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I’ve started this a thousand times.

I’ve started writing this blog post roughly a thousand times in my head. I’ve edited it, I’ve redrafted it, I’ve added, I’ve deleted… but I’ve never actually stopped to write a sentence down.

Our little one came in-

(sorry about that- she was crying and needed to be held… now, where was I?)

Our little one came in November and turned our family of 3 (husband, myself, and our dog) into a family of 4. To say she’s given us a run for our money is an understatement.

I’ve always been pretty protective of my schedule and my routine. I don’t like to deviate too much from what I know and am familiar with. Let’s just say that babies throw that ALL out the window. It’s been a total and complete adjustment, but in a good way. And to be honest, it’s taken me a few weeks to be able to say that- to say that it’s a good thing.

Change is hard. And harder for some (my hand is WAY up).

She cried a lot those first 5 weeks, and didn’t sleep a lot. I felt like a human milk machine. Showers were few and far between, while the tears rarely ceased (for both of us). I felt empty and defeated at the end of most days, just thinking “This is it? This is life now?!” There were times I mourned* the loss of my freedom and ability to shower each morning and eat a hot meal while it’s still hot and just get in my car and go to the store in under an hour. (*mourned=sobbed uncontrollably)

Luckily, it’s getting easier. She’s crying less and sleeping (a very little bit) more. Or maybe I’m just getting used to the sleep depravation- it’s anybody’s guess. I’ve learned a lot about myself and the kindness of others. It takes a village to raise a child, and even telling a mother that she’s doing a great job sparks a fire that I cannot describe in words. Feeling that love and support helps to refill my tank.

It’s a slow process. And I’m a constant work in progress.

As I became a bit more comfortable with my role as Mom, I longed to do the things that helped me feel like myself again- working out and eating things that aren’t necessarily  Spaghettios or Oreos. (Don’t get me wrong- I LOVE those and still enjoy them from time to time, but I also know they don’t make me feel as good as my leafy greens do.) I’m ready to start feeling better about the new person that I’ve become- inside and out.

It’s Love Your Body Week at UND- one of my favorite times of the year. I love the idea of celebrating yourself no matter WHAT. Love your body or not, it’s a great reminder that there is always something to be thankful for.

A friend asked me what I loved about my body the other day. The truth is, since having a baby there isn’t much. Sometimes I like the way my hair falls. And I like my eyes- they seem to be one of the only things that didn’t change with pregnancy and birth. Almost everything else stretched and expanded. It’s incredibly frustrating to have nothing that fits unless it has an elastic waistband or extra fabric gathered around the middle or 3 sizes bigger.

But this friend is one of the more resilient, thoughtful, and positive people I’ve met in my life; she helped me to remember that my body is not just a size. And I suddenly felt as though I had permission to look at my body with love and acceptance as I thought about it’s capabilities.

This beautiful body created and carried and delivered a baby (that’s pretty bada**). My legs carried me for many miles throughout the pregnancy, despite sciatic nerve pain that brought me to tears some days; and now they help me rock.and rock and bounce.and bounce.and bounce.and bounce until our little one finally quiets and drifts off to sleep. My arms are strong enough to carry her from place to place and give her a bath almost every night- a favorite time of the day for both of us alike. My mouth allows me to make funny faces and noises that bring a smile to her sweet face…oh how I love those sweet little smiles.

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Geez, when I stop and really think about it… my body is pretty dang awesome. Sure, my clothes may never fit the same again… or at least not for quite awhile… but in the meantime it’s doing exactly what I need it to be doing. And I LOVE it for that, and I accept where it’s at- stretchy waistbands and all.

And now I turn to you, Dear Reader, and feel inclined to ask:

What do YOU love about YOUR body?

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But how do I know?

Last time you heard from me, I talked about change; specifically, why I resist it with everything inside of me. I’ve never really been a risk taker, and so far it’s led me down a pretty decent “safe” path.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve noticed that the older I get, the more I have moments of “Let’s do this!” They come out of nowhere, leaving a giant pit in my stomach, and shortness of breath, and a desire to move. Sometimes those moments are for little things, like deciding to workout when I don’t feel like it or trying a new recipe. And sometimes those moments are for big things, like zip lining through a rainforest* or starting a new job. (*Full disclosure: I’ve never ziplined through a forest. Let’s be real.)

A few months ago, I decided to try something new in my professional life. I have a very unconventional path when it comes to the workplace. I graduated with a degree in Dietetics (the science of food) after dabbling in secondary English education. My first “real job” was as a NDSU Extension Agent in Benson County, focusing on things like youth development, living on a budget, overall health, and 4-H. It was a great mix of teaching and wellness.

About 2 years later, I took the job as the first Executive Director of the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals. This was a brand new arena for me, filled with new obstacles and experiences. I joked that I was still using my degree, because I had many coffee and lunch meetings, so I was still involved in the “food part.”

Two weeks ago I started a new position as Events Coordinator for Scheels in Grand Forks. A much larger store is opening in June, and it’s my job to find fun and useful ways for our store to be a part of the community. I have to be honest; this is another BRAND NEW place for me to be. As Executive Director, I did get some experience in event planning and execution, but I have a feeling this will be a bit different.

While attending a pretty intense job training recently, it hit me:

This feels right.

We all wait for that moment after deciding to try new things because of that possibility of failure. Sitting in the unknown can be almost unbearable, so when the moment of “ahhh…” hits, it’s pretty awesome.

I feel fortunate for my newest professional opportunity, and even more for that “ahhh…” moment. For several months I’ve thought “I THINK this is the right move… But how will I know??!” It has taught me patience, the beauty in courage, and confidence in myself and my abilities.

I can’t promise you every ending to a new adventure will be smooth or comfortable or even pretty. But unless you take a chance every now and then, you never have the opportunity to grow!

When was the last time you had an “ahhh…” moment?

I don’t do Change. Well, maybe.

I am a creature of habit, and a craver of routine.

I find ways to make peace and feel balanced in my day-to-day, and when it “works,” I stick to it.

I’ve heard over and over that it’s better to “mix it up” at the gym, but I was hesitant. I like my elliptical- it’s safe, it’s predictable, and I can watch all of my crappy reality TV shows while working out.

This winter brought a few “bubbles” in my routine- via blizzards, vacations, and boredom.

The first time the Wellness Center closed because of weather, my heart dropped. It was totally throwing off my routine and I had no clue what to do. (I realize that this sounds totally ridiculous now, but I’m not known for always being real “mellow.”) I decided to dust on my Zumba DVDs and get my groove on.

AND IT WAS FUN!

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I’ve made a commitment to staying healthy, and until it’s nice enough to hit the ski trails or go for a walk outdoors, I have to continue finding ways to keep my word.

As this seemingly-never-ending winter continues, my elliptical boredom is starting to set in. I decided to dust off another set of DVDs I had yet to even open after purchasing them over a year ago. Well, the new DVDs KICKED.MY.BUTT (and I like to think I’m in pretty good shape)! We’re talking dripping sweat in 1/2 the time of my machine routine. Not only that, but I was hurting the next morning- a great indication that I was effectively working out.

I started thinking about why it took me so long to open the package of those new workout DVDs. The answer rang loud and clear:

Change.

I struggle with it. It might be uncomfortable, or hard, or not as safe, or unsuccessful…

But seriously, who cares? If I fail, I will just have to find another way. And if you never try, you’ll never know.

So tell me, how are YOU going to shake up your healthy lifestyle routine this month?

It’s up to YOU.

When I was in college, I stayed to myself;
I went to class, I went to work, and I went to church.

I had no interest in getting to know the community- whether it was the University’s or the Greater Grand Forks area’s.
I figured that I was in college to get my education, and when that was done I would worry about everything else.

Boy, was I off.

I missed out on a multitude of opportunities to realize how much there is to offer in the area.
I also missed out on a multitude of opportunities to build my skill set.
I missed out on relationships and networking with some pretty outstanding people.
And let’s not even talk about work experience

The “older” and further into adulthood I get, the more I realize that I was (and am) able to shape my own future.

Do yourself a favor and try new things. Even if you feel like you don’t have room for ANYTHING else, keep an open mind and prioritize the things keeping you from being involved. I’d almost put money on the fact that you have wiggle room. And I say that because I’m aware of the multitude of opportunities, whether it be one time or ongoing.

Maybe you’re like me- out of college and in the workforce, perhaps wondering if it’s too late…?

NOPE!

Follow calendars (www.und.edu/calendar, http://www.visitgrandforks.com, http://www.culturepulse.org), perhaps even join an organization (www.ggfyp.com/apply), and get started today. I believe that everything in our lives serves a purpose. Roll up your sleeves and start creating opportunities for change!

You live here, too, you know!

Looking outside my window, it is apparent that “change” is in the air. We’ve had the bluest skies mixed with the rich, vibrant colors of Fall, and pleasant temperatures to enjoy the scenery outside. I would argue that this is actually the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” minus the insects with stingers. All of the excitement about the changing seasons is also apparent in a changing Grand Forks.


One of my favorite things about my job as Executive Director of GGFYP is having a front row/center seat to the adaptability, open-mindedness, and collaboratively-focused effort of so many in this community. People come to the table ready to share, listen, and take the steps necessary to keep us moving in the right direction.


The latest example of enthusiasm for collaboration and betterment is Engage the Forks. The project started a few months ago with the Community Foundation, the Chamber, and the cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks came together to work on a project called NV360. The aim was to gather community input that will give community leaders, organizations, and citizens direction in decision-making. Over the course of several months, people were brought together to give input on various aspects of the community, like friendliness and aesthetics.


For those who didn’t have the opportunity to join in on the NV360 conversation, participating in Engage the Forks is your chance to share your input! A website was created: www.engagetheforks.com to allow everyone to share ideas and opinions. There are currently two focuses: “NV360: What Do You Love… What Bugs You… About the Forks?” and “Blue Ribbon Commission on Housing.”


Over 1,000 interactions have taken place on the website already. Ideas about what needs to change, what should stay the same, and even “big ideas” have been submitted by various citizens for the NV360 project, and questions about development, renting, and demands for housing issues are all being shared in the Blue Ribbon Commission on Housing area.


I would encourage everyone living in the Grand Forks region to go to this website and contribute (that means YOU). It’s free and takes just a few seconds to get started.


Trust me- people are listening, and the website tells you who they are. I know that the YPs are looking forward to a list of greatest needs to see where we can play our part in filling gaps to better the area and help attract and retain new and young talent to our region. Set aside a little time today to let us know… I’ll meet you on the message boards.

Trapped.

Leading a rigid lifestyle based on severe routine puts you in a jail cell. When you learn to live in a jail cell for a significant amount of time, you begin to forget how great life was outside of the bars. Stepping out into the unknown is… suffocating, and borderline unimaginable.

It’s not that I didn’t want to be with my friends more, make lasting memories, try new things, etc… it’s that I literally couldn’t. I was trapped.

I remember feeling this way as early as high school. Again, what started as a harmless and healthy habit developed in to a full-blown jail cell. I began with walking to relieve stress. It was a 2-fold blessing because I had finally found a method of physical activity that I was actually “good enough” to complete. I mean, almost anyone can walk (without tripping? that’s another story. GUILTY!)… and with a little practice, most can walk REALLY fast or for a REALLY long time. That was me.

Another teacher and I were known for our “power walks.” People would joke about the MPH that we were clocked at. On the days when we weren’t zipping through the streets, I would walk the length of the town and then some.

I know at some point it was out of enjoyment. It always is. When I “get” to walk in a new place, it’s something that brings me such… peace. (My creativity ROCKS while I am working out. Someday I will own a computer attached directly to my brain to capture my thoughts in real time.) It never takes long until my competitive side comes out…

Suddenly I feel the urge to walk just one more block. or just five more minutes. And each night it compounds, until I’ve absolutely maxed out my time available. This includes the time I’m choosing to give up with family and friends in order to fill a daily quota.

I’m known for being a distance walker, and I’ve taken it very seriously. Unfortunately, that’s not the only extreme I’ve taken in the last 10 years of my weight loss journey.

I knew that at some point I was crossing that realistic line. But I just didn’t know how to stop. I would almost give thanks for the times that someone would visit me so I was unable to workout as long. It also gave me tremendous anxiety. Something in my head screamed “FATTY!” whenever I happened to miss a workout. I irrationally believed that one slip-up would result in an instant regain of nearly every ounce.

I’m working on being OK with taking a day or two (or even three) off in a week. When I do workout, I tend to push. And I want to enjoy exercise again. Things like Zumba certainly help in that… but I mean I want to do it because I like how it makes me feel, not because the clock says I still have to torture myself for another hour… OR ELSE.

A new year, season, or even week can be really challenging on many levels for people. On the one hand, you have those people who really and truly do need to start adding exercise and healthy eating into their lifestyle. Then you also have people like me, who are also bombarded with the messages of diet and exercise and feel obligated (aka TRAPPED) to step up our game as well.

I’m learning about balance. And sanity.  And the importance of treating myself right. Exercise is a beneficial activity on so many levels… within reason.

I’m learning.

I’m learning that a day off doesn’t result in 100 pounds. It means being a little more careful about what I consume in the day and enjoying the time off. After all, our bodies do, at some point need a break to work optimally.

Small breaks don’t make you weak.
They make you stronger.
No need to beat yourself up.

You are You and I am Me.

How many times today did you see someone and think, “Why can’t I be like her/him?Seriously.

You’re at the gym, and you start to feel all self-conscious when you spot a stick figure next to you on the treadmill just jogging away effortlessly. (Cue the imagination:) She probably gets to eat chocolate cake and ice cream and chips and pizza without any regret. And she probably only works out once a week- that’s it. And her social calendar is full of fun things she’s doing with fun people. Of course she has an amazing boyfriend that worships the very ground she walks on. And no way does she ever have  to study, yet consistently gets high scores in school and easily achieves everything she sets her mind to… Whoa, Nelly!

Do you ever do this? If the answer is yes, my next question is: WHY!?

I’d like to remind you that God made each one of us a little bit different. Or a lot a bit different. There’s a reason that we don’t all look the same, sound the same, act the same, think the same, and believe the same. You do yourself a great disservice when you try to fit the model of another person.

I read an article about body types recently, and it brought back a memory from high school. I have a friend that is naturally thin, no matter what. She has tried to gain weight before (I KNOW!) and just couldn’t (I KNOW!)And it drove her nuts. The majority of women I meet strive to be thinner. Most men I meet desire to be more sculpted, bulky, and ripped. Either way, we are never good enough.

What if we all pledged to treat our bodies right and accepted ourselves right where we’re at, and we do this all as an act of love? Perhaps we change our motives: because we love who we are, and we believe in the importance of  sharing our light and talents to others in the world.

How many days have you wasted this week thinking about how you wish you were different? How many people have you wished you were instead of the person you are?

I think that it’s ok for us to think about those things at times, but with a realistic and purposeful mindset: If you wish you were someone else because he/she travels the world… maybe it’s time for you to start putting money away little by little and planning your next vacation (no one is stopping you). If you wish you were someone else because he/she writes beautifully… maybe it’s time that you pick up a pen and a fancy notebook and filling the pages (just let your thoughts flow, you have beautiful music inside of you). {Side note: this applies to whatever it is that interests you. Today is a GREAT day to start.} If you are jealous of someone because he/she has sculpted arms and legs… maybe you should stop avoiding the weight room (and find a friend who knows what they’re doing to show you the ropes).

The bottom line is that you have a lot more power than you give yourself credit for. It’s important that you don’t spend each day living for “some day” or “the perfect body” or “certain circumstances.”  

You get today.

You get right now.

You are you and I am me.

Embrace your circumstances with thankfulness

now go out and create some magic.

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