Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Aunt Glenda



"I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it" --Maya Angelou

I think about her every single day. My pink sneakers have monogrammed on them "In Honor of Aunt Glenda" so how could I not really?! Even if I wanted to try to forget, she is all around me. I eat, sleep and breathe "pink" these days. My mission has become to help in the fight against breast cancer and I find refuge in my surviving community of friends I have met.

Three years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer I found myself in a simple state of shock but there was that part of me that just assumed that everything was going to be fine. Actually, for a while, it seemed it was.

Losing her in February is one of the most impossible things to deal with that I can think of at the moment. I know that one day I will have to say good-bye to many of the people I love and care about but losing Aunt Glenda, well, I can't explain it other than I just miss her.

It was because of her I got involved with the 3-day and it's because of her that I continue to raise money and walk 60 miles at a time. I'm scared about what I'm going to feel this year knowing she's not back home cheering me on. I know she'll be there with me but things have changed and I have to say, I don't like it.

I know my family misses her just as much. She was the older sister to my Aunt Sue and my mom and took care of them when they were younger. She was like a second mother to them as well as being their sister. I know my mom thinks of her every day too and wishes she could still call her for their weekly updates and just to chat like they use to.

I keep playing it over and over in my head wondering if anything else could have been done and honestly, I always come back to the thoughts that maybe there couldn't. Sometimes things in life are going to happen, things out of my control and whether I like it or anyone else likes it, life is going to keep going. I may be forced to keep going but I will continue to remember her and the memories she gave me, not to mention the inspiration to help others. The cancer she had may have overtaken her body but it will never take our memories and the lives we had with her.

I've started going to the farmer's market here in Oxford on a regular basis and every time I eat a fresh cucumber I think of being a kid, sitting at her bar, eating fresh cucumbers from her and Uncle Glen's garden. It's a happy little place I can go for just a glimmer of a second and remember her and see her again. I don't think I can ever stop missing her and I don't think I ever want to try. I like remembering how much she meant to me and how much she meant to so many people. She had the biggest heart and was one of the most giving people on the planet. She loved to keep us up to date on the latest gossip and she was always welcoming to our friends. She had spunk. I don't think anyone in my mom's family doesn't; ) She was someone I always loved to see and she would have done anything in the world I needed her to or her family needed her to. She was simply put, special in every way.

I can't wait to walk 60 miles for her again this year and carry her with me just as I have before. I love you, Aunt Glenda and I will make sure that you are always honored and never forgotten.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

30 years of life and counting...


My 30th birthday is approaching quickly, like four days quickly and I'm not really sure how I feel about that number. It's so strange how birthdays go from being the most exciting thing ever consisting of cake, ice cream, balloons, party hats, friends, family to an event in which the result of the day has me torn with emotion. I mean don't get me wrong, there will still be cake, ice cream, balloons, party hats, friends and family, but all the shocking feelings of what a milestone this really is will precede and follow. Maybe I just feel like it's a milestone because I remember my parents turning 30. At my age they had two kids and life was full speed ahead for them. Needless to say, I took a very different path which in some ways I think is a good thing.

So, I will start with the pros of my soon to be 30 status and go from there. First and foremost, this is the first time in my life when I have felt like I'm really living and I'm proud of the things I'm doing. I still have things to work on but more on that in the cons list. I have a wonderful family that loves me more than anything and I couldn't survive without them. My circle of friends, old and new, make my world livable and I am grateful for them every single day. I recently went back to school and after being a college drop-out seven years ago and viewing life from the real world, I am overly grateful for this time in my life when I get to go back to college as an older and wiser adult. I actually appreciate the education that I am getting and I know that I can do anything I want to do with my life and it's not just a cliche. Despite my husband and I both being students we never go hungry or go without a roof over our heads. In other words, somehow the bills are getting paid ever month. I have my health and I have learned to use it to benefit others by participating in the Susan G. Komen walks. I don't know if I would have been as dedicated in my early 20's. This is a time in my life that although I'm married I don't limit myself to being an 'old married person' especially since we don't have kids right now. We like to travel and just pick up and go whenever we want, of course, I've always been like that I suppose; ) Just because I'm older I don't feel I HAVE to have children anytime soon. I know the clock will stop ticking on that at some point but I'm smart enough to realize that waiting until I'm ready is best.

And I suppose here I must start the cons...I'm no longer in my 20's after Thursday and that carries with it the thoughts of being less attractive and working even harder to maintain well, everything about my body physically and emotionally. Every year more wrinkles will show up, MORE grey hair will appear,yes,I already have some, and my body will give me more and more problems simply due to getting older. No, this won't be happening immediately but it's going to happen and turning the BIG 3-0 makes me ponder all these things. The older I get there are more and more people I care about that are becoming sick with health problems that can't be fixed and there are more people I am losing due to that fact. If I'm getting older then they're getting older too and that's hard to take in.

At this moment I honestly believe I have more pros than cons and the number 30 in itself isn't the scary thing. The scary thing is life. Life is happening every day and it carries with it as much happiness as tragedy. Looking very closely over the past 29 years 361 days I have to say I have loved every minute, every second of my life no matter how easy or how tough. I can say that with confidence because I really wouldn't be the person I am without all those moments and memories and people that have shaped my life and molded it into what it is. I am so thankful for the days, months and years I've had and I can't wait for the next 30 to start. I am so grateful for this life and when the time comes to blow those candles out, I will do it with the same smile that I've had the past 29 and I will celebrate the joy of being able to live another year...and eat cake, of course!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Goals are important. Thank Goodness!

Stress is a killer. This semester I decided to finally finish my undergraduate degree after a 7 year break. Honestly, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to pull it off and some days I still have my doubts. I'm not really doing bad at all and in fact, I'm doing great for being out of school for so long. I have my plan all mapped out and I will be done in May of 2011, the same time Chris will be done with law school. Although I constantly have headaches and am very sleep deprived, it is amazing how much I can amaze myself some days. Don't get me wrong, I've bombed some tests and felt less than perfect most days but when I actually do well in things I doubted I could do, like learn a foreign language for example, I have this overwhelming sense of awesome-ness. ; ) That feeling carries over to every aspect of my life if only for brief moments. It allows me to continue to believe in myself even though I lack confidence in certain areas of my life and it assures me that I am decently intelligent and worth more than I give myself credit. Thank GOODNESS!

Finishing school is something that is more important than I even realized. It's not important for everyone but it continued to be this burden of failure hanging over my head. Sorry to get dramatic but it was unfinished business that was always there. When I finish I will have a degree and honestly, I will be a little more valuable to the working world... but not really. Some how though I will feel more complete and more accomplished because it was something I thought I wouldn't do and in a sense, couldn't do. I'm going to walk at my graduation as a 30 year old woman and I'll be smiling and crying the entire time most likely. It's coming SO quickly and I can't wait! It's so nice to be at an age that I feel like I can do anything I want to do. How odd that would be the case when it seems teenagers and 20-somethings are "suppose" to feel that way?! I have a lot less distractions than I did the first time on the "merry-go-round" and because of that I'm a LOT more focused. Thank GOODNESS!

My goals don't just stop at school though. This year I am participating for the 3rd year in a row in the Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure. It's 60 miles of sweat, joy, pain, comradeship, smiles and tears and I've set a new goal for this year. I want to walk in Dallas and Atlanta which means 120 miles walked two weeks apart and double the money going to the cause! Dallas has been my city to walk in so when I signed up this year of course that was the place I planned to be. A few days later I was asked to join a team that is walking in Atlanta and then my mind began to imagine new possibilities. I have heard of women that walk in several of these walks and I thought that one day I may actually have time and money to participate in more than one. I was thinking after Chris and I finished school, had jobs but after losing Aunt Glenda in February and the situation presenting itself as it did, I decided to change the plan. My promise to myself is to work harder than ever to get my body ready for this journey. I've always trained but I'm hoping to possibly camp at one of the events this year AND to finish ALL 120 miles those two weekends. I will be in school so I will miss days and have to catch up on work but this event, this challenge, this promise I made to my aunt is so important in evolving into the person I want to be before I depart from this planet. "I have an irrepressible desire to be assured the world is a better place for my having lived in it." Just as Abraham Lincoln, I want my life to be one that has influenced others and continues to grow and change and exceeds limits that I never knew existed in my little world. There are so many causes to fight for and I've found mine. Maybe I'll find more battles to fight, I'm sure of it, but this is mine for now.
I will train harder this year than ever. I will walk all 120 miles after raising $4,600 for the CURE. I will be better and stronger than ever. And in doing this I will also be mindful of my school work and the goals I have set in that area of my life. I know I can do this and I am SO excited to keep plunging ahead!

Every year I am blessed with, I learn new things, experience new adventures. I cry a lot, laugh a lot, and I'm surrounded by people that love me. I can't ask for much more than that and I love the idea of giving back and letting people in my life know how much I care and how much I want the best for each and every one of them. Life is always full of tragedies, heartaches but it's what we do with those things that determines how the rest of our lives will play out. I've thought many times of quitting and walking away from things when life gets tough but I know I have to keep going and I have to find things that help me continue going and give me purpose. Here's to a great year! Here's to being the best me ever! Here's to a promise kept!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Gym is ....Where?!

The Easter weekend was absolutely fabulous. I was able to see my parents, my sister's family, my in-laws and a few friends that I miss terribly. It was good to be 'home'. I lived in Hattiesburg for ten years before moving to Oxford and I suppose because it was the first town I lived in away from my parents it's a place I made my home. I miss it terribly along with my friends and family. I know this set up is temporary and next May, May of 2011 Chris and I will both have something to show for our efforts but the journey gets tough sometimes.

So, in saying that, our lives are busy! I never thought not working and going to school would keep me this busy but I always have something to do. When I was in school the first go-round to get my Bachelor's degree I was, how do you say, less than focused. My social life came first, work second, and school was near the bottom. I was in school then because I was "suppose to be" and now I'm in school because I realize what a gift it is. All that to say, no matter what was going on in my life I found something fun and active to do. These days I am constantly tired because of the lack of sleep I'm getting and I find myself putting off doing anything active. My main goal is to get a set time to go again and go at that time every day. Going to aerobic classes would be nice but I might have a heart attack the first day! I guess what makes all this speculation worthwhile is because I know I can start living better because I've done it before. I know that it's hard at first and gradually gets better but stays challenging. Cake is cake and I like cake, ya know?! Of course, that's not to say I don't have some self-control or any endurance. I know I'm strong when I want to be and I know I'm weak when I let my guard down. Of course, all of these things are just part of being human and fighting every day to live better and take what I've learned and put it to use.

The silliest of the silly is that I have two gyms. Let me explain. Last year when I was training for the Susan G. Komen walk I started going to a local gym to have a weight training program and get involved in some of the classes. After December I haven't stepped one toe in the door and I acquired another gym when I enrolled in school this semester. Between the two there are so many things I can do that might actually be fun and I have yet to do them. My plan tonight, once I leave the ceramics lab, is to head to the gym for at least an hour. I have a project due tomorrow so that has to come first but I promised myself I would work out at LEAST an hour to get this ball rolling again.

It's insanity that I've gotten this ... cut-off. Being married is a factor, because for whatever reason it's acceptable to get comfortable and do nothing about your unhealthy, expanding waste-line or your diminishing health until, well until you get tired of feeling like poop or you just have to. I was once a person that was proud to meet anyone Chris knew, especially his friends and now I have semi-panic attacks about how they will perceive 'his fat wife'. How annoying to have those thoughts! And how annoying that it has gotten to a point I even have to worry about that and about what friends I haven't seen in a while will think of me! (If they're good friends, they'll just want to see me, I know). I guess the whole thing boils down to not wanting to be THAT person... you know, the person that gets the reaction of "GOOD LORD!" and NOT in a good way.

This time of year makes me want to be outside so I've realized that the gym is everywhere and anywhere I want it to be. In saying that I suppose I have three gyms?! The past two years I have trained for my walks at a park here in the Oxford area and I love it. It's so nice there and it's a great place to see lots of cute puppy dogs. Everyone tends to bring their animals with them and it's great because most dogs head straight for the pond to cool off. They seem to be having a blast! I admire that feeling.

So today...gym, here I come. My goal this week is going to be to exercise at least one hour every day. I have classes in the morning and afternoon so I'm thinking I can sneak my workouts in between those times on campus. Even before the workouts come into play as a goal, I HAVE to get my sleeping under control. I need 9 hours to get through a day without feeling less than myself and I average anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. Isn't that horrible? It is proven that people that don't get enough sleep eat more because they try to eat or drink to stay awake. Makes sense.

Okay, so I should get started. One last thought: There are people out there that think it's just as simple as "not being lazy" or "pushing away from the table" but there are so many reasons to eat and so many reasons not to work out when life is going on. My hope is that on some level those people can understand one day and if they don't... I've still got my own understanding and well, that's enough.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stressing about my pant size...and MUCH more!

Yep. That's me. I was 24 in this picture and I was the healthiest I have ever been in my life. I suppose that's one of the reasons I wanted to start writing about my experiences of my weight loss journey and my weight gain journey...ugh.

Looking back, I've always worried about what I looked like and how others perceived me. It stems from those childhood woes of being picked on and from those constant ideas that I was a fat kid. By the time I reached high school all that had changed but emotionally, I hadn't. Honestly, I think I could have been a size 6 and some part of me would have believed I was a beast. Somehow I never got to the point where I was confident in who I was outside my body.

I suppose I started gaining weight around the time I was 20 or 21. The freshman 15 showed up later than expected. Of course, it was more like the freshman 25 or 35. Every time life changed my weight fluctuated. If I was single I was smaller and seemed to work out more. If I was attached, well, I got rounder and it just depended on the feeling of the day whether I worked out or not.

I remember stepping on the scale and the needle hit 200. The utter disappointment that fell over me was indescribable. That was the number that seemed to be unreachable and honestly, should have been. From the time I was in 9th grade I was pretty active and all of a sudden, or so it seemed, I had gained 35 extra pounds of flab. Something happened after that. I knew I had to do something and many things fell into place for me to get myself moving.

I joined a local gym and started with a simple workout program. I was consistent and determined and over time I lost the weight and I was reaching out to others, teaching aerobics and living in a way that I truly felt alive. I had a huge support network at my gym and at my job, since I worked with a lot of women, all of which were looking for motivation and a change too. For once in my life, I was losing weight the right way and I never really cared about the number on the scale. I felt so wonderful and so full of energy, I weighed only because people were constantly demanding a number. I really never thought anything would change because I loved my aerobics classes and how I was choosing to stay healthy. Finally, I had found a way to enjoy working out.

Panic soon set in. I remember the first 5 lbs. I gained back after consistently working out for 2 yrs. I cried and literally was in a state of panic. Things began to change and slowly everything was out of control, or so I thought. Good things were happening but in turn, it threw off my entire routine. I started a new job, had a new love in my life, drama was happening at my gym, and the list goes on. Through all of that change I lost my support system and I lost my focus. I never thought I was going to need a back up plan so I didn't have one. Slowly but surely the weight came back despite my efforts to keep it at bay. I never quit working out and trying completely but my efforts weren't enough. Over the past 4, almost 5 years I have gained more than 50lbs. That's about 10lbs. a year if you can't do that math ; )

Today I am heavier that I have ever been in my life and have about 50lbs. give or take, that I want to lose and need to lose. Whereas in my past life I've wanted to look great in my clothes and wanted attention from all the 'hotties', I now want this for myself and for my overall health. I'm now married so no more worries about what guys think or even other people. It simply comes down to feeling better and waking up every day and feeling alive.

I have serious lower back issues and knee issues and since I've been gaining weight they seem only to worsen. When I'm active they are much better but I know without exercise on a regular basis, those two injuries are only going to get worse. Not to mention, exercise helps prevent...EVERYTHING! There are no guarantees but it is proven to distract from almost, if not all, major illnesses. Having just lost my aunt to cancer it makes me think about that aspect even more. It's crazy how a few years can totally change your perspective on a subject you've seen the same way for years.

I've decide it is time to do SOMETHING. I've been completely lazy lately and haven't taken time to really take care of myself. I don't want to go to the gym and be "the girl that can't do anything" again. That's so frustrating and I always feel like I'm not doing enough since I was once the person that felt like she could do anything. I know I have to forget about before and get moving. I have to forgive myself and start taking care of myself... A.S.A.P. In the words of Kirstie Alley, "GOD!I'm TIRED of being FAT!!!"

The past 2 yrs I have participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-day event which is a 60 mile walk. Honestly, I don't know how I've made it since I was carrying about 40 extra pounds both years. My motivation came from my supporters and from knowing how sick my Aunt Glenda was. I had a goal and I had a purpose. Both years I've walked I was 5 miles shy of the whole 60. On day 1 of the first year I walked with a team that wanted to stop at mile 15 on the first day and so I stopped with them since I didn't want to walk the last 5 on my own. That's weird since I walked the ENTIRE second day, all 21 miles, by myself! Last year on Day 2 I was slowed down by massive blisters. I just couldn't walk anymore so I stopped at mile 15 on day 2. So both years I walked a total of 55 miles, give or take but I wanted to make them all. My will outweighs anything else and this year I am determined to make all 60! After losing Aunt Glenda in February, I have to. I'm in the process of making a patchwork flag containing pictures and memories of her and I plan to carry that flag to the end, to the finish line, as a symbol of a promise I plan to keep: To keep fighting to find a cure for breast cancer. I can't let my body keep me from something so important and well, I won't.

I have a long road ahead but starting this blog is the first step. I want to take care of myself and continue this journey in the right direction. That's exactly what I plan to do! I'm going to allow my body to do what my mind doubts it can.... and I will feel better about the direction I'm going. Support through friends at the gym or school would be great but right now I just have me and somehow that is going to be enough. I've never stopped seeking help, answers or motivation and I can't stop now. This marathon might take me to my grave with frustration but I'm still going to participate!