Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What's Blocking You??

Okay, so maybe I don't do every picture you see up there on the right, but it sure feels like it on some days. I have tried to lose the 14 lbs. of weight that I've put on over the course of the past year, and have been unsuccessful. I started a new healthy eating program a few weeks ago. I started out on fire. I was motivated to exercise and eat right, and was ready to say to say ‘no thanks!’ to junk foods. Making healthy choices feels effortless, right?  But then, you hit a rough patch. A sleepless night, a sick kid, a weekend getaway, and other unexpected challenges  knocked me off track. Just.Like.That.  My "mojo" to lose the weight lasted all of 2 weeks. Suddenly, everything I was doing right, has morphed into a hot, frustrating mess. My motivation is gone. Exercise seems inconvenient and I'm craving all of those foods I left behind. “Pizza sounds sooooo good right now! I can skip the workout for just today.” And all of the sudden you’re 3 slices in and feeling guilty. Like the failure I am at this,  I keep asking myself, “Why can’t I stay motivated to lose weight?”

My latest venture: a personal trainer who literally shoved Beachbody and Shakeology down my throat at every workout. No.Thank.You. I was instantly unmotivated. (It doesn't take much to knock me off track, I guess). Truth is, I don't want to look like a body builder, or give up my wine or measure every piece of food that I eat (is that a carb?). Does that mean I'm destined to be 14lbs overweight forever?  I just want to be healthy and 14lbs slimmer. I know that sounds self absorbed. Will I ever learn to love myself just the way I am? I wish. Most days I feel like I suck. I have tried sooo many things over the years: P90X, 21 Day Fix, The Every Other Day Diet, health shakes, gluten free food, yoga, pilates, running, walking, and most recently, the personal trainer. Every single time, the weight slowly creeps back on. I'm down 6lbs., up 5; down 3, up 4. Honestly it never ends. I feel like giving up, forever, but then I look at myself, see something I don't like, get motivated, and start all over again.

In meditation today, we learned that subconsciously, we may be blocking ourselves from attaining the goals we have set for ourselves by holding onto anything that is troubling you: both big and small. So today we practiced letting go of anything or any situation that seems to be blocking your mojo; any forthcoming event that may frighten you; any person that you are, in conflict with; any negative feelings associated with those things; whatever you think is holding you back: grudges, pain, worry, grief, conflicts, stress, guilt, vulnerability, whatever. If your subconscious holds onto something you think you let go, you may be sabotaging yourself and not realize it. Once you practice this meditation, your mindset is supposed to change, and your motivation and self love will follow. So, I'll practice, and practice, and practice, that is, unless I become unmotivated. Every day is a new day to start over. So today, I dragged my unmotivated fourteen pound overweight self outside for some yoga. It felt good. It always feels good. If only it was always this easy. So here's my unmotivated (14lb overweight) self showing some vulnerability (something else I'm working on). I'm also not posting this in the hopes that people will say, "you're not fat" blah blah blah.  I never said I was fat, just 14lbs heavier than I was a year ago.  So, what's blocking you?


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Simple Ordinary Joy

Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments~ often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we are too busy chasing down extraordinary moments~ Brene Brown

We've traveled quite a bit this Summer. We make it a point to travel as often as we can. I believe wholeheartedly that you should pour your money into experiences and not "things".  Every year we try to provide some sort of adventure for our children to enjoy. We've done things like indoor skydiving, kayaking trips, parasailing, zip lining through the forest in Florida, air boat adventures, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, feeding alligators, surfing, fishing excursions, boat trips, hiking adventures, and more. As fun and extraordinary as these moments have been, it never ceases to amaze me how much joy I find in the simple ordinary moments (like the one above when Owen found a frog during our evening walk). Just walking with him brings me joy.
Joy is what makes life beautiful and fills our life with light, and if you can find joy in any situation you are in, you've got it made. There is an assumption that only extraordinary moments can fulfill us and bring us joy, but that's not true. Finding joy in the ordinary is the key to real happiness. You can choose to find happiness or you can choose not to. The choice is all yours. How do I find happiness? Through gratitude and being present. I choose to look for, be open to, and embrace joy~ not just while traveling, but I find joy by simply watching my children, listening to the birds (with my right ear), and feeling the sunshine on my face. Might sound corny to some, but it's true for me. Being present and mindful has opened doors of joy to me, and can do the same for anyone.
As Robert Brault once said, "Enjoy the little things, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things." The choice is yours.




Image result for these are a few of my favorite things images

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

I can't believe it's been almost a year since you passed. Your birthday is quickly approaching. It's so weird that you're not "here". I think about you more than I ever thought I would and I grieve you more than I ever imagined. Last year on your birthday, we talked and talked, and you were fine. Seven days later you were gone. Forever. What a turning point that was in my life. I feel so lucky that I was alone with you when your spirit left your body. It was such a surreal experience.  I'm thankful I got to tell you everything I needed to before you left, and I'm forever grateful that I could be there for you, and with you, when you took your last breath. I've seen death before, but when you died, in that moment, I actually felt a piece of my soul, the piece that connected us, leave my body. It left me with a gaping empty hole in the middle of my soul. It was in that moment, I realized for the first time how truly connected we were.

It's so weird that life simply keeps going after someone dies. I walked around in a dense fog the weeks following your death, though I pushed through for Logan and Owen's sake, and very few noticed how much I struggled~ except for Owen that is. You know how in tune he is with me. Logan, on the other hand, was very matter of fact about your death. "Grandma's in heaven, and we'll be with her again soon. Remember, a thousand years is like one day in heaven mom, remember?"  Ah, the faith of a child. I often wonder what you're doing up there, over there, or wherever you are. Is Jean Rose there with you? What about Janet? I know how much you longed to see them both. Can you see us down here? Are you able to visit whenever you want or do you have to ask permission?  Did Peter meet you at the pearly gates? What's Jesus like? So.many.questions. Thank you for visiting me in my dreams by the way. I will forever cherish them and long to have more.

I sensed your presence the other day. It was so real. Owen was playing a song on his recorder and I was sitting where you usually sit in our living room. All of the sudden, out of no where, I could feel you. I could smell your perfume that you wore years ago. It was like you were sitting there right next to me, watching Owen and listening to him play. I actually asked Owen, "Do you feel that? I think Grandma's here. Do you smell perfume? I feel her!" That's how most of this year has been. I feel like you are closer to me now than you ever were on earth. I was really good at pushing you away when you were alive, and now that you are on the other side, I can't do that. You have the upper hand, and you show up when you want to, and I feel you when you do. I can't push you away, and I actually love that.

Facebook reminded Kate the other day that you have been friends for x number of years. I thought you would get a kick out of that. We still have your Facebook page opened and I still have your number on my speed dial on my phone. I sometimes still call it just to see what will happen. Nothing does of course, but that doesn't stop me. It's little pieces of your life that we hang on to. If you were here, we would probably talk about what's happening with my boys, school, the ups and downs of puberty, John's upcoming graduation, and how Barry Manilow is coming in concert to Warren. I will forever think about you whenever I hear Barry, Neil Diamond, or Air Supply. You would ask how I'm feeling and how I'm sleeping, and you would pray for me. Your faith was always stronger than mine. The kids are off school today. We most likely would have driven into Warren to see you and bring you lunch like we often did.  I would tell you all about Graduate School, and you would tell me how proud you are of me. I'm sure Owen would have brought his recorder to play for you, and you would have loved every minute of it. Logan would show you his new phone, and you two could learn to text each other. How cute would that be? I would tell you that I would see you on Easter at Michael's... only this year, I won't.

Well, that's it for now. I hope you read this and I hope in some way you know how much I love you. Do you get letters in heaven?

                                                                                         Until we meet again, Jen

Thursday, March 10, 2016

My Body is B.A.D.A.S.S.

"Step away from the mirror.Your body is a miracle and you're missing it"
I recently started a pretty intense exercise program. I thought it would be a good way to zap myself back into shape after enduring the last several months. After getting through the first week of workouts, I was sore. Really sore. I walked with a limp after the first day because we had worked our legs so much. At first, I thought it was a cruel reminder to how out of shape I was, but at the end of my first week, the pain had subsided and I that's when it hit me. I'm doing it. Four months ago I was having my head drilled into for my second brain surgery, and now I am doing burpees and squats. I'm so proud of my body. I.Am.Healed. My body rocks. Our bodies rock.
The human body's mystery, complexity, ability, and untapped potential should inspire awe. The body is and always has been a miracle. We naturally know when we need to eat and when we're full, when we need to rest and when we need to wake. Our eyes naturally dilate when it's dark, our hearts just beat on their own, and we can give birth. Seriously, we can grow humans inside of us! I mean, have you ever thought about how amazing it is that when we cut ourselves, a scab naturally forms? Our bodies know just what to do. How amazing we truly are. Our bodies are incredible but we often miss out on all the magic that takes place on our insides every day because we place so much value on our exteriors.
It's easy to see why.  Look around. We're surrounded by photoshopped images daily, on T.V., magazines, or on good old Facebook (with all the photoshopping people do to their own photos.) God forbid someone see a wrinkle or a blemish. Often we mentally berate ourselves for how we look or don't look. For some of us, being dissatisfied with our bodies is something we've just learned to live with. If it's one thing I've learned since my surgeries it's life is short~ too short to care what other people think about the way you look. If someone passes silent judgement on the way you look, it says more about them than it does about you. Gone are the days of exercising to simply fit into my bikini. I've learned to listen to, love, and appreciate my body. What others think about my body doesn't matter. Now I exercise because... I can! My body can exercise and that in itself is a miracle. My miracle.
This body that has had over eight surgeries and dozens of scars is my body~ my temple. My body is a walking miracle. My body is a badass. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

The B Team


You often hear how hard it is to be a girl in our society, but you rarely hear people talk about how hard it is to be a boy today. While I may not be a boy, I can tell you as the mother of TWO boys, it's no walk in the park. I have found that it's easier for those boys that are naturally physically gifted with speed, size, or agility in sports. You know the ones:  they have amazing hand eye coordination, awesome aim, and are blessed with strength. These boys are popular and most boys want to be just like them.

There's a lot of pressure to perform at sports. We've all read articles on youth sports and the coaches and parents that are ruining it with the amount of pressure they put the kids under to "win win win." I'm sure I'm guilty of doing it at some point as well. I also understand that being good at some sports can help your self confidence, but what happens to the kids who have a love and passion for sports, but aren't as good? What happens when your kid is just mediocre at sports? What happens when your tween really starts to understand that he's not as good as some of his best friends are at sports and because of that they start to grow apart? How do I explain to my son that ten years from now, whether he plays for the A team or the B team won't matter, when right now, this is all that matters to him? How do I stop him from putting so much pressure on himself?

You see, I have two boys: one with the passion for sports and a mediocre skill level, and one with the natural skills but very little passion. Yikes. That doesn't help matters. It's hard for the brother with the passion, to watch the brother that has the natural skill. My son was born with a love of playing sports. Baseball, kickball, dodgeball, basketball, football, golf. He loves them all. He's anxious though, and the pressure to perform at any sport stresses him out. So much so, that he has performance anxiety before every game regardless of what sport it is. Take basketball for example. He loves the game and loves to play, but he gets so nervous to be on the court, to have all eyes on him, and to perform, that he mentally freezes up and most often misses the shot. His mind gets the best of him every.single.time. It's frustrating as a parent to watch. No matter how much we yell and cheer from the sidelines, no matter what the coach tries telling him, he can't hear us because the thoughts of, "I have to make a shot or the coach won't play me", or "If I don't play good today, my friends will be mad at me", drown everything else out.

At games when my son misses the shot, or strikes out under the pressure, I take a breath knowing that while he may not be the best best athlete, he's certainly not the worst either. He's a good person who is smart, kind, and genuine and will someday make a great husband and father. I have no doubt that my son will turn out to be an amazing man, but for now, it's just hard for him to be a boy.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Being motherless is weird

This is the first Christmas I will be spending without my mom. I haven't really let myself think about it. At all. Whenever the thought of it crosses my mind, I immediately make myself think of something else. That's my way of outsmarting my grief. If I don't let my self think about it, the pain will somehow disappear. Thanksgiving came and went. That was her favorite holiday. I didn't let myself think about her then either. I didn't want that lump in my throat busting loose. It's so weird that life just goes on after someone dies. I know I know, it's supposed to, but it's....weird. They're here one minute, gone the next. And you're supposed to just keep on going. The circle of life, right? The past few months since I watched my mom struggle and take her last breath, I've learned that grief doesn't flow neatly from one stage to another; it has multiple layers , fluctuating cycles, and lots of ups and downs. My mom will cross my mind at the most unexpected times (like last week at a restaurant), and suddenly I feel that all to familiar lump in my throat start to swell and I can feel a "grief attack' coming on. The thing is, I can't allow myself to cry~ not in a public place anyway, so I swallow that lump in my throat thinking I'll save it for another day, another place, another time; only I don't. It's weird.

Part of the hypnotherapy I'm doing, is allowing myself to feel my feelings. That means, meditating and reliving the moment my mom took her last breath, and feeling my way through it, instead of stumbling my way through it in shock, which is what is did. So I'm trying to do that. Okay, that's a lie. I mean I will try to do that.....someday. After her death I tried to stay busy all the time, avoiding the painful and exhausting work that grief is, hoping that time would eventually heal me. That worked for awhile, until I started planning for Christmas. When we were little, my mom busted her ass (and her bank account and credit) making sure we had wonderful Christmas memories. And just like that, the lump in my throat is back. We may not have been the two closest people, but "Home is where the Heart Is", and even though my kids are my heart and home now, my mom was "my home" most of my life.  I would call her every Christmas morning just to make sure I was making her stuffing recipe just right. After all, when I was ten, she's the one who taught me how to stuff and cook a turkey. She would also make the gravy every year too~ and she would always season it just right. I'm not making stuffing or gravy this year. Don't get me wrong, I'm quite capable of making those things, but it was her thing~ it's what she always did. It's weird.

Life is weird. It's weird that my mom is dead. It's weird that my father and my in laws will be here for Christmas, and not my mom. It's weird being motherless. That lump is back. I'll get to it another day, another time, another place. I have Christmas cookies to bake, presents to wrap, errands to run...lumps to swallow.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

All You Need Is Love

"The most important thing in life it to learn to give our love...
and to let it come in" ~ Morrie Schwartz

I read somewhere that the most loving and well rounded people are likely those who have known misery, known defeat, known the heartbreak of losing someone they loved, and have found their way out of the depths of their own despair through the power of love. Truth be told, when hard times hit~ and they will~ you can let it destroy you or change you. When I look back over the past ten months, I see the hidden blessings that sustained me. Here's what I see, what I asked, and what I learned:

1) Being loved is the best~ No kidding--I am often consumed with emotion when I think about how much love and kindness I was surrounded by. I've never experienced anything like it. It was as if I was wrapped up and held in a blanket made purely of love. I know that sounds a little corny and over the top, but it's true.  Each thread of the blanket was made up of my husband, kids, friends, family (some of whom I've never met), and strangers. Not many couples can say they have endured what Chad and I have been through. He has walked me, fed me, held me, changed me, cleaned my wounds, held onto me when they removed the spinal tap, wiped my tears, and more. He even shaved his head to match mine. He's a keeper alright. This whole crazy journey has taken us to a whole new level of loving. A level most other couples will never have the pleasure of knowing. We are closer than two souls can possibly be. We are one. And to top it off, my children got to witness their dad tenderly caring for their mother~ a lesson and a memory I hope they carry with them always. If more people loved and allowed themselves to be loved, the world would surely be a better place.

2) The best friends are people who make your difficulties their difficulties, just so you don't have to endure it alone~ Wow. I have the most amazing loving women in my life. They have literally showered me with love (remember the blanket from #1?). They have cooked for me, provided meals for my family, cleaned for me, taken care of my kids, driven me to places, prayed for me, dropped everything and came for me, laughed with me, wiped my tears, and held onto my faith when I no longer thought I wanted it. They call, come over, and text constantly.  I don't just have friendships, I have intense, authentic, deep loving friendships. The love and light of these awesome women sustained me and will continue to sustain me. They have made my life whole and I love them eternally for it.

3) Being a parent means loving your children more than you've ever loved yourself~ The anxiety and fear I felt in and out of the hospital (both times) was never about me. It was about the two people I love most in the world~ my kids. I'm not sure if I fear death, but I know I fear the thought of my children having to live a life without a mother. All of my prayers, were for their sake. It was my love for them that kept me going, and keeps me going everyday. I'm more calm and gentle with them. I have a deeper appreciation for being a parent. Every moment counts (as cliché as it sounds) and I'm very mindful of that when I'm with them.

4) Letting go is lovely~ When I hear or read what other people complain about it makes me cringe. She wasn't nice to me; she didn't treat me they way I think I should have been treated; I need to lose weight (says the 110 lb woman); I had a terrible day because I sat in traffic for 2 hours...  What I have been able to do since this journey has started, is really let go of pettiness.  I was given an appreciation for my life that most people will never have.  I'm too excited to be alive, almost healed, feeling good, and headed for the light, to harbor any grudges, worry about petty things, or hold onto anger or sadness. I have so much to live for and to do; so many people I want to help, and so much love to give back.

5)  Is God real?~ The past few months had me questioning whether or not God was real, and if he was, who, what, or where was He? Lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV, and hearing that I would need a second operation, I seriously considered the possibility that I was trapped in a nightmare that I couldn't wake up from. I told myself that if there was a God, he clearly forgot about me and everyone else that was suffering. I prayed and prayed for a miracle. I didn't get what I wanted when I wanted it. Instead I got so much more: I got wrapped up in a lot of love, kindness, and compassion. There are hidden blessings that come with every hardship such as strength, wisdom, empathy, or openness to a deeper spiritual awareness. Perhaps I tried to fit God into a mold of what I thought He should be. I'm still not sure of what or where God is, but I don't think life is a cosmic accident that by chance implanted us in outer space. The fact that the seasons change, the sun continues to shine everyday, and things like kindness, love and compassion exist tells me there is something greater out there that set everything into motion. When I look back at when I was walking through the darkness of this year, there are sparkles of light everywhere. I was just too wrapped up in my own thoughts to see it then. Maybe those sparkles were in fact God. He was there all along; sustaining me. He worked through my awesome husband, and my loving and beautiful friends and my family. When I had insomnia, it had to have been Him who gave me strength to get out of bed and keep moving. How else could I have done it? Maybe He wanted to heal my broken soul (which He did with an abundance of love) before He healed my broken body. Who knows? All I do know is that I believe in something greater.

So am I thankful that I had to go through what I've been through? I don't know about that. But I am thankful with what I have~and that's lots, and lots, and lots of L.O.V.E.