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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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That’s what we do.

This weekend I was able to get back in touch with the roots of my ancestors and spend some quality time with my parents.

Think back to your childhood: are there any activities that you looked forward to doing year after year? Making Christmas goodies, carving pumpkins, decorating the house, building a gingerbread house, watching certain movies with a mug of hot chocolate by the fire…

For almost every holiday meal, a thin, pancake-like delicacy topped with the perfect amount of sugar and butter or peanut butter is enjoyed by our family. There is still a fight for the last piece. I was shocked to learn that it was actually made with potatoes. Do you know what food I’m talking about yet?

LEFSE.

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Lefse is a Norwegian flatbread commonly found in the area, and if you’ve never had it I highly recommend you find some in the grocery store and try it out.

To effectively create this delicious treat, you’ll need a special roller, rolling board, sleeves, flipper sticks, and a griddle… oh, and flour. LOTS of flour- and there will likely be a coat of flour on everything in the surrounding area when you’re done.

When I was in high school, we did a lefse making and selling fundraiser for a history class trip. Its creation is often a group “party” effort because it’s labor intensive and MESSY- but that’s what makes it fun! In the end I think it made us all appreciate the love and effort that goes into this treat, and we’ve continued making it each year as a family.

I appreciate the way that it brings people together; it’s time to laugh, to talk, to connect and pass down. It took us a few years to start this tradition, but now it’s a family favorite. 

What traditions do you take part in with family and friends?

Altru’s Pursuit of Wellness: Intellectual and Evironmental

Dimension: Environmental

Activity: Visit the ND Museum of Art -Winged Shadows Life Among Birds Exhibit

Date: 1/27/12

The challenge that I chose to do today was to go to the Art Museum on the University of North Dakota’s campus to visit the Winged Shadows Life Among the Birds Exhibit. When I first got to the museum, I really didn’t know what to expect. The painting were really fun to look at. Some of the pictures I had to spend extra time looking at since they would have so much detail and many different aspects to the paintings. There were several pictures that a giant bird with a fisherman in its mouth. I thought those were very interesting to see, maybe birds are better fisherman than humans are. Another aspect of the exhibit that I found interesting was the fish nets filled with a bunch of electronics, it made me think of how human technology is destroying our natural environment. I really enjoyed going to the museum.

the Reason.

There are so many moments in the “holiday season” that might leave us feeling inadequate; we don’t have enough/the right presents for people, our cooking might not taste as good as another’s, the loss of a special someone earlier in the year echoes in their absence, despite best efforts we still sit alone at a table filled with people who’ve found a loving spouse, we never made it to our goal weight… the list goes on.

Why do we beat ourselves up like that? The last time I checked, there wasn’t a “year-end test” we needed to pass in order to pass GO. When we choose to put less pressure on the “stuff” we no longer feel such a sense of dread and regret… especially when it comes to eating and numbers on a scale. Instead of putting so much thought into eating an entire container of peanut butter blossoms or chippers, concentrate on the time you get to spend with loved ones. Get up and move your body because you can, not because you’ve eaten way too much and you’re hoping that it’ll allow you breathe comfortably again.

Take a minute to stop and think about what Christmas is truly about; Jesus Christ was born!!
God became man, in the form of a precious and totally vulnerable little baby.
His first moments were surrounded by animals.
In a barn.
Talk about a HUMBLE entrance!
And all of this… to save you and me.
(Did you note any sort of “test” in there? Me neither.)

Throughout the season of Advent we light candles, one at a time, in order to symbolize Jesus bringing light into the darkness of our sinful world.
Surely it was nothing we deserved.
God simply loves us that much.

That being said, why is it that you have so much difficulty in cutting yourself the same type of break? What are the major barriers to your acceptance?

This is a season to CELEBRATE Christ and give thanks for all of the great things in our lives, blessings that not a single one of us deserves, but still receive because we are loved by a wonderful God!

I challenge you this Christmas to block out the “noise.” Forget about presents, cookies, outfits, and decorations; rather, spend the weekend in complete gratitude for all of the blessings in your life.
(Even if you can’t see them… I promise you they are there.
After all, you woke up today right?)

 

 

Merry Christmas to you all!
I hope you are in a happy place surrounded by love.

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.

From a place of…

Let me ask you a couple of serious questions:

When you look in the mirror, what do you think? What do you tell yourself?

When I was 300 pounds, I would look in the mirror and tell myself that I was ugly, huge, and blobby. I had red stretch marks that mirrored a woman’s pregnant belly. My legs sported varicose veins much like my parents. (Need I remind you I was 16 years old?)

As I lost weight, my loose skin started to appear and sag. And sag. And sag. Stretch marks faded, but were still an obviously visible  nuisance to me. My bones started to protrude more, and I could pick out specific areas to beat myself up over. My new body was supposed to bring me instant happiness. Instead it left me frustrated and self-conscious.

There are so many media influences out there trying to tell us how we should look if we want to “feel good” about ourselves.

Wait, who are THEY to tell us anything? And… who are THEY, anyway?

If you are starting to take steps toward a healthier lifestyle, can I ask you to make a pledge to yourself that you do it for the right reasons? Exercising and eating right helps you to feel better inside and out. But if you are going to do it from a place of self-hatred, you will NEVER feel content. No matter what size you are.

Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace my “trophies” from weight loss: my varicose veins stick out more, but it’s because my legs are skinnier. I have loose skin on my stomach that I can sometimes get into a ponytail. I call it my bread dough. I have “bye-bye” arms, too. They keep moving long after my arm does. Oh, and I can stretch the skin out. I actually encourage people to give it a shot if they’re curious.

I’ve been told countless times that I should lift weights to help with the skin. (I’ll tell you more about that later.) I’ve also read that certain factors, including losing over 100 pounds and losing a lot of weight quickly (I did it in 2 years) will make it harder for the skin to “go back.” I’ve even looked into one of those skin removal surgeries out of pure frustration, but the danger of the surgery far outweighs some droopy skin and raised lines.

Do I love my body every day? … No. But if I’m upset about something on my body, I try to find something else that I’m happy with or proud of. After all, if you don’t even love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?

God doesn’t make mistakes. And I truly believe that everything happens for some reason in our lives. He’s not trying to torture us with a serious of challenging trials; He’s helping us grow into the person that we’re destined to be.

So as you begin or continue your healthy lifestyle, make a conscious effort to do it because you love yourself and you want a better quantity or quality of life. You will probably never look like another person (unless you have an identical twin, undergo a lot of surgery, and buy some inSANE makeup), but isn’t that a good thing? Kind of a relief to accept that truth remove the extra pressure!

I challenge you to switch out negative self-thoughts with positive ones. Cheers to you for making better decisions about how you live. Love yourself for that. You are a lovable person.

There was a rockin’ video I stumbled upon a few weeks ago, and I’ve been itching to share it with all of you. Enjoy!

LemmeTellYaWhat

Let me tell you how you might get to be over 300 pounds by the age of 16 (or maybe any age, for that matter): you eat.

Food becomes your everything. You replace emotions, friends, situations, fun… everything, with food. I can remember knowing that my friends were hanging out together and instead sitting home eating entire bags of Doritos (Family size, of course- I wasn’t messing around, and I had a LOT of void to fill) or pans of bars that my mom had thought she had cleverly enough hidden in the freezer.

As the clothes get tighter, your self-confidence gets smaller. You might put up more walls and stop allowing yourself to know love. It’s a lonely life, one that only knows a physical fullness. And usually that’s an uncomfortable-on-the-verge-of-sweating kind of fullness. It doesn’t make you feel good. And if it does, it doesn’t last. The moment of “pleasure” passes and you’re left feeling worse about yourself.

On the outside I was loud, “happy,” energetic, outgoing and… loud. On the inside I was trapped, sad, lonely, and completely defeated. I felt like I was riding a fast train to failure but couldn’t seem to get off. I acted like I was on top of the world, but the truth was, there were several times when I looked for opportunities to disappear into the shadows… to eat.

I missed out on so, so much. 

If this is where you are at right now my friend, please read the next part carefully:

There is hope. You aren’t trapped. And you ARE strong enough to come out of the shadows and live a full life. One where you allow yourself to be loved by others- and fill up with that love. Food gives you stomachaches, but love gives you peace.

By stepping out into the light and out of the shadows of fear, I’ve discovered many new things that I now love instead of Doritos and cake and whole pizzas and candy. (Don’t get me wrong- those are nice treats IN MODERATION, but they’re just stuff.)

Tonight I went to Zumba again. And let me tell you, the room was full of a variety of people that could dance, had no rhythm, were able to do the entire class without blinking, and were there for the first time. Each person came for their own reason, but for the 63 minutes that we were there together, we had FUN. I danced so hard I had to army crawl back to my house. And it was WAY more awesome than any major eating “feat” I can recall. The entire class was hootin’ and hollarin’ and completely there for each other.

Do yourself a favor… put down the chips, the king size candy bars, the entire loaves of bread (yes, I’ve been there)… and try something new. Head to the Wellness Center and find a class to try. Might I suggest… Zumba? Tuesday night- 7:45pm. You won’t be there alone, I promise. I’ll be there. And I’ll ROCK it out with you.

Love yourself enough to make good, healthy choices today. And when you conquer the unhealthy behaviors today, I promise you it will be even easier to do tomorrow, and each day thereafter. Small steps lead to big changes. And you CAN do this. I promise.

For this, I am Thankful.

 

I have started making more of an effort to stop each morning and give my day to God, asking for help in living a life of love for others (actions, words, and thoughts). I also take a second or two to give thanks for something (or many things) as I wake up each day. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I challenge you to try to do the same.

There’s something about that silent stillness before the chaos of the day that is so peaceful, so beautiful, and so necessary to start the day off right. When you spend a few minutes thinking about the good things in your life, it’s hard to look at the day with anything other than gratitude and happiness.

I admit that there are days when it’s hard to feel thankful for anything- the times when you’ve gotten little-to-no sleep, when your alarm didn’t go off and left you late for everything, when you look out the window and see a ton of snow or pouring rain (or just cloudy skies), when you ended up getting into a fight with someone you care about, when you get news you didn’t want, when a week of hard work at the gym and healthy food choices don’t give you the results you want, setbacks, death, accidents, etc etc, etc… Things happen. That’s life.

Enter: resiliency. We all face challenges, but we get to decide how to react to what is happening. You can either complain about going to the gym or be thankful that you can physically do so. You can either be upset that “healthy food is expensive,” or learn to budget and be resourceful because your health is important to you. (By the way, it’s just as affordable to eat healthy. Trust me. I know.) You can be overcome by disappointment if you don’t get a certain job or promotion that you were hoping for, or you can appreciate your current situation and look forward to better things coming your way. It’s all about your outlook. 

A funny thing happens when you look at life with gratitude instead of entitlement… the skies seem a little brighter, the challenges seem a little less daunting, and life is more of blessing and less of a curse.

Give thanks for something today. And if your day is especially challenging for some reason, write out a list of the good things in your life. Then think about those things and see how your day transforms.

 

http://www.wallpaperbase.com/landscape-sunrise.shtml

Somebody’s Someone

Who was the last person you interacted with?

Was it positive or negative?

Being made fun of is an unfortunate reality for too many people in this world. I’ve heard that mean words are like papercuts: even though you can’t see the damage they cause, there’s a lingering sting.

Thinking back to me days as a “fat kid,” there are 2 events that really stick out in my mind:

The first put me into counseling. I was riding the bus to help with church choir practice, just another Wednesday. Two boys who were in the class above me often made it their mission to try to break me. Because I don’t like to “lose (or show weakness),” I put on a stone face and just took whatever they dished out. Day after day, they would torture me with comments about my weight. That day, it happened to be “Could you please move to the middle of the bus? You’re weighing us down.” I broke. I called my mom and told her I was absolutely at the end of my rope. Shortly after I started to see someone who introduced me to the idea of writing my thoughts down on paper.

Fast forward a few more years. I was a sophomore in high school and nearing my highest weight of 300+ pounds. I wasn’t the only person that was picked on at school; there were a few other “targets.” I remember that I was having a pretty good day, and it was just after lunch time. (At my school, people sat in the hallway to wait for the bell to ring, so they were often people-crammed by the time our break was over.) I walked towards band, past all of the juniors and seniors, and heard, “Jeepers, is it thundering outside?” I closed my eyes and hoped I had heard that wrong. When I turned around and saw everyone laughing my fears were confirmed. I…was… deflated.

With the advancements in technology, torturing another person has become easier and easier… people can be anonymous. And so hurtful. A part of me gives thanks that I was able to lose weight before things like Facebook were invented.

Now, I’m not saying that I’ve always been the nicest person to the people I’ve met. I think that at some point we’ve all been guilty of forgetting that every person is “somebody’s someone.”

The power of a kind word has played a major role in my (continued) success, in any area of life. Not only words, but a smile. It’s the easiest, simplest, cheapest way I can think of to build a person up.

As you go about your day make it your mission to be a light for others, even if you are having a rough day. “It is in giving that we receive.”

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