I’m Not THAT Girl

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I have been married to my husband for over eight years. We have a wonderful marriage filled with incredible memories of adventure, travel, growth, and new beginnings. We aren’t anywhere near perfect and we have our fair share of struggles. Nonetheless, we are happy. We were married fairly young and we’ve supported one another through much change- education, careers, loss, religion, relocation. One thing I cannot add to that list is parenthood.

Here’s the thing. I’m not that girl. You know the one. The girl who spent her childhood dreaming of her wedding day. The dress. The venue. The flowers. The cake. Even the groom. That just wasn’t me. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I’d get married at some point. It just wasn’t ever my focus. And yet, when I was 22, I met my guy and we were married a year and a half later.

You know what they say:

First comes love.

Then comes marriage.

Then comes a baby in a baby carriage.

Well, I think it is pretty clear that I’m also not THAT girl. Again, you know the one. The girl who cannot wait to be a mom. The one who is the first to ask to hold a new baby. The girl who loves being around lots of children. That just wasn’t ever me. It wasn’t that I decided early on that I didn’t want to be a mom, I just really never thought about it. Again, not my focus.

When I was married, we were part of a religion that emphasized family and to say I felt pressured to have children would be a HUGE understatement. I can’t tell you how big of a deal it was that we didn’t have babies the first half of our marriage. The social norm (even outside of religion) is that everyone should have children, preferably right away, and that those who don’t are odd or even selfish. And I think all of that pressure actually pushed the idea of motherhood out of my mind even more. At some point, people stopped asking. Maybe they felt like we weren’t able to have children. Who knows. But, man, was it peaceful.

We moved to California a couple years ago at the age that most people I know were getting married or having babies. And so, it started all over again. The questions.

     Why don’t you have kids?

     Do you want to have children?

     Don’t you want to be a mom?

     When are you going to get pregnant?

     What are you and Cody doing?

And the questions aren’t all I get. Lately, my social media has been flooded with BOLD comments and private messages about it.

     Gosh, I’d love to be able to get everything done like you do but I have kids.

     You aren’t tired? Let me send you some of my kids. Then you’ll understand tired.

     It’s TIME for you guys to have children. Stop putting it off.

     Travel? You two need to have children instead.

So, why haven’t I opened up about this yet? I know that in an effort to stay transparent about my grief, I’ve opened up my life to the world. That’s fair. And while I openly talk about the grief that comes with losing my parents, I’ve struggled to talk about this. Because it just isn’t something that’s talked about. Because, people can be insensitive and intrusive. Because, it feels like something that is just ours. But, I know it is time.

So, here is our truth.

It was our decision to spend our 20s without children.

It isn’t our decision to spend our 30s without them.

There it is. We spent the first many years of our marriage with no desire to have children. We were young and wanted to live our lives as we saw fit. Here’s the thing. I get that we are the outlier. I understand that my friends who are moms are so in love with their children that they can’t imagine us making the decision NOT to have them. And, I respect that. But, it is truly our decision and I’m genuinely shocked every time we are approached about it. I think it is a very personal decision and no one should be judged for living their lives. We must acknowledge that the decision not to have children (or to wait) might be the right thing for a lot of couples and that we must stop shaming people for making choices that are different from our own. In fact, if I had written this just a few years ago, I would be writing about our decision not to be parents.

Things changed for us about 2 years ago when we decided we wanted to have children. Like most things in life, that didn’t come easy for us and we’ve struggled with infertility ever since. It’s been a crazy couple of years, filled with lots of emotions.

Of course, as more time goes on, it gets harder and harder. Infertility is rough and it is easy to feel like your body is failing and in turn, you are a failure. I feel that. BUT, I want to stress that although these last couple years have been emotionally draining, we are okay with how things are playing out. We are happy. We are patient. We are faithful.

I’m nervous to put this out there because, to be honest, I’m not ready to discuss the specifics of our infertility or where we are at in the process. It feels extremely personal and I want to put all of my energy towards doing what’s best for my family and not fielding questions and dodging pity. That’s just the truth. But, as time goes on, it gets harder and harder to let the questions and comments roll off my back. And I just feel like infertility is one more thing to add to the list of things that need to be talked about more.

Grief. Depression. Anxiety. Divorce. Adultery. Miscarriage. Loss. Infertility. THESE things are part of life and I truly believe that the lack of dialogue makes it all so much harder because everyone is suffering in silence and so everyone feels alone and on many levels, shame. So, I’m hoping that we can all be a little more sensitive and appropriate with our approach and that those who are suffering can lift one another up and feel supported.

So, that’s it. After many, many years of skirting the questions, that’s our story. We chose not to have kids and to spend time getting an education, building careers, and really getting to know ourselves and each other. It was the right choice for us and we are proud of it. There’s never a great time to bring this up because it does make people wonder what they can and cant say. We have so many friends and family who are experiencing the joy of parenthood and we are genuinely excited for them! I’m choosing to be transparent and straightforward about this because this is the experience we are going through. I’m a naturally optimistic person and we’re hopeful that things will work out for the best.

I hope that I will be able to share more and more of it as time passes and we push forward. And, because I know it take two to tango, I asked my husband to share his thoughts on our infertility journey:

We have really been inseparable ever since we started dating and I have loved the time that we have been able to spend together. I know we have flip-flopped several times about whether or not to become parents up until recently. I have never been in a huge hurry to start a family and I don’t think we would be where we are now if we had decided differently. I’m happy with how things have worked out for us. I think we are in a good place now to become parents, but no matter what happens and whatever is in store for us, I am glad that I get to experience it with you. I love you.

            -Cody

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Me & God: Part I

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When I was 20 years old, I was baptized into a very culturally conservative, highly structured, and all-encompassing religion. While I’ll always technically be a member of that church, I don’t actively participate and I won’t ever again. I’m not saying that all of my views and beliefs have or have not changed. This isn’t about that. Because, while I have changed so much, I’ll never put down a religion or a set of beliefs. I have lots of people in my life who don’t understand my decisions when it comes to religion and I get that. This post is not meant to spark a debate but simply to explain where I’m at. And as always, my writing is a catalyst for my personal growth.

Anyway, I’ll write this in a few posts. Here is Me & God: Part One. 

I guess I should start with a statement. A confession, rather. It isn’t one that I take lightly. In fact, I hate it. But here it is.

I do not have a strong relationship with God.

Doesn’t that just feel like a punch in the stomach? It does for me. I don’t want it to be this way. But that is how it is. And I have absolutely no idea how to change it. Now, I am sure that some of you think that this is a typical situation. I mean, I lost both parents. I’m probably mad at God and blame him for all of the injustices in my life. And maybe, on some level, that is true. You’ll want to tell me that God only gives us what we can handle and this is all part of his plan.

Cringe.

So let’s get this out in the open and start there. Let’s pretend like that’s it. I’ve lost my relationship with God because I’m angry about losing both of my parents.

So, the way I see it, I have two options:

  1. I acknowledge that God makes all the decisions for our lives. He chooses who lives and who dies. He decides which prayers to answer, which miracles to grant. But believing this means that I’m saying God CHOSE to let both of my parents die horrific and painful deaths. It means that he chose not to grant me two miracles.

(Side note: I hate it when people tell me that without pain, there is no happiness. I get the concept. But I will not use the death of my parents as the foundation for my happiness. Period.)

  1. I say that God chooses not to have a hand in our lives. He leaves everything up to us and our choices. And to be fair, both of my parents made unhealthy and harmful decisions their entire lives. But if I believe this, then what is the point of prayer? Of asking for God’s grace? What’s the point in needing Him? Of course I believe in the Atonement and I’m incredibly grateful for that and for life after death. But what happened to God walking beside us at all times? (I should also note that this is much easier to answer BEFORE actually experiencing loss. Duh.)

Now, I realize that this is all very black and white. And I’m sure the lack of grey is due to my forever anger that comes from grief. I get that. And I’m sure many of you are incredibly sad at my perspective. I get that, too. Awhile back, one of my former students posted something on Facebook about being an atheist. She left the religion she was raised in and now feels an overwhelming sense of relief. When I read it, I was happy for her that she has found peace. But I also reeeeally wanted to tell her that not believing in that specific religion doesn’t mean she has to quit believing in God all together. I was sad for her. I have another friend who used to be very religious. He actually baptized me! Now he talks about God with such apathy. It makes me incredibly sad. So yeah, I get it.

So again, I’m sure many of you are thinking that my distance from God is simply a tragic result of my tragedies. But the real truth is it has been a slow and steady break-up (yep, that’s the analogy I’m going with) and my mom’s death has just been the final straw. But I want to say, loud and proud, that I love God. I have since I was a little girl. I grew up extremely close to him. I’m not proud of my distance. I want to fix it. But it just isn’t that simple.

Now, before you decide to send me a novel of an email about why I need to come back into the light and how exactly to do that, please wait and read all parts to this. Take the time to hear my story. And also, know this. I have a deep love for Jesus. He was my very best friend for my entire childhood. I miss him every day. I want to get to a place where I am literally bursting with the Spirit. I do. But I also know that it doesn’t just happen. Again, there is no black and white. I’ve been through so much in my life and there is one thing I know about myself. I am just me.  While I want a relationship with Him, I wont pretend that something is there when it isn’t. I feel like that’s what religion did to me. It turned my pure and real relationship with Christ into an obligation. And that isn’t what I want. I don’t know what else to say except that I know that for the first time in a long time, I’m ready to work for that relationship. Because I miss Him. I miss who I am when He’s around. Me, with a lot more grace, humility, strength, patience, kindness, empathy, and love.

So, while I still have lots to share, this feels like a good start. One of the things I’ve been doing lately to open up more to God is to listen to worship music. Let me know if you have any favorite bands or songs! <3

 

Love Me Tender

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Today marks eight years since my dad died. He battled lung cancer for a little over four months, and in that time, I watched my big, strong, fearless dad slowly lose weight, strength, and independence. On his final morning, I awoke knowing something wasn’t right. He had a rough night the night before and I stayed right next to him through it. In the morning, he apologized to me for needing me. I put on a brave face, smiled, and told him I was happy to help in any way I could. I ran to my mom’s room and crawled into bed with her. She held me as I cried and we talked about how we would handle the day.

A few hours later, he spoke his final words. He was in and out of consciousness the remainder of the day. Hospice had left and it was my job to keep him comfortable. It was one of those out of body experiences. Fortunately, he lived long enough so that my sister could say her goodbyes to him and so that my brother could make it in time to be there with us. There were a few people there, but I mostly remember my brother and I on each side of him. My mom was sitting across the room. Looking back, she was incredibly strong for us. “I Can Only Imagine” was playing, on repeat, and she was rocking back and forth to the beat. I remember studying every facet of this man who had been my entire world so that I wouldn’t forget anything. After he took his final breath, we all sat there for a long time. I held his hand and laid my head on his chest until my brother told me it was time to let him go.

I loved both of my parents very much but I was a daddy’s girl, to the core. He was gone a lot for work when I was a little girl and I’d cry every time he had to leave again. My favorite childhood memories are all attached to him: Riding to the grocery store together in his old Chevy, singing and whistling to songs that he’d sing on a nearly constant basis; football games filled with lots of dancing, yelling at the screen, and pork rinds; and watching him dance in the kitchen as he’d cook his “famous” bean and cheese burritos which he called “white boys” or Texas Enchiladas, which were simply canned chili on top of Fritos. I looked up to him so very much. He was hard working, intelligent, witty, and completely supportive. He was also stubborn and impatient, two traits he definitely passed on to me.

When he died, my entire world stopped. I didn’t know how to live in a world without my daddy. I was married within a year and I spent our first year as a married couple in a fog. I was angry and depressed and I felt stuck. I decided to change things so I jumped into a ridiculous amount of school and worked lots of hours. The busier I was, the less I thought about him. The more tired I was when I went to bed, the less I’d stay away thinking about him. And so, I sort of tabled my grief. Then, about 18 months ago, my mom died and all of my walls came crumbling down. I didn’t have another parent to run to.

There is a lot to say about my mom and what her death did to me. But I think what really happened was that when she died, I had suddenly lost both parents. I tried to do the same thing I did when I worked through losing my dad: push my feelings aside. I did pretty well for about the first 7 months. I was completely crushed, but I was functioning. Then, on this day one year ago, I decided to go visit my dad’s grave. As I was driving to visit his burial site, I looked over at the Pacific Ocean. We spread my mom’s ashes under the Golden Gate Bridge and so the ocean served as her burial site. I realized that I was driving past my mom’s grave to visit my dad’s and something just clicked inside of me. For the next six months, I lived as a shell of a person. I was completely empty and my very life was a daily reminder of all that I’d lost. There was no way that I could physically and emotional survive this. You can read about how I worked through that here.

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When I realized what today is, so many things came up. Losing my dad. Losing my mom. Losing myself. I remember in those first 7 months after my mom died, people would always tell me what a strong and brave person I was. I kindly thanked them, but inside, I didn’t understand. I was strong because I had to be. And then, I wasn’t. For a long time, I was nothing. I hate looking back on the time I wasted but sometimes I think it is a miracle that I survived.

I wouldn’t say that I’m back to my old self. In fact, that girl is long gone. I’ve become more introverted. Anxiety takes over on many occasions. I’m highly sensitive and irrational at times. My unwavering optimism has…wavered. And I’m pretty sure these changes are permanent. I’ve changed. And although time does ease the pain, there will forever be two holes in my heart that cannot be filled. I mean, a girl needs her parents. At least one. What I wouldn’t do for a hug from just one of them today.

The good news is that as time goes on, I start to get back the positive traits my parents GAVE me, that made me, me. Perseverance. Dedication. Love. Kindness. Strength. Self-confidence. I’m in grad school, something my dad would have been so proud of. I’m in a loving marriage, which is all my mom wanted for me. I seem to spend less time crying and aching and more time laughing and loving. I am less paralyzed with fear of losing another loved one and more excited about my future. For a long time, I felt like I was simply existing. I was ashamed at how much I had changed. But now I see that I am who I choose to be and I just take each day as a new day. I love harder. I live better.

And that’s what they would want.

It’s interesting to see what I’ve shared with you all on this day each year since I lost him. Grief isn’t linear and it is a strange thing to see how my feelings changed each year. And although I’m not proud of how I changed after this day last year, the words I wrote make me smile, just a bit.

Today, I went to see him. I haven’t been there since the burial. I figured this is the closest thing to a hug that I can get. I’ll take it. ?

Now I’m back on the road, listening to all of his favorites. I’m sure he’s somewhere up there, singing along with me. Maybe my mom is dancing.

Love me tender,
Love me sweet,
Never let me go.
You have made my life complete,
And I love you so.
???

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Back to School, Back to School

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Well, it is that time of the year. Back to school! All of my teacher friends are posting pictures of their remodeled classrooms and cute little printouts. Parents are writing about how sad they are that their babies are growing up. My students are posting first day pics with their best friends. The excitement is in the air! Of course, Facebook sends me reminders of what I was doing “on this day” for the past many years. It is fun to see the posts I shared about my new classroom, new students, and new courses. It definitely tugs at my heartstrings to know that that part of my life has passed. How strange it is to think that I finished school, started and thrived in a career, and left that field all before 30. And although I loved teaching so very much, I also know that it isn’t what is right for me. That was a hard truth to come to.

—Cue cheesy analogy!—

It is like breaking up with someone who, on paper, seems perfect for you. You share all of the same interests. You love spending time together. But, deep down in your soul, you know that person isn’t the one. You’re missing something vital. And when you end things, your heart breaks. You might enter another relationship but you’ll probably always think back on that heartache. The good times and the bad. So, while I often think about all of the incredible memories I made with my students AND the times parents ripped my head off, I know that that chapter was closed for a reason.

—Mmmmk. I’m done there. So sorry.—

So, while I feel confident in my decision to leave education, I really have no idea what I am SUPPOSED to do next. If you’ve been following my journey, you know that I have been recovering (is that a thing?) from the loss of both of my parents. I was hit really hard after losing my mom last February and my entire world flipped over. My husband and I left our lives in Utah and moved back to my home state, where we have sort of bounced around while he could secure the job he wanted. Now that we are somewhat settled (for now!) I am ready to make my next move. I feel like I’ve really learned how to manage my grief and keep my apathy, for the most part, pinned to the ground. So, what to do next?

One of my passions is healthy living. Both of my parents died before they turned 60. They made poor choices when it came to their health and those choices lead to a whole lotta pain. In a world where we control pretty much nothing, it is nice to know that we DO control what we do with our bodies. And while I have so much to learn and there are many changes to be made, I feel good about what I’ve learned so far and what I’ve been able to pass on to others as an online fitness coach. But for right now, I need more.

More what? The truth is, I’m not sure. I look around and see that things are nothing close to where I imagined they would be, even a year ago. My closest friends are accomplishing so much. Law school. Opening a gym. Babies. And while all of those things are incredible, they aren’t for me. If I’ve learned anything from losing my parents, it is that all I can be is my best self. It is the reason I work, every day, on my relationship with my husband. It’s why I try to eat well and workout. It is why kindness and faith and humility and authenticity are everything to me. It is my motivation to be a better friend and sister and human being, even when I fail at all of that. Because I know that where I’m supposed to be doesn’t matter. It is who I am, deep down, that truly makes a difference. To myself and to everyone else. So that’s it. Just be better. Do better.

So, after a lot of thought, I’ve decided to go to grad school to pursue a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. Grad school has always been something that is important to me and it feels like now is the time to do this thing. And while I went back and forth on which route to take, I decided that online school is the perfect fit for our lives right now. I’m not sure what I’ll do once I’m finished with my degree. But I’ll just have to figure that out as I go. Because things change. life happens. New opportunities come every day. I’m both excited and overwhelmed by the challenge and at the opportunities that will come my way.

So, in the spirit of first days, here you go!

 

(Uh, is it a sign that the ad on this video is FOR grad school??)

A Letter To My Mom On Her 60th Birthday

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I was just thinking about a moment I shared with my mom in my kitchen a few months before she died. My birthday was coming up and she realized it was going to be my 30th. Her jaw dropped and her eyes welled up. “I can’t believe my baby is going to be 30!” she exclaimed with a hint of sadness. I laughed at her and said, “Oh, Mom!” I remember carrying on with whatever I was doing and she just sort of stood there in shock. I didn’t stop to consider what she was thinking about. But, now I do. All the time. I assume she was thinking about me as a baby. How strange it must have been for her little girl to be nearly 30. Well, that’s sort of how I’m feeling today, on her 60th birthday. How strange it is that my adorably little mom is turning 60. Except, she’s not.

Isn’t it strange how the idea of celebrating birthdays after someone dies is tough? I mean, just because that person has passed doesn’t mean their birth isn’t something to celebrate. The problem is, you can’t celebrate together. So instead of a happy day, it is yet another reminder that they are gone. I’d like to think that if she were here, I’d tell her how much she means to me and I’d spoil her all day in celebration. I think about the lines on her face as she’d laugh, the widening of her eyes when she opens her present, and the warmth of her body as she’d hug me. All day. And while I know I think about all of that stuff for ME and how I’d feel, it is also really nice to think about making her happy. I have so much guilt and regret when it comes to our relationship so I’d rather just think about the perfect birthday for her.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to write her a letter, for her 60th birthday, as if she were here to actually read it. And although the tears are streaming down my cheeks as I type, I’m going to imagine those laugh lines, huge eyes, and sweet hugs.

Mommy,

Happy birthday! I can’t believe today is your 60th! How crazy is that? I know you are probably freaking out about that number. But I just want to remind you of a few things. First, I don’t care how old you get. You’ll always be the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known. It cracks me up when I see you looking at your wrinkles in the mirror because when I look at you, I see the same woman I saw when I was a little girl. I love that your eyes give away how you’re feeling, even when you try incredibly hard to filter yourself. I love that you still wear purple lip liner, even though I make fun of you for it. I love that your hair is always incredibly soft. I love that sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I see you looking back at me.

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I’m sure you’re also thinking about the last 60 years of your life. I know that you have many struggles behind you and it still pains you to think about most of them. You’ve felt like a failure more times than you’ve been proud of yourself. If I could gift you anything, it would be to change that. I know we had some really hard times together and I know you feel a lot of shame for that. I wish you could know how little I care about those struggles anymore. As an adult, I’ve truly forgiven you for those tough times and I don’t see you as a failure. I see you as a survivor. You really are the strongest person I’ve ever known and I hope that that strength will live in me for my entire life. Our relationship has really had some ups and downs and I know that a lot of the situations we were in were attributed to the tough past you had. I’ve never met anyone who had such a hard life and went through the things you did. Again, you feel shame for going through those times but I see them as badges of courage. I wish you could be as proud of yourself as I am of you.

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Lastly, I think you are probably thinking about what your life SHOULD look like at 60. I know you sometimes feel ashamed for living with me. You want to be independent and free. Even though you don’t say it, I know you daydream about what life would be like if dad were alive and if things had been different. If the two of you were different. If you could have been happy together at this point of your lives. I want you to know that although I also daydream about that life, because every kid wants their parents to be happy together, I’m so grateful that life has brought us together in MY adult life. I am so lucky that you live here and that I get to run downstairs and see you whenever I want. That my mommy is always here for me. To laugh with, to hug me when I’m sad, and to just talk to. You’ve always said that all you want is for me to see you as my best friend and I want you to know that I do. If something ever happened to you, if I lost you, I’d lose the person I tell absolutely everything to. I don’t know what I would do without you. I’d probably fall apart.

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So, those are the things I want you to think about today as you go over the last 60 years. I want you to remember that you are beautiful, incredibly strong, and so very loved. I know life didn’t turn out the way you thought it would, but here’s the thing. You always say that your biggest accomplishment, the thing you are the most proud of, is your children. And James and I could not possibly love you any more. So, let’s spend the day together, watching Lifetime movies and eating all the treats. I want you to feel so special because I know how incredibly grateful I am that I get to see those laugh lines and GIANT eyes and that I get to hug you as much as I want.

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Happy birthday, Mommy. I love you deeper than the ocean and higher than the sky.

Love,

Sissy Missy

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My Results From The Ultimate Reset

I woke up Monday morning feeling a little scared. I had just completed the 21 day Ultimate Reset the night before. For the previous 3 weeks, everything (supplements, meals, water intake) was scheduled. This morning, I was free! I remember sitting up in bed and thinking about my results. I was about to go weigh and measure myself and I was nervous. But mostly, I was just so proud of myself for actually finishing the damn thing. I’ve posted before about the apathy I feel on a daily basis since losing my mom. I used to be such a driven, consistent, passionate, go-getter. That version of me seemed to get lost in grief and every day is a constant battle to fight this feeling of apathy. I have to remind myself that I DO care about things and force myself to take action. To not allow myself to drown in my overwhelming despair. To remember that life is still going on around me. To give a damn. To start and finish something. I’d lost sight of a lot of things over the past year and I became this shell of a person. I’d done well to start to move on but my appearance had plummeted. I gained weight, my face broke out, and my eyes were sunken in. I just felt insecure and completely beside myself. I knew that I needed to regain my confidence by doing something drastic and challenging myself to beat my apathy by finishing something.

I’m sure you hear me talk a lot about my “21 Days to Fit” boot camps on social media. In those groups, I join my challengers in 3 weeks of fitness. I provide them with a 30-minute at-home workout, healthy recipes and tips, and a 30 day supply of Shakeology. Over those 21 days, my challengers develop better habits with eating, cooking, moving, sleeping, drinking water, self-confidence, and so much more. It isn’t an easy 21 days. But, I also help my challengers understand that this isn’t a diet. It is a lifestyle. So there are days when they skip their workout, make poor eating choices, and slack on their water intake. That’s life. But, the goal is to show them to get right back up and start again. While I wholeheartedly believe in this system, it does allow for “life” to happen.

The Ultimate Reset is completely different. It comes with an exact meal plan, recipes, and even a guide on WHEN to take supplements and when to eat. There is no working out, with the exception of brisk walking. You don’t starve. The food is plentiful and pretty delicious. But, it is probably different than you’d expect. After the first week, you will be eating a completely vegan diet. You will drink 100+ oz of water each day and nothing else. No coffee, tea, juice, alcohol, or milk. JUST water. Because the meals are so laid out for you, there is no eating out. You cannot have a cheat meal. You can’t eat at a birthday party. You can’t go out for coffee or drinks. You just eat what the guide tells you. This was the type of challenge I needed.

So, what does The Reset look like? Breakfast consists mostly of fruit. The first week, you’ll have some eggs, Greek yogurt, and oats. After that, you eat a fruit plate (or drink Shakeology) EVERY day. Tons of berries. Melon. Peaches. Kiwi. Apples. Lunch is always a HUGE salad. We are taking ridiculously large. Like, 3 cups of greens PLUS toppings like bells, cucs, carrots, and jicama. You’ll learn to make your own dressing. Sometimes, you’ll have miso soup with your salad. But that damn salad will take you 30+ minutes to eat. Dinner varies. The first week, you get salmon and rice and beans. No meat after week 2 and no beans and grains during week 3. You basically eat veggies. Spinach, kale, zucchini, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, veggie stir fry, lentil salad, roasted beets or fennel, and lots of other choices. You’ll usually pair it with miso soup. There are a few occasions when you’ll make a bisque. We love those and it was fun learning to make them.

So, there is a TON of food. There were only a few occasions, at night, when I was hungry. But, for the most part, I always felt full. The best part was, I never felt TOO full. After surviving through a massive headache on day one and blurry vision throughout the first couple days, I noticed an immediate change. I was incredibly alert and energized. I felt focused and generally upbeat. The best part was that I would fall right to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and I’d sleep great all night. This was a change for me because since losing my mom, I suffer from major insomnia and nightmares. This was a wonderful change.

Another great part about The Reset is the online community. Beachbody has groups set up for each phase, or week, of the cleanse. Lots of people start each day so you sort of go through the program with the same group of strangers. You share how you’re feeling, tips on how to cook the meals, and excitement at progress. The cool part was the reassurance you’d get. Like, I posted on day one that I had an awful headache and 9 others responded with the same complaint. I started having really vivid and bizarre dreams and someone else posted that they did, too. Plus, it was really cool to see people comment on their progress as they moved on to the next phase.

That part was sort of a double-edged sword. I usually avoid weighing myself because I don’t want to obsess over the number. But with the cleanse, people are posting EVERY day about how much weight they are losing. Most people see the most results during week 1. I only lost 2 pounds after 7 days and I was completely defeated. I didn’t understand why other people were posting bigger numbers. I couldn’t help but compare myself to others. (Don’t worry. I had more success in the following two phases.)

I wouldn’t say that The Reset was hard. I’d say it was… time consuming? Kind of annoying? I like the freedom of eating out when I want. I missed weekend coffee with my husband. I became quite sick of cooking for 30+ minutes EVERY night and sometimes during lunch. Chopping veggies became monotonous. Drinking 100+ ounces of water was boring. BUT, I didn’t ever feel like I was starved or deprived. I felt great.

The best part about finishing The Reset was knowing that I went all in. I can honestly say that I followed that plan carefully and I never once cheated! People posted often about cheating and I am so proud of myself for following through. I will say that the final week was hectic because we were moving and didn’t have a refrigerator. The Reset has something called “In a Crunch” meals, meaning that you can sub them for the planned meal. I admit that we had sweet potatoes and miso soup like 4 days in a row for dinner because we were too tired to cook after all the moving! And I did drink Shakeology for breakfast more than a few times when I started to tire of fruit. But that is all sanctioned. 3 weeks without eating out, ordering pizza, drinking coffee, or snacking. And the fact that I cared enough to actually stick with something is HUGE. I feel like I’ve learned so much about the way I eat and I’m excited to carry that forward.

First of all, I learned that veggies and grains are not just sides. They can be a complete meal! I learned how to use new spices, fresh herbs, and new ingredients in every day food. I trained myself to drink more water and to go to sleep without electronics. I am more aware when I eat about what I’m putting into my body. The mindset has now shifted from “What do I want to eat?” to “What does my body need?” and I think that is pretty cool. But most of all, I beat apathy, at least for a few weeks and I’ll take that victory!

So, what were my results? After 3 weeks of this crazy cleanse, I’m happy to announce that I lost 9 ½ pounds and 4 inches! How crazy is THAT! And it isn’t like I’ve been drinking cayenne pepper and lemon juice. I did this eating REAL food so it isn’t like I just dropped water weight. It has been 4 days since The Reset ended and I haven’t gained any weight back. I did eat pizza a couple days ago and did NOT enjoy it. I hated the way I felt after. I’m not saying I’ll never eat it again but for now, I am still excited to eat well and we’re still cooking from the guidebook! I feel healthy and my clothes fit so much better. I still have weight to lose but I’m excited for the start this gave me! I feel like finishing this has given me the push to commit to a fitness program. This is just the beginning!

Mostly I’m just proud of myself for committing to something and seeing it through. I know grief is something that will always be with me and living through it will be a constant battle. But I feel like this is such a huge step for me. I feel better about myself. My confidence is growing and I’m ready to keep committing. I want to find my passion again and get back to being me.

Note: I’ve already had so many people approach me about trying The Reset. I wanted to blog as I went but life got too crazy. I’ll definitely go back and blog in more detail about the different phases, supplements, and hurdles. I’ll also post lots of the recipes. Contact me if you’d like more info or if you’re ready to join a general accountability group!

 

Beating the Morning Blues

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Let’s face it. We are not ALL morning people. Some might argue that there is no such thing. Is it REALLY possible to just pop out of bed in the morning with a huge grin and instant pep in your step? Do people actually enjoy waking up early? I mean, who doesn’t LOVE sleep?

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Okay, so maybe you aren’t afraid to admit that you are NOT a morning person. You loathe your alarm clock, despise that first inkling of light that peaks in through your curtains, and even cringe when you hear, “good morning” or any form of communication before you lift both lids. But what if I told you that your disdain of mornings just might be setting you up to have a miserable day?

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Here’s the thing. Like it or not, we’ve all gotta get up. Every day. And if we wake up miserable, we are likely to carry that with us all day. So, we have to figure out a way to ENJOY mornings. My solution to this is to use the very first 5 minutes out of bed to get things rolling. Here is my system.

  1. The very first thing I do is freshen up. I brush my teeth and wash my face. Seriously, BEFORE I do anything else. My first stop is ALWAYS my sink. This tells my mind and my body that I AM UP.

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  1. I open up all the windows in my house. Blinds, curtains, windows. I let the light and cool breeze flow into my home.

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  1. Next, I light a candle. (Or 7.) Something subtle. A burning candle always puts me at ease.

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  1. I turn on some tunes. I choose a record that isn’t too crazy but won’t put me back to sleep! Lately, it has been The Eagles.

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  1. Lastly, I take a DEEP breath and enjoy the atmosphere I just created. By now, all of my senses are awake. Oh, not all! COFFEE!

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Okay, so like I said, I do these things in the first 5 minutes after I get out of bed. I have instantly created an atmosphere in my home that is relaxing and refreshing. My spirits are high and I’m ready to get stuff done. Now, here’s the thing. We all live different lives. Maybe you have to go to work really early. Maybe you have kids to attend to first thing. Maybe you need to wake up early to get a workout in. Maybe you don’t have any obligations in the morning! Regardless of your situation, THIS is my biggest tip.

Wake up early enough to RELAX.

Of course you’ll hate waking up in the morning if you are immediately stressed. Force yourself to get up 10 minutes earlier than usual so you can enjoy the morning. I promise, it will be worth it!

One more thing. None of these tips will work if you wake up to a messy house. I’ll share some tips on home organization and a simple cleaning schedule in a later post. But for now, spend 15 minutes before bed picking up your house. Put shoes, laundry, books, toys, make up, away. Load the dishwasher. Take out the trash. Waking up to a dirty house is no fun.

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So it seems that we have a theme going on here. Spend a FEW minutes doing some stuff and you can set yourself up for success. 15 minutes at night straightening up. 10 minutes in the morning relaxing. I’ll keep adding ways to fill your spare minutes once you master these 2 things.

Now, I CHALLENGE you to try the morning routine for the rest of the week. Let me know how it goes! <3

The Thing About Grief

squarepic_2016417112856334Loss is inevitable. Every one of us will lose someone at some point in our lives. I lost my grandpa, my uncle, and my nanny when I was a little girl. A favorite patient of mine at the old folks home where I volunteered died when I was a teen. My childhood cat, who lived for 18 long years, died in my twenties. I lost my mom before I turned 30 and my dad died the year before I was married. So I guess you could say that I know a thing or two about loss and heartache. But to define grief, to explain how it changes me, to express the way it makes me feel, is nearly impossible. There are tons of quotes on grief. There are books about it. Studies on it. Every one has something to say on the topic. I mean, the 5 steps of grief are common knowledge. But the thing about grief is that it isn’t just one thing.

Grief stuns you. It takes your breath away. It blinds you from everything beautiful and covers up all of the light. It drowns out the sounds of laughter and magic and music. It clouds your brain, messes with your memories, and makes it nearly impossible to focus. It is scary. It is heavy. It is constant.

And yeah, there are 5 stages. But they aren’t linear. It isn’t like you graduate from each stage and move on to the next, eventually mastering the sadness. Some days, I experience denial and anger and depression within the same couple of hours. Sometimes I’m stuck in bargaining for days. I rarely hit acceptance and if I do, it is quickly followed by one of the other four stages. I remember writing this blog post six months ago but I deleted it because when I read it back, it sounded so damn angry. And I should have posted it. Because that’s just real life. I’m angry. A lot. Sometimes I can’t see past it. And of course when I snap out of it, I can’t believe I acted that way. But I did and I will again after some time passes. Maybe weeks, possibly hours later.

I think one of the hardest parts of grief is apathy. Grief does this thing where it takes away every part of you that makes you care about literally anything. Seriously, nothing matters. And you know that you don’t care, but YOU DON’T CARE about that either. I was in a pretty bad place about six months ago and was completely overwhelmed with apathy. I didn’t care about what I did, what I ate, who I spent time with, what others were going through, or what would happen to me. It wasn’t like I was actively trying to not care. I just didn’t. There were days when I would sit on the couch in the morning and hours would pass without me noticing. And I’d just be sitting there. My mind would actually shut off. And the little things, well, they didn’t exist. I didn’t notice how things tasted or sounded or made me feel. Everything was grey and I didn’t care.

I eventually snapped out of this. I don’t really even remember what changed in me. It had happened a few times before and I could pinpoint the moment. But this time, I’m not sure. I can say that it was like waking up from a coma. I looked around to see that life was still going on around me. But in the time that I was checked out, I changed. My body, my mind, my everything. I gained a good amount of weight. I was unhealthy and it showed in my body, my hair, my skin. And my confidence sank. I have always been incredibly self confident. I mean, I’ve always gone up and down with weight and it isn’t that I think I’m perfect. I’ve just been comfortable in my own skin. But for the first time, I wasn’t. I felt weak and ugly and I actually hated looking in the mirror. My emotions were now manifesting in my pride and self-confidence.

So, I looked around me and I took inventory of what I had. Of course I noticed that my sweet husband was still here, in love with me as always. Patient, kind, understanding, loving. He was sad and he needed ME, but he was there. I thought about the friends and family members who checked on me on a regular basis, the people who let me know they were always thinking of me. I thought about the people who counted on me with their health and fitness journeys and I realized that they were still there, waiting for me to help them. And so I just started. Communicating. Opening up. Listening. Loving on others. Helping those who needed it. Working out and eating healthy. Writing. Spending time doing things that mattered. And it was a conscious choice, every single day. I would feel the apathy start to creep up on me and I’d run from it.

The upside to apathy is that you don’t feel much. I think that is probably why it hit me so hard. I actually couldn’t deal with my losses and my mind sort of shut off. So now that the apathy is (mostly) gone, I feel everything again. And it hurts. And I go through the 5 stages, over and over again. But I’m learning that that isn’t ever going to change. Yes, I’ll get stronger over time and I’ll learn to deal with it. But it won’t go away. I find myself worried when I get sad sometimes that THIS moment might be the one that sends me back into that dark place. I keep waiting for the free fall on this roller coaster of life. And I know it is naive to say that it won’t come. I just hope, every day, that I’ll be able to hold on and come right back up!

So that’s it. That’s the thing about grief. It isn’t linear and there isn’t a cure. No amount of time changes what happened. And I can’t always sugarcoat it because it IS sad and it needs to be said. So that when people experience loss, they don’t feel like they are losing their mind because their grief takes them to such dark places. I wan’t people to understand that YES, I AM OKAY. Of course I am! Life is good. But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a part of me now. And the thing is, people won’t understand. Of course they love you and they are sad for you, but they’ll never really get it. Even if they’ve experienced loss themselves. Because our grief is just that. It is ours. But I think that is where the strength comes from. It has to. Because we HAVE to rise. And we do.

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Dancing in Heaven

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One of my very favorite things about my dad is that he was a dancer. I’m not talking ballroom here. I’m talking middle of the kitchen after he served himself a GIANT bowl of ice cream, up from the couch after the 9ers scored a touchdown, or over my bed as he pulled open my shades and yelled, “RISE AND SHINE!” at 8am on a Saturday. And he wore hospital pants for his pajamas (because they were incredibly comfortable) so I picture those surgical green scrubs dancing around our house. It’s one of those images that my mind always goes to when I think of my dad. And when I picture him tired and weak and pale from the cancer, I squeeze my eyes shut and force that image to the forefront. And for a moment, I’m taken back to a time when both of my parents were healthy and alive and when the thought of that changing wasn’t ever present. When I think of my dad now, I like to think that he is somewhere, dancing. And now that my mom has left us, I hope that she is up there, too. I don’t really see her dancing. It is more like watching him and laughing and clapping gleefully. That’s my new image.

As a little girl, I was incredibly close to God. Seriously, he was my best friend. He was always with me. I talked to him all day long, just as I would with a tangible friend. As life happened, He was always my one constant. It wasn’t until the last 8 years or so that things changed. My friendship with God. My religious affiliations. My complete understanding in His plan. And I’m sure a lot of that can be attributed to the loss of both my parents. I get that. But it really is so much more. But today, that isn’t the point. Today I simply say thatI miss Him. And that I’m still, and forever, grateful.

Now I’m not looking for others to read this and immediately bear their testimony. I actually hope that doesn’t happen. I’ve started a new post on my relationship with God over the years and I’ll post it when I’m really ready. I wrote it with the hope that it will give some clarity to those who don’t understand my choices. But writing it did so much more for me. It made me start to feel His presence again. I love that. Anyway, more on that another day.

The point of this post is to address today. I woke up with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Seriously, like a heavy blanket over my soul. I have no doubt that it is because of today and what it means for my family. I know, with complete certainty, that families are eternal. We only get such a small time together here on earth and that is incredibly hard to understand. But one day, because of His ultimate sacrifice, we will be reunited.

The week before my dad died, he went to church with me.

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I should mention that he was completely against my chosen religion and had never attended a service with me. But he went and the opening hymn was “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.” There is a line in the song that says,

He lives and grants me daily breath.

He lives, and I shall conquer death.

My dad broke down in tears because at that point, he was looking for a miracle and he took that line as hope that God would give him another chance and he’d conquer death and live. I knew that it meant that even if he didn’t make it here on earth, he would conquer death by receiving eternal life, BECAUSE of the resurrection. And in that moment, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Quite like today.

Now, I’m not one to preach but the thing is, THIS knowledge is what holds everything together for me. It is the idea that one day I get to hear my mom’s laugh and see my dad’s smile. And that lights me up and carries me through. So on really hard days, I picture all of us, together. Dancing it out in surgical green hospital pants. Free of pain. Free of heartache. Full of joy. Forever. That is what today means for me.

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I know that my Redeemer lives.

What comfort this sweet sentence gives!

He lives and grants me daily breath.

He lives, and I shall conquer death.

He lives my mansion to prepare.

He lives to bring me safely there.

 

I hope that we can all feel this peace, today and every day.

A Swift Kick

It’s been a long time since my last post. I started this blog with the hopes of using my writing as an outlet for everything I was feeling after losing my parents. After bottling up my feelings for 6+ years over the loss of my dad, I was determined to do things differently when I lost my mom in February. My husband and I left our lives in Utah and moved to California to be closer to my family. He left a job he loved and I did the same, not knowing how much my classes and my students had become a part of me. We moved into an adorable and ridiculously small cottage in the Central Valley and essentially started over. The first few weeks were wonderful. I felt like I was myself for the first time in a long time. I was excited to be closer to my family and I felt like I was getting to know my husband all over again. I was working out and spending my time helping others get healthy. I was allowing myself to be open and really FEEL the losses for the first time. I was willing to talk about it and write about it and was working through it.

I think I had this fantasy that if I did those things, I would be stronger and I would be able to work through it. So, I was going through the process of revisiting my past in hopes of some closure. I went back to my hometown. I visited my grandparents at the cemetery, drove past my old school, and even sat in front of my childhood home for awhile. It was…weird. I felt emotionless. As I drove out town, I thought that maybe I didn’t feel much because I was okay. I had moved on. The next week was the 7 year anniversary of my dad’s death. I decided to drive to the city and visit his grave, for the first time since the service.

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I really prepared for it. I looked at pictures of us the night before, something I NEVER do. I made a play list of all of his favorite songs to listen to on the way to visit him. These songs were on my “Do not listen to” list since he left. I bought flowers and brought a blanket, thinking I’d spend some time talking to him. I was ready.

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And then something happened. On my way to visit him, I crossed the Bay Bridge. I was listening to “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” and there was this moment where I looked over and saw the ocean. My mom wanted her ashes to be spread over that very ocean so that whenever we saw it, we’d think of her. I’d seen the ocean many times since we did just that, and I’d come to a place of peace with it. But at that moment, something hit me. I wanted to pretend like I was going to spend the day with my dad and that I was okay that it was a cemetery and not actually him. I wanted to feel my mom’s presence as I drove over that bridge and take it as a sign that she was with me. But I didn’t. Something clicked and everything changed inside me.

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Both of my parents are dead. Gone forever. They both suffered horrific deaths and I was the one who had to decide to let them both die. That’s just the reality. I wasn’t at peace. I was on my way to sit on a piece of grass where my big, strong dad’s ashes were buried. And I was looking over at this massive body of water where my sweet mom’s ashes had been poured into. And there was no peace in any of it. Just an overwhelming sense of fury.

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And after that, things were different. I’m not proud of it, but I fell into this ever-sinking hole of complete sadness. At first, I couldn’t shut my mind off. Images of my incredibly sick and weak parents flooded my mind, especially at night. I couldn’t turn it off. I quickly got to a point where I felt nothing. It was like my body was going through the motions of everyday life but my head and my heart were gone. I shut down. I went from crying all day to doing nothing at all. I would sit on the couch and then all of a sudden it would be 4 hours later. Like my mind would just shut off. I think it had to because I couldn’t handle it anymore. I honestly could no longer deal with the pain. I completely stopped everything. I didn’t care about how I looked or felt so I stopped working out and eating well. I tried writing but everything I wrote was so angry and I didn’t want to believe that that was how I felt. I stopped talking, to Cody and to my friends. I stopped caring. I couldn’t understand the purpose in anything. I allowed myself to just disappear.

Then one day, about 6 weeks ago, my husband came home from work and we had a conversation. I won’t share the details of it, but basically I realized that HE wasn’t happy. My sweet, patient, selfless husband who had given everything up for me wasn’t happy. And that rocked me back into reality. He is my entire world and the thought of him being anything but completely happy made me more sad than anything else I was feeling.

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And that was a swift kick in my ass. So, I snapped out of it. I was still feeling all of the things I had been feeling but I made a decision to move forward. To quit being selfish. To get my life back.

I recently read this article that my brother sent to me, “The Day I’ll Stop Grieving” (everyone who has ever lost someone or who knows someone who has should read it) and I realized that grief isn’t a process that I have to work through. There isn’t this other side to get to. And as much as I want to overcome these horrible tragedies, that’s simply not possible.

…I’ve realized that Grief doesn’t just visit you for a horrible, yet temporary holiday. It moves in, puts down roots—and it never leaves. Yes as time passes, eventually the tidal waves subside for longer periods, but they inevitably come crashing in again without notice, when you are least prepared. With no warning they devastate the landscape of your heart all over again, leaving you bruised and breathless and needing to rebuild once more… You are forced to face your inability to do anything but feel it all and fall apart. It’s incredibly difficult in those quiet moments, when you realize so long after the loss that you’re still not the same person you used to be; that this chronic soul injury just won’t heal up. This is tough medicine to take, but more difficult still, is coming to feel quite sure that you’ll never be that person again. It’s humbling to know you’ve been internally altered: Death has interrupted your plans, served your relationships, and rewritten the script for you…I’ve walked enough of this road to realize that it is my road now. This is not just a momentary detour, it’s the permanent state of affairs. I will have many good days and many moments of gratitude and times of welcome respite, but I’m never getting over this loss… The day I’ll stop grieving –is the day I’ll stop breathing.”

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I’m not back to myself yet and I don’t know when I will be. Probably never. But the “fake it ‘til ya make it” process seems to be working wonders. So yes, I’m incredibly sad. And no, I don’t know how I’ll get through it. But I know I will. I know it is easy for people to tell me what I’m going through is normal and to see a therapist or turn to God. And I appreciate the concern, I do. But I need to decide what is right for me.

So here is the silver lining. I love my husband and my big brother so much and while I’m horrified at the thought of going through the rest of my life without my parents, I know that I have so many wonderful experiences ahead of me. So, I keep going. I allow myself to feel everything I don’t want to. To be sad but to live through it. Mostly, I’m thinking about the relationships that truly matter to me and that I’ve sort of let go of and I’m trying to rebuild them. I’m forming lasting friendships and I’m getting back to who I am. I’m reading more. I’m working out again. I’m starting to pray a bit. So that’s it. It isn’t much and it isn’t pretty. But it’s okay. It’s life. This thing we call grief isn’t definable. You can’t break it down into 5 stages and you can’t control it. You just have to figure out how to live with it. And to truly love life. That’s the goal. I think I see now that “The day I’ll stop grieving – is the day I’ll stop breathing” and that I have to figure out how to live each day with that grief.

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