, but the squash isn’t doing well at all this year. Other things are beginning to produce, but not the results I had hoped for. (sort of like our journey, eh?)   My pool has turned green for the first time in 5 years and I’ve been trying all weekend to get it back under control so I can use it again when it warms up. Too much rain and high water temps I suppose. I’ve been shocking it and adjusting the chemicals but it’s only slowly clearing up. I may be seeking “pool maintenance” advice from the group if I can’t get things under control this week.

Even with all this chaos going on around me, I still have managed to do a couple of hours of garage saling on Saturday mornings. I found a lot of really neat things for the house and yard this summer and have been rearranging things, hanging pictures on the walls, and finally getting things settled a bit in the house I’ve lied in for 6 years. I’m even unpacking some boxes in the garage that I moved up from downstate! That’s been a lot of fun, but right now, almost every room in the house is in a bit of disarray and the kitchen table is covered with assorted picture frames and paintings/pictures that I’ve purchased this summer for next to nothing. I also have an assortment of vintage glassware and china to put on ebay.  So much to do….so little time……sigh…………………

As you can see….my life is certainly much different than 5 years ago when I spent the summers sitting in a wheeled walker and watched as everyone else lived, secretly wishing I would die. Busy? Yes! Stressful? Sometimes! Hectic? Almost always…..but LIFE IS VERY GOOD when lived with gratitude and joy. Even though there are many things I’d like to be different about my life right now…. I recognize that I am so blessed and that each and every day….no matter how tiring or challenging… matter how painful my body may feel… matter how many things go undone… matter what……is a gift from God.  Realizing that…..and embracing that philosophy… what keeps me motivated to keep on track and keep moving on this journey.  All that…..and of course…..all of you, and the privilege of sharing in  YOUR journey too!

What’s going on in your world?????

Thursday, August 20, 2015

it's about effort....not perfection

Good morning!  I love this quote. Too many times we base our self-worth on doing things "perfectly" and when we fail to live up to our own...or others' expectations, we feel bad and give up, just because we don't feel like we measure up. Fortunately, our journey is not about perfection, nor is our self-worth based on how we compare or measure up to someone else, but rather on the effort we make to improve our own well-being and the lives of those around us.

We are always going to be surrounded by people who are thinner.....prettier....make more in bigger houses or drive new cars....appear to have it all together......BUT our journey shouldn't be measured on those things. If my personal journey was about being the thinnest, richest, most popular, etc....well.....then I would always be considered a failure.  Instead, I want to focus each day on being KINDER than I was yesterday; being compassionate to those who are in need or struggling in any way; smiling at those who are feeling down or discouraged and building people up rather than making them feel insecure, or 'less than' perfect.....all while doing things to positively improve my health and well-being, eating right, and taking care of my own health.

Today I encourage you to commit to putting effort into your own journey. If that effort doesn't involve giving up cookies or staying away from junk food.....then how about doing just ONE thing today for someone else.  Take one small step toward health....even a little tiny one.....and do at least ONE thing to make a difference for someone else.   some ideas.....

Write a thank-you note to someone.
Send a greeting card for no special reason.
Smile and say hello to people you pass in the hallway.
Tell someone they are doing a good job or you appreciate them....check out lady, server at restaurant, bank teller, etc...
Forgive someone for an ignorant comment or petty transgression...
pick some flowers or bake some cookies for a neighbor or shut-in.
visit your grandparent or elderly aunt/uncle....
the list is endless.........

Transformation on the OUTSIDE begins with transformation on the inside. And as I say frequently, and embrace whole-heartedly....a skinny body with a mean or selfish spirit is UGLY. I'd rather be chunky and kind/loving/caring than thin and rude/selfish.  The best news, however, is that with God's help and a little effort, I can strive to be both!!

Have a great day today......