Finding Yourself Between A Rock And A Hard Place

I find myself in this position currently. A position where I don’t quite know exactly what to do. One where my head says one thing and my heart something completely different. So, let me give you a little backstory.

A little over a year ago, I finally convinced my husband to see a doctor about his chronic pain. He also told me that he was noticing some changes in his mental abilities, most specifically, his memory. After a battery of tests, and a few months later, he was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. The diagnosis COMPLETELY rocked our worlds and turned it all upside down, sideways, and diagonal. We did some research to find that what the doctor was telling us basically meant that he had a tops of 9-10 years left. Being 33 years old at the time of diagnosis made it another hard pill to swallow. We did all that we were supposed to do. We even went and got 2nd and 3rd opinions.

These other opinions actually resulted in the removal of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis; however, we now do not have an “official” diagnosis. What is now suspected can only be diagnosed through an autopsy. We are not looking for anything like that any time soon, obviously. But what it seems like the consensus is pointing to is something called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)…just think of former Pittsburgh Steelers player, Mike Webster to get an idea of what I am talking about. This disease comes from MANY brain injuries over time, so a lot of professional football players have been diagnosed with this same disorder in the last decade and is actually how it was found. If you haven’t already, you can check out what it is (a little bit) by checking out the movie Concussion staring Will Smith. There are also documentaries and publications on CTE for more information.

There is no known cure for this and unfortunately none of the doctor’s that my husband has seen knows any way to treat it. 😦 But we have been taking each day one at a time trying to do our best with what we can. What can this do to a person? Well, aside from the aforementioned memory loss, those who suffered from CTE eventually ended up committing suicide. Prior to that unwanted outcome, there is a lot of anger problems, memory loss, speech problems, problems coping with stress, and can come to violent tendencies or behaviors to name a few. That is where I am stuck right now.

Over this past weekend, what was supposed to be a great relaxing weekend for this mamma turned out to be the very worst Mother’s Day weekend I have ever had. Saturday, my hubby offered to help me with dinner, but never showed up in the kitchen as he was “too busy” playing his video game. As I was getting to the point that dinner was nearly ready to serve, I heard my dryer kick off. I called into the other room and asked if he would be able to help me out because the dryer was done. He agreed after saying he had 2 minutes left. 10-15 minutes passed and he kicked the dryer back on. I turned to him and said, all I needed was either help finishing this up or fold the laundry so I could finish dinner. Apparently that was the wrong thing to say as it resulted in WWIII in my kitchen. He completely blew up! Yelling, getting right within inches of my face, calling me some of the nastiest names possible, told me that I needed to leave because nobody wanted me around, and then picked up a ceramic platter as if he was going to swing it toward my head (until he stopped himself…thankfully). I suggested that he go live with his mother (who lives next door) to which he repeated that nobody wanted me here and that I should be the one to leave because he was not going to and that he was staying for our kids.

This is where I now don’t know what to do. I know that it isn’t him. I know that this is the disease causing these outbursts and the behavior. My problem is that I also need to think about my safety and more importantly the safety of my children. While this has never happened before, knowing the nature of the disease and what is to come, I cannot put my children or myself at risk. I also cannot let my children grow up thinking that is how a man is supposed to treat a woman, or that a couple talks to one another in that manner. A large part of me wants to take my kids and go. Get them out of this place while still allowing him to be a part of their lives, obviously, as I would never keep them from their father. But knowing that this is stemming from a disease and not really who he is, the other part of me thinks that it would be best to stay and help him through this. After all, our wedding vows were “in sickness and in health, until death do us part”.

This is one situation I never thought I would be in ever in my life. It will take a lot of thought, a lot of discussion, and a lot of soul searching to determine what would be best for the kids and I. As this unfolds, I promise to keep you updated. I just ask for some prayers, because no matter what happens, I am sure this is going to be one of the hardest decisions in my marriage to date. Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, good vibes, and of course for sticking with me through this.

April = Autism Awareness Month, But It Really Shouldn’t Stop When April Does.

April = Autism Awareness Month, But It Really Shouldn’t Stop When April Does.

Hello again! I know it has been a hot minute since I posted last, but I have really been racking my brain to come up with something that would be of interest. Then I decided to just forget it and write about something that interests me and if y’all don’t like it…speed on before you get peed on. LOL Ok, so that is not really how I feel, but I just decided to write about things that are important in my life and hope that you find some value in it.

April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day. It is a day that different people, cities, companies all show support for autism research and the families living with autism by either wearing blue, using blue lights, etc. It is truly a beautiful thing when you see SO MANY people wearing blue in support! Why does this mean so much to me? My 9 year old son was diagnosed with autism when he was just about to turn 3 years old. It was the most devastating news I have had as a new mother. He is my first born son and was just so perfect in every way. I just couldn’t have imagined that anything be “wrong” with him. In all reality I did see the “signs”, but I was in denial and chose to ignore them because when I did bring it to the attention of his pediatrician when he was 6 months old and noticed that he started rocking a lot in his highchair, I was told that it was just a “phase” and that he would “grow out of it”. I was a psychology major in college and knew that something was “off”, but was told that “it’s just a phase” and “he’ll grow out of it”. (Well, I am still waiting for him to “grow out of it 8.5 years later. I don’t think that is happening.)

As time went on, less and less of his milestones were being met. He continued to get further and further behind. He had started babbling, but by the time he was 18 months old, that started to regress as well. My husband kept telling me that we needed to get our son tested, but I kept writing it off as this “phase” that the doctor mentioned. He was my first child. Who was I to question a doctor? Someone that is trusted to take care of the health of my son! My husband kept insisting and finally not long before his 3rd birthday in December of 2009, he was diagnosed with autism. I BAWLED my eyes out for 4 days straight! (I’m not even joking…constant sobbing, red puffy eyes, you know…that ugly cry for 4 consecutive days.) I blamed myself. I didn’t know how something like this could have happened. I didn’t understand how if I did EVERYTHING “right” during my pregnancy and there was NO history of Autism on either side of our families, how my son was “not normal” by the standards we are given for our children. Why didn’t he walk at the same time other kids his age did? Why did he rock ALL THE TIME? Why couldn’t he say “Mommy” or “Momma”? As it turns out…his pediatrician was wrong. It was not a PHASE. He was not going to “grow out of it”. Hindsight being what it is, I realize now that I was a fool for taking her word for it and not going with my gut instinct when he was 6 months old when I recognized the rocking as something that was A-typical of children his age. As soon as we could, we got my son in to see a Developmental Pediatrician and also got him on Social Security (Autism is determined a disability by the Social Security Administration) and got him in Speech and Occupational therapy. We also enrolled him in a pre-school program that placed special needs children with “typical” children so he would be in a learning environment to help with his social skills and with teachers and school therapists that could do more for his education than I could do at home since I was babysitting other children out of my home and had my daughter to care for as well. His first day of school, as I was trying to get him dressed and ready to go get on the school bus, it broke my heart to see him hiding under the table. He didn’t want to leave. I understand. I mean, it was a big step for such a little guy. He was going to go somewhere without me or his sister and be around a group of complete strangers. It was then that the most beautiful sound came from this frightened little babe. It was then that he said “Mommy” for the first time. He said “No, Mommy”. I immediately started crying! I was so happy to hear him call me that and actually know what it meant. But my heart broke even more because I knew he didn’t want to go. I so badly wanted to keep him home with me. I didn’t want to let him go. I wanted to hold him and cuddle with him and hear that beautiful little voice call me that ALL DAY LONG. Alas, I knew that the better option for him was to send him off to school in that bright yellow school bus.

Fast forward 6 years. Marcus now has a VERY LARGE vocabulary! He doesn’t exactly pronounce all of his words correctly and still has a noticeable speech delay, but in all reality I don’t care about that. I am just happy that he is able to express himself with his words and doesn’t mumble or “talk” with his mouth closed as much as he did when he was very young. He still does from time to time, but after a simple reminder he starts using his words again. He also has difficulty with things like writing that involves his fine motor skills. And like most kids, shies away from anything he finds difficult like reading, writing, and any form of math. He works hard though and that is all we ask of him. We just ask that he tries his very best.We talk about his having autism and I let him know how proud of him and how smart he is as much as I can. I let him know that just because something is hard for him that other kids find easier, doesn’t mean that he gives up, but that we simply need to find another way to do things so he can understand and make it easier for him. He still has delays in reading and math as I mentioned earlier, but I can say that he is doing much better with them than he was before and probably than he would have had we never had him tested.

I have a simple request from you. Please do your part and educate yourself on what autism is and how to work with people with autism. You may not realize it, but the odds of you knowing someone with autism or even working with someone with autism are pretty high. According to an organization that has been doing research and support on autism for many years, Autism Speaks, reports that autism is on the rise and that there are now 1 in every 68 children diagnosed with autism. If you or someone you know has a child that you may think is displaying signs of autism, might I also suggest getting testing done. The earlier a diagnosis can be done, the better odds there are of early intervention helping the child. While there is no cure for autism and no real known cause, early intervention is very important in their development. April is Autism Awareness Month, but please stay aware year round and spread your awareness. You’ll be surprised how many people have no idea, even if they have people close to them who have autism.

 

 

 

Women and Weight Lifting

This is something that is very touchy for some women. I truly believe that this is changing with more women these days, but there are still some women who have misconceptions about lifting weights. Now, when I say “weight lifting” I don’t mean going to the gym and all of a sudden becoming this beast of a body builder or anything. I simply mean that women too should lift weights even if they are  3 or 5 lbs. That is still considered weight lifting, but if it makes it a little easier to wrap your head around…let’s just call it resistance training. 🙂

There is a common misconception that if women participate in resistance training, they will get bulky and look “manly”. This is just NOT the truth…just get that out of your head now. Women do not have the same levels of testosterone that men do and so your body is not made to get bulky or look like a man’s body whatsoever. Now that that is out of the way, let me give you some reasons that women SHOULD get involved with resistance training. Well…10 reasons to be exact.

  1. BURN MORE FAT! Yep, you read that right! You can burn more fat when adding resistance to your workouts. Intense weight training causes your metabolism to stay elevated and that means you keep burning fat for several hours AFTER your workout is completed. When doing cardio workouts (those that most people think burns the most fat) you actually stop burning fat shortly after you are finished.
  2. CHANGE YOUR BODY SHAPE! As I mentioned before, women DO NOT bulk up because we do not have enough muscle building hormones to gain mass like men do. With that being said, you still can trim down with resistance training. Losing 3% of body fat can equal a total loss of 3″ off of your hips and thighs. What woman doesn’t want to do that?! Sculpting muscle by using weights creates a sleek physique over all. This isn’t just in the hips and thighs like most women are looking for, but also the arms, the back, tummy, neckline, and even gets rid of the multiple chin look. How does it get rid of multiple chins, right? I mean, its not like you are going to be using your neck or head to lift any weights. The appearance of multiple chins will slowly disappear simply because resistance training will burn fat all around your body. You cannot just target one section of your body.
  3. BOOST YOUR METABOLISM! More muscle means a faster metabolism! As we age, women lose muscle mass at increasing rates. When you diet without weight training, up to 25% of the weight loss may be muscle loss. 😦 Resistance training while dieting can help preserve and even rebuild muscle fibers. Doing this means that more muscle increases metabolism and the amount of calories burned all day long.
  4. GET STRONGER AND MORE CONFIDENT! According to the Mayo Clinic, regular weight training can make you stronger by 50% in a 6 month period. Not only that, just being stronger will build your self-esteem and confidence. I know that works for me any way. I love nothing more than to see the look on a man’s face when he offers to help move a heavy object for me and I tell him “No thanks. I got this”, and then get to show off my own strength. 🙂
  5. BUILD STRONG BONES! Just like muscles, bones get bigger and stronger with use (when forced to bear weight). Stronger bones prevent osteoporosis, increases flexibility, and balance.
  6. FIGHT DEPRESSION! This is true with any kind of workout that you are doing. Working out/exercising releases endorphins (happy hormones) which helps make you feel better! 🙂
  7. IMPROVE SPORTS FITNESS! Now, I realize that not everyone will still be playing or participating in sports at every age of their life. But, by saying that you can improve your sports fitness, I don’t mean that you have to be an athlete. Resistance training helps in ALL physical activities with your family, friends, and loved ones such as biking, skiing, or just playing with your kids! You won’t find yourself thinking “I don’t know how these kids do it” or “I don’t have the energy to play with the kids like I would have if I were younger.”
  8. REDUCE INJURIES AND ARTHRITIS! Now this one I can ABSOLUTELY speak to from personal experience. I was told after 2 knee surgeries 13 years ago that I will have arthritis in my right knee forever and will be a better weather predictor than the meteorologists on the news. For a long time, that was very true. In the last year and a half, I have gotten back into resistance training. I use free weights as well as a resistance band, and have also used my own body weight as resistance for some exercises. I can say with all honesty, that my weather predicting days are pretty much behind me. My knee doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to when it rains or snows any longer. Resistance training improves joint stability and builds stronger ligaments and tendons which is why the arthritis virtually goes away. 🙂
  9. GET HEART HEALTHY! More than 480,000 women die each year from heart disease. 😦 It is the #1 killer of women 25 and up. Weight lifting increases the “good” cholesterol and decreases the “bad” cholesterol and blood pressure. Just 30 minutes a week of resistance training can decrease the risk of developing heart disease by 23% compared to those who do not lift weights. On this new program I am doing, I am doing this for 30 minutes to an hour 6 days per week. So, every day I must be doing wonders for that little heart of mine! 😉
  10. DEFEND AGAINST DIABETES! Diabetes runs in both sides of my family. So this one is a big one for me. Resistance training improves glucose utilization by 23%. 16 weeks of strength training can improve glucose metabolism in a way that is comparable to taking diabetes medications. More lean mass that one has makes the body more efficient at removing glucose from the blood. Thus decreasing your chances of becoming diabetic. Do yourself a favor and get into a healthy routine. Your body will thank you for it!

So there ya have it, ladies! Guys, I encourage you to share this with the ladies in your lives as well. Resistance training is just another part of overall health, just like good hygiene and proper nutrition. It really should be a non-negotiable in everyone’s life, if you ask me. And you must have if you made it this far. 😉 Thanks for hangin’ in there with me. I hope this helps and if you have any questions about resistance training tips, equipment, programs, or anything like that in general, feel free to ask. I am happy to share. 🙂

The importance of Body Image

The importance of Body Image

So, I found that I probably do my best thinking between 5:30 am and 6 am while I am on my way to work in the morning. When there is nobody there to distract me, not even the radio (weird, I know…but I don’t listen to the radio in the car at all). This morning, as I was making the trek into the office, I was flooded with emotion and thoughts about my daughter. She is a very sweet little girl who wears her emotions on her sleeve. Last night, she started to cry as she told me that a little girl at her swimming lessons class laughed at her for hesitating before jumping off the starting block into the deep end of the pool. It really hurt her feelings. Now, how does this lead into body image, right? Nobody said my way of thinking is linear. LOL

I started to think about when I was younger then and how people made me feel from time to time. How I think too many young people are made to feel from time to time. Society tells us that in order to be “attractive” we need to look a certain way. We need to dress in a certain way. It has taken me many, MANY years to work through it, but who the hell cares? I mean seriously! When we pass away and are standing in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, do you think that we will be turned away from Heaven for being overweight, or shopping at Goodwill? No, I certainly don’t. But that is what we are told. Young girls believe that they need to look like the fashion models who walk the runways rail thin. Young men are told that they need to build muscle and look like those ginormous body builders that are on stage. All young people are under the impression that they need to shop at expensive stores and dress in a certain way to be part of the “in crowd” and be considered attractive. I think that is very, very sad.

I recall when I was young, my mom being so concerned about what I was going to look like when I grew up. She said to me on many occasions “I hope you take after me when you get older. The women on the other side of your family are pear shaped”. She reminded me what seemed like ALL THE TIME that my butt was getting big and that she didn’t want me to be a “wide glide”. So, how do you think I saw myself as a developing teenager? Did I see myself as “pretty”? Nope! I was just worried about making sure I didn’t get a big butt! I was more worried about the size of my pants and my thighs than I was anything else. Am I over that? NOPE! I’m working on it! I understand that what I eat and how I exercise effects my appearance, but I am more concerned with just being healthy at this point. But there are times…a lot of times…that I look at myself in the mirror and am a bit grossed out by what is looking back at me. The reality is though…I’ve had 3 children. My body isn’t going to look the same as it did when I was 21 with my 6 pack abs. My tummy isn’t flat, my thighs rub together when I walk. I was even embarrassed the other night ALONE in my living room working out when I heard my thighs slap together. I actually stopped and looked around to make sure that nobody else heard that God awful sound (nobody did, they weren’t even in the room). Sure, I have goals to have a flat tummy again, but I have to also keep in mind that my body was stretched out and created 3 little miracles. If I never have a flat tummy again…that is ok.

My biggest concern goes to our children. I make a very conscious effort to not talk negatively about my body in front of my children. The way I see it…if they see that I am happy with my body, they will not have any reason to talk negatively about their own. At least, if they do…it doesn’t come from any negative influence that I have had on them. I also make sure that I tell them on a regular basis how proud they make me. How beautiful/handsome they are. I tell them how smart they are. I try to make sure that when we talk about them specifically, it is all in a positive manner. This is just my small way of trying to make a difference in the future. I never want my daughter to look at herself and feel the way that I did as I was growing up. I feel it is important to instill confidence in our children, and a part of that is how we view ourselves. There is nothing more important than loving yourself first. If you can’t be comfortable in your own skin and love who you are…how can you make anybody else happy?

So here I am, sharing my body image story and showing that while I may not be perfect. Here I am. Take me or leave me. Now, let’s just make sure our children do not suffer from this affliction like I am sure most of us have.

The bumps along the way.

Hey again! So the other day, I gave you a little glimpse into who I am and what has brought me to where I am today. Well…kinda. I didn’t quite get to the “where I am today” part. There are A LOT of bumps along the way, as I am sure you can completely relate to. Life is a tough road, but you really need to make the most of the journey. No matter if you are 16 or 96, I am sure that you have had a few bumps of your own. Some that maybe others don’t think is that big of a deal and may even tell you that you are being “overly dramatic” or “making a mountain out of a mole hill”, but what they don’t understand is that from your perspective it may just be THAT BIG of a deal. Urgency and the size and scope of things that happen to us really lies in the eye and perspective of the beholder. If it is an outsider looking in, or someone who has been through something very similar to what you have gone through, they may not think it is as big as you do, but you have to keep in mind that they are not living in it now and just take what they say with a grain of salt. So…anywho…I am rambling again…there was a point to all of this.

I want to walk you through the more recent years and bring you up to speed on me. As I mentioned the other day, my husband and I have 4 children. What I didn’t mention is that prior to my son being born, I had a miscarriage. Technically, what the doctors call it is a blighted ovum. It is easier for me to just say miscarriage as to not get a bunch of snide remarks and funny looks because when people hear “blighted ovum” they tried to tell me that I “wasn’t really pregnant”. That irritates me more than anything! I was pregnant and it was real! A blighted ovum is when an egg is fertilized and attaches itself to the uterine wall, but nothing else develops. It just remains a small yolk sack. Because there was no developing fetus or no heartbeat, many people tried to tell me that it wasn’t real. But, I will tell you that the pain (physical and emotional) was very real. I went through what a lot of women go through when miscarrying a pregnancy, and didn’t get out of bed for 3 days just crying. My husband stayed home from work for those 3 days to be with me because he knew how badly I wanted a child of my own. He knew what kind of toll that was taking on me and actually, almost lost his job over it. Thankfully, that didn’t happen! I went through some horrible thoughts though. I thought that my dream of mothering my own children was going to be just a dream and not something that could have been real. Much like my dream of working for the Feds after my knee injury. Thankfully, that was not the case and the next month, we conceived again.

When I realized I was pregnant again, I was terrified! I found out I was pregnant when I was 11 weeks along. This was just as far along as I was when I lost the first one. I called the doctor and was able to get in right away for an ultra sound. You cannot imagine my relief when my husband and I was able to sit in the room and listen to our baby’s heartbeat for the first time! On the way home, he even asked if he was allowed to start telling people now that we knew that the baby was OK. 🙂

I did everything I could to make sure that this baby was going to stay with me. I ate all of the right foods, made sure that I didn’t drink anything bad and maintained a very healthy pregnancy. In December of that year, my son was born after an induction and eventual C-Section. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life and I remember holding him one night alone in my hospital room just smelling his small head and cuddling his soft skin. I cried as I whispered to him how in love I was with him and that I had waited for him for so long. He was my little angel, the answer to my prayers.

He was a very good baby, but we had noticed some things as he was growing older that raised some “flags” for us. As a brand new mother, I took what the pediatrician said as fact and in hindsight wish I would have listened to my instincts. He was hitting the right mile stones at first and then when he was about 6 months old, I noticed that he started rocking hard in his highchair. In college, I was a forensic psychology major and we did go over several mental illnesses and disabilities, his behavior led me to think about autism, but the doctor told me it was just a phase and he would “grow out of it”. Like I mentioned, I took her word as gold and wrote it off as nothing. Thankfully, my husband did not take it that way at all. Instead of crawling on all 4’s, my son did this “army crawl” type of thing by letting his legs drag behind him while he used his elbows to pull himself along. He then started to pull himself up and was finally walking by 13/14 months old. By 18 months old, my son’s verbal skills started to regress. He “talked” with his mouth closed and a lot of his speech was just mumbles. My husband kept asking to take him to get checked out because there was something wrong developmentally. I kept turning him down, saying that the doctor said that he was fine. (He still had not grown out of his rocking phase) Around the 2 year mark, he started having TERRIBLE night terrors. He would wake up in the middle of the night SCREAMING and there was nothing we could do to calm him down. The only thing that worked was my husband wrapping his arms and legs around this small boy until he was completely spent. Eventually, it led to my husband letting our son fall asleep with him on the couch and then me taking him to bed. Sometimes they just slept on the couch together, just to keep our son calm. By the time our son was about to turn 3 years old, he was barely saying 5 words. Our daughter, who is just 1 year younger than him, was developmentally already surpassing him. I couldn’t deny it any longer and my husband took him to be evaluated. The results came back and that is when we found that my perfect little boy had Autism. I was crushed! I bawled my eyes out for 4 days straight. I couldn’t believe that my baby would have anything wrong with him. Why? I did everything right, I didn’t eat bad foods, I didn’t drink anything I wasn’t supposed to. Neither of us had any family history of Autism.

There is nothing that I am aware of that is a sure cause of Autism. I completely blamed myself, because I had no other explanation. It couldn’t have been because he got vaccinated. My daughter had the very same vaccines and was perfectly fine. My husband did everything he could as soon as we found out to get our son the resources he needed in order to help him as best as we could. We enrolled him in preschool as a special needs student and got an Individual Education Plan (IEP) in place for him. That first day of school, as he hid under the dining table was the first time I heard the most beautiful sound come out of him. My son, in an attempt to not have to go to school, called me “Mom”. I cried as I pulled him out from under the table and gave him the biggest hug. I didn’t want to let him go after that, but I knew that he could only do better in an environment with other kids and with a teacher who know how to best handle his educational needs. We got him enrolled in speech therapy and occupational therapy as well. He is now 9 years old and is doing very well. I swear he has a photographic memory! He is so smart! He is still delayed in reading and in math, but he works very hard with my husband on these things throughout the week. Unfortunately, there was some bullying going on at his school and we had to pull him out after the 1st grade. He has been doing online school with my husband for the last 2 years and is making so much more progress than he did in a traditional school setting. He makes me so proud. He tries so hard and while he does get frustrated, he knows that both his father and I will do everything we can to help him the best we can. While I was very upset to learn about his diagnosis in the beginning. I can honestly say that I would not change that for the world. He is just who God intended him to be. He has taught me SO MUCH about compassion, unconditional love, and patience.

So, while there may be bumps along the way, take them as they come and know that they are there for a reason. They are there to teach us, guide us, and show us the beauty in our lives.

This is me, take it or leave it

Hi there! My name is Jenny. I am a mother of 4, married to a wonderful man for 9 1/2 years now. Before I really get going, I thought I might start off by letting you get to know me a little bit. Some of this is really hard to put out there for everyone, but I feel it is important that if you are going to follow along in any way, shape, or form, that maybe you should get to know what you are getting into.

When I was very young, it was just my mom and I. We lived in a very small house behind my great grandmother. My mom went to work at my Grandparents’ hotel and I spent every day with Gram. She was like another mom to me and taught me about love and kindness, but also to be a strong, independent girl. When I was 3, my mom remarried and a year later I was adopted by my Dad. I could not have chosen a better father for me if I ever tried. I was (and still am) very much a “daddy’s girl”. We did everything together. He took me hunting with him, worked on cars with him, we all went fishing and camping. He even tried to teach me how to do cartwheels and was at every home game to watch me cheer and to as many track meets he could make it to. Growing up, he was my very best friend.

Growing up is hard and while all of that sounds like it was all rainbows and gumdrops, there was always something nagging at me. I was often compared to other people, put down, told that I was going to end up like other kids who were making poor choices. I was often reminded that I wasn’t as smart as other people and made to feel inferior. I often thought to myself that I just wasn’t good enough and that I never would be. Had I been “good enough” maybe my biological father would have cared more to get to know me. Had I been “good enough” maybe school would have been easier, maybe I would have been one of the “popular” kids. Had I been “good enough” maybe I would have felt like my life was worth something. Once, I asked a family member what I ever did to make them proud of me. That is all I really wanted after all. I just wanted someone to be proud of me, like they were of my sister who didn’t have to study a day in her life and got straight A’s. This person told me that they were proud of me because I was pretty. As much as that was intended to be a compliment, at least I hope this person meant it that way, I took it more like an insult. I had nothing to do with being “pretty”. That was pure genetics and was the last thing I wanted to hear. Again, I was left feeling worthless, because I believed at the time that in the 15 years of my life, I had not been able to actually do anything that would make someone proud. It was then that I decided that my life was not worth living. I made a plan and wrote a letter to my parents telling them that I was going to kill myself and put myself and everyone who has ever known me out of misery. Because I felt that they would all be better off without me there. My mom woke me up as soon as she found my letter and took me downstairs to talk. The only thing that kept me going was that she brought up Gram, my great grandmother, and how she would feel if I were to go through committing suicide. I was taken to the doctor soon after and diagnosed with depression and put on “happy pills”. I took them for a while, but decided that I wasn’t going to do it anymore and found ways to help myself cope with my feelings. At 16, I made the decision that I wasn’t going to care what other people thought of me anymore and I was going to do for me. Forget everyone else, I couldn’t make them happy anyway, so why worry about it. I was just going to worry about making myself happy and screw them.

I dove into sports hardcore and just tried to keep myself busy. In college, I cheered and ran on the track team. I was also the university’s first woman pole vaulter. I was striving to be there very best I could be and while others didn’t know it, I competed with them every day at practices. I worked out like a mad woman in the gym 2 hours every day lifting. I was on the track running every day except Sunday. I worked my ass off in classes and ended up on the Dean’s list with a 4.0! But to some people, that still wasn’t good enough. I was proud of myself though, and that is all that mattered to me at the time. My sophomore year, I met my biological father, his wife and 6 more siblings that I didn’t know I had. I loved meeting the kids! No matter what, they were blood relatives and they were part of me. It was a little awkward at first meeting my biological father though. He hadn’t told the other kids about me. He kept me a secret for YEARS. The oldest of his other children was 15 at the time we met, and she had only found out about me because someone accidentally let it slip that she had a big sister. There I was again, feeling that I was the “black sheep”, an embarrassment, a dirty little secret. Just when I thought I had figured out how to feel good about myself, I went right back down again. I started going to church then and dove even deeper into keeping myself preoccupied with classes, work, track & field and then coaching the junior high girls’ sprinters too. I found my worth. I found my passion and I found kids that looked up to me and even thanked me for pushing them to do some of the toughest workouts I could think of.

In college, I knew I wasn’t going to go to the Olympics or anything so I had dreams and aspirations of joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation. My goal was to graduate from college and become the next “Clarice Starling”. (Please tell me that you know who that is. I don’t want to feel like I am aging myself here, but “The Silence of the Lambs” was a FANTASTIC movie). The Monday before graduating with my Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology, I fell in a pole vault accident and my dream of being in the FBI went when my knee dislocated. I couldn’t even walk let alone pass a physical test to work for the Fed’s. I had 2 surgeries to repair the damage on my knee. Nobody was going to tell me what I couldn’t do and I set out to show everyone wrong. When my physical therapist told me that I would not sit “Indian style” ever again, I made it my mission to prove him wrong. I made myself so proud when I walked in, hopped up on the table and sat there with my legs crossed waiting to begin PT for the day. The look on his face was priceless! If you couldn’t tell already…I am just a little bit determined. 😉

After being released from PT and going back out into the real world and going to work, I realized that I didn’t quite have the same abilities that I had in the past, nor the resources. I had been a “poor college kid” and had been unable to work for a while due to not being able to walk around without crutches or just being limited in what I could do with my knee still healing. I couldn’t afford a gym membership and the only other thing I knew was running and well…I couldn’t exactly do that. Even now, 13 years later, I can jog very slowly only just under a mile. Those all sound like a bunch of excuses, and maybe they were, but at the time, they were my reality. I did what I was “supposed” to do and found a job, went to work and did what I needed to do day by day to just get by.

I met my husband in my first “big girl job” out of college. We had a couple of babies (3 to be exact) and had an active stepson that kept us busy with sports. I didn’t really think about working out and being healthy at the time, because I guess I was in denial. Being fit and being thin was always something that just happened for me and even after having 3 kids, I saw myself in that same way. When my first son was diagnosed at 3 years old with Autism, my husband and I put all of our effort into him. Shawn did everything in his power to get the right resources for him to help him in his own struggles. I took him to his OT and Speech Therapy sessions. And I just put myself on the back burner, because I was fine. I had bigger things to worry about and didn’t think I needed to worry about working out. That is…until it hurt to sit down with my jeans buttoned and I threw my back out trying to mop the floor. That is when I really looked at myself, got on the scale and was MORTIFIED! Here I was under this diluted impression that I still weighed 120lbs and had a killer bod. In reality, I weighed 167lbs (I forgot to mention that I am 5’2.5” tall) and my mother informed me that I looked like I was pregnant. Gee, thanks mom. Something had to change, after realizing that, I became very insecure. I was embarrassed when my husband walked into the bathroom as I was getting out of the shower. I started covering up with pillows or blankets whenever I sat on the couch so nobody saw my stomach hanging out over my pants when I sat. I started wearing very loose clothing to hide from the world. Hello depression rearing its ugly head again. My perception of self-worth and body image went plummeting.

While working for a call center that took calls for infomercial sales, I won a free copy of a “starter” workout called TurboFire. I had never heard of this before working for the company and actually had never heard of the company that made and sold the program (Beachbody) before that. I thought I would give it a shot since I obviously needed to make some changes. I tried the first workout on the DVD called Fire Starter. I could barely breathe my first time through, but it was fun, so I kept going. I also started looking on Pinterest for different workouts I could do at home to get me back to my old self again. I wasn’t seeing extreme results or anything, but I was determined. I loved doing the TurboFire workouts so much, that I talked my husband into getting the full program when our taxes came in. As soon as the program came in, I left my Pinterest workouts behind and focused solely on TurboFire for 90 days. In that time period, I lost 32lbs! I was so excited and even my mom told me that I had done a good job because I hadn’t looked pregnant any more. As backhanded as it sounds, it was still a compliment and I was going to run with it.

That is me. This is who I am and where I came from. I realized that I have rambled on for long enough. I invite you to stay tuned as I embark on another journey. I have started a new program called Hammer & Chisel. Today is day 3 of 60! I promise to let you know how it goes and if brave enough will share my before and after pics when all is said and done.