Monday, November 22, 2010

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail - and we all know I can't stand failure!!!

So part of my quest for freedom is physical--shed the unwanted pounds, improve my physical health and fitness overall, and succumb to slight vanity if my body cooperates with my mind. :)

As much as I plan though, I never really took the time to document what it is I want and how I plan to get there. Here's the rough outline (below) and more details will be hashed out based on who signs on to be my accountability partners. If I know you're expecting updates, I'll be more likely to follow through so I won't let you down (even though it's really myself that I'm failing if I don't do what I need to do). I welcome friendly suggestions on the plan and this part of my journey to freedom.

1. Lose 100 pounds by December 2012
2. Increase physical activity to improve overall health/fitness (walk/run another 5K in spring 2011, run a 5K in fall 2011, run/walk a 10K in spring 2012, run a 10K in fall 2012)
3. Drink sufficient amounts of water on a daily basis (8 bottles, starting with 2--this is gonna be a struggle)
4. Decrease quantity and eventually quit drinking soft drinks (subject to migraine control)

Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays (or 3 days working around other scheduled obligations if necessary)--1 hour of running/walking on elliptical or Main Street
Tuesdays & Saturdays (or 2 days each week)--1 hour of Zumba
Thursdays & Sundays--30 minutes of physical activity

Drink enough water (start with 2 bottles each day and increase by 1 bottle daily each month)
Continue monitoring portion sizes at all meals/snacks
Prepare for healthy snacks in mid-afternoon, late evening
Limit dining out at a Mexican restaurant to once per week and make smart choices
Go to bed at a reasonable hour so sleep might actually result (11 p.m.=target time, since 2 a.m. is current reality)

Measurements and Weight Check on 1st and 16th of each month
Implement consequences and rewards accordingly

No Facebook or internet if physical activity standards are not met (whole evening for each day I didn't exercise)
No TV if I made poor food choices (30 minutes lost for every infraction)
No Mexican food if water intake is not increased gradually over time

$1 for every workout (which will pay for/justify a pedicure every month)
Shopping spree (clothes, shoes, and/or accessories) for every 25 pounds lost

Again, your input will be appreciated. Your willingness to help me measure up (or down, in this instance) will also be appreciated.

Love and prayers,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Setting Standards or Restricting Reality?!

First of all, let me say this BLOG, BLOG, BLOG. Apparently, the last post wasn't nearly as dramatic as some of mine have been so my mother and youngest sister said it read more like "blah, blah, blah" except since it's a blog, they were being funny and saying "blog, blog, blog." Don't worry -- I'm not offended. It's good that not all of my posts are gut wrenching, tear-inducing, laughter-crazed musings. Variety is the spice of life and keeps things interesting (and hopefully, friends and family reading the latest situations and thoughts about my life).

Now then....back to reality! :)

I'm pretty sure we all know about setting standards. There are standards of learning in classrooms all across America, standards for health and occupational safety, standards for professionals in every field, etc., etc. We may not always know who is setting the standards, but we are usually pretty informed about what they are and how we should measure up to be successful in meeting those identified standards. I'm well aware that individuals set personal standards as well--live a certain way, act appropriately in accordance with pre-determined ideals, interact with others based on established criteria.

I have standards for myself, but have never really laid out standards for others that I may encounter in personal relationships. My mom was asking me at dinner tonight if I had ever made a list of what I'd want in a guy that I was dating....and the answer was no, not really. I mean, I have a sense of what kind of guys I like, but that's about it. So she then asked me to think of some characteristics that would be "deal breakers" in moving forward, using the knowledge from my past relationships to set (higher) standards. Of course, then Devinne said this was definitely going to become fodder for blog posts and I laughed and said "but of course."

After some interesting input from the two of them and some brainstorming by myself with explanations, I was able to develop a list of core standards for any future guy to be considered as a possible "Mr. Right." My intent is to know what I don't want so that I can avoid the pitfalls of familiar traps in ignoring deal breakers until too much time has elapsed and I'm already emotionally vested in the relationship. That being said, I'm going to document this list and keep it in my Bible for prayer. Yes, I'm that kind of girl who prays for my future husband who is at present, uncertain and perhaps even unknown. I don't want to restrict reality or put God in a box by saying the guy must meet all checklist requirements for romantic consideration. At the same time, there are standards that will help keep me from twisting reality to maintain the romance.

Lots of details can be included in each of the overarching ideas (standards) for Mister Right, but here are the basics:
1. Christian - must share my faith in God as the ruler of heaven and earth, worship Him in spirit and in truth, acknowledge Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior, and be capable of serving as spiritual head of the household (yes, you can be the boss of me if God is the boss of you!)
2. Sense of Humor - must be capable of laughing at self and others in the situations that need such humorous doses of medicine for the soul, appreciate corny jokes and a laugh that almost always includes snorting (mine), entertain with a smile that melts my heart, sees the bright side of life even in the stormy trials and tribulations
3. Common Heritage - must be caucasian, able to appreciate or share European ethnicity from generations past, enjoy traditions that are comparable to my own, fellowship over international cuisine, and have more in common than not when it comes to race, ethnicity, customs, etc.
4. Work Ethic - must possess a strong work ethic, be willing to invest the time and energy necessary to accomplish the tasks required, make ends meet or not expect to sponge off of my finances, pull their own weight in household responsibilities (financial stability, practical chores), never show signs of apathy or laziness (different from enjoying a reprieve or vacation), have a sense of personal fulfillment from whatever professional endeavors are his chosen passion (enjoy going to work)
5. Family focused - must be respectful of me (demonstrated by his respect of other women in his life), embrace the idea of marriage and those vary sacred wedding vows, have or want children, appreciate the "fur babies" in my life and welcome pets (dogs definitely, cats optional, horses negotiable) as an extended part of the family, enjoy spending time with the family (immediate and extended), never belittle or demean me as the female in the family unit (which actually goes back to the respect thing)

Sooooooo, there you have it. The 5 non-negotiable standards I have set for the Mister Right who is even now being prepared by God just for me. I'm pretty sure each of these standards aligns with God's intentions for Christian marriage--husbands, fathers, partners in this thing called human life. Hopefully, I haven't restricted His reality for my future in creating a list of ideals. I won't be posting a classified ad based on these (and neither should Brianna who did sign me up for E-Harmony four or five years ago), but I will pray about them and keep them in mind when guys come my way, looking to make a romantic connection.

Love and prayers,

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shoot for the Moon or Reach for the Stars

Do you ever wonder if you're on track in the life you're living? Is this what you're supposed to like, where you're supposed to be living, what you're supposed to be doing, when you're supposed to "dream big" or "be realistic," why your reality is the way it is, and how you're supposed to make changes? I'm sure it's natural to question (notice I covered WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW because I'm "good like that"...LOL) without the questions being a crisis in faith necessarily.

When I was teaching high school history (which sometimes feels like forever ago, and other times feels like just yesterday), one of the motivational posters I had displayed in my classroom said, "Shoot for the moon...even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." I was just outside with my fur babies (aka Logan and Lexie, the dogs that have adopted me) and noticed the chill in the air, the smell of burning leaves (which is intoxicating among other favorite scents) and the stars with crescent moon in the night sky. The thought occurred to me that I don't really remember or understand all the science about the moon or stars, but I can appreciate them for being there just the same. It's like a glimmer of light providing a glimmer of hope that there really is a universe beyond my comprehension with a God that rules and understands it all.

Then I started the mental playback of some recent conversations I had. Each of the individuals was encouraging me to "reach for the stars" or "shoot for the moon" and not to sell myself short with who I can be, where I can go, what I can do, why I generally thrive even in less than ideal circumstances, how I can succeed with future plans, and when the "master plan" will come to pass. Of course, I'm also thinking about the MASTER's plan too. How do you know when it's right and when you're just out of God's will? Does putting yourself out there with your plans mean you're shooting for the moon, reaching for the stars or falling out of orbit?

Pretty much everybody knows my life verse is Jeremiah 29:11-13, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not harm for you, plans to bring about good for your future." That doesn't mean I don't plan because, well, quite frankly, I'm good at planning. I've planned my education and career, as well as planned corporate and family/friend events, parties, weddings (even my own--which may have been a waste of time, but it was fun to think about details anyways), etc. I'm not where I thought I would be at age 32 (yes, I admitted it, so I hope you were sitting down when you read this blog entry Brianna and Mama Jo) when I was planning my future back in the days of high school and college. I'm not who I thought I would be some instances, I'm a better person and in others I'm far removed from the woman I want(ed) to be. Life is not how I imagined's more real than ideal. How the romanticized optimism has remained over the years is questionable/laughable.

The biggest question is WHY DO I WANT WHAT I DON'T HAVE instead of living more in the moment?!?! I am alive. I have a family that loves me, even if they don't understand me. I have friends who brighten my world with who they are and how they support and challenge me. I have two dogs who think I'm awesome enough that they haven't run away even when they escaped the house before I had the leashes connected to their collars. I have a roommate who is responsible enough to be on time with his share of the rent and utilities. I have an amazing career where I can make a difference, grow as a professional and person, interact with stellar educational leaders and work alongside very talented faculty/staff. I have a rewarding opportunity to serve my community thanks to my commitment to Victoria Fire & Rescue as a volunteer EMT-E. I have a family of faith that extends beyond brick and mortar of one particular church building and am blessed to worship and study God's Word at NCF or VUMC. I survived bulimia, two abusive relationships, and addiction to alcohol. I am stronger, braver, brighter, funnier, prettier, etc. than I give myself credit for ever. Why do I focus on the one thing missing in this picture of my "perfect world"? I have plenty of love in all of the above. I need to accept what is with more of God's grace and trust in His plans and timing for that special someone and the higher education goals too. I need to stay grounded in (and grateful for) reality, but shoot for the moon so I can land among the stars. The future really is as bright as the promises of God!!

Love and prayers,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Through it all, one thing has remained constant in my life--laughter is the best medicine. This is really good in my case because I can't swallow pills (mental block) and crushing them up in applesauce has really ruined apples for me. love to laugh! I laugh at myself. I laugh at people when they fall (and then ask if they're okay). I laugh at people who are trying to make me laugh. I laugh at people who are so ridiculous they don't even know it and the comedians in the crowd who always prompt laughter. There's the giggle, polite laugh, guffaw, the full-blown intense laughter with cute snorting and tears and yes, even passing out from not being able to breathe because I'm laughing so hard. :)

I met my parents, grandparents and niece for lunch today. I was talking to Sophia about her official birthday yesterday and teasing her about counting rather than saying her age (you say ONE, she says TWO). I winked at her and she winked back...with her whole face. It was soooo stinkin' cute, I laughed out loud and of course, snorted. What was really funny is she started laughing too...and SNORTED! Then when she realized she had copied me, she did it again and was clearly very tickled with herself. I was laughing on the inside because as much as her parents have tried to keep me out of her life (putting restrictions in place like I'm not allowed to hold her for example), they will definitely know Auntie 'issa taught her to snort with laughter because I'm the only one who does in my family. (yep, I'm pretty much rolling with laughter right now too knowing my niece loves my laugh enough to copy it---kids know the good ones!)

I attended our business meeting for Victoria Fire & Rescue tonight and had a couple of laughs there too. Then, some of the usual "crew" went to dinner and couldn't stop laughing at each other. The conversations were random and loud and it's probably a good thing there were only a few other restaurant patrons or we've have been kicked out for disturbing the peace! There are some "crazy" VFR people but we don't want to prove it in public. LOL

So all in all, today was a great day, filled with moments to laugh. The laughter does my soul good. Insert Bible verse here about God loving the person with a cheerful heart (terrible paraphrase and I'm trying to finish this post and go to bed at a "normal" hour, so I'm not going to go in the other room and get my Bible out to look it up exactly). Now I just had to laugh at myself because I literally said "insert here" kind of like I told my sister to "scroll up" when we were at the store shopping. (Technology overload maybe.)


I can't think of a song, but I highly recommend the sound clip of the laughing baby. I guarantee it will make you laugh (or at least smile) even on a bad day. Enjoy life and love thanks to laughter. :)

Love and prayers (and LOTS of lady-like, snorting laughter),

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Brenda's Bottles

So the song "Bottoms Up" keeps coming on the radio and I turn the volume up (like whoa loud) and sing 3/5 of the words on the edited version, but it's got a great beat. Then I'm thinking to myself, "hmmmm, should you really be singing a song about drinking when you have issues with Brenda's Bottles?" *Brenda = my alter ego in the book I'm writing about experiences that have not been easy but shaped me into the woman I am today*

Don't get me wrong--I love alcoholic beverages (except beer--gag!) and in moderation, there's nothing wrong with them whatsoever. The problem is that I struggle with using those bottles of rum, vodka, wine coolers, wine, etc. to cope with stress, feelings of sadness, sense of loneliness and so forth. My coping mechanism prevents moderation. I can honestly report that I've only had two alcoholic drinks this year (one Smirnoff wine cooler on New Year's Eve and one cosmopolitan when I went with Brianna and Karen for a late birthday brunch). It concerns me that I can count the bottles. It tempts me that I still have the ABC store purchases on the kitchen counter, ready for an excuse to drink and yet, not wanting to use the alcohol as my "crutch" any longer.

I know people find it hard to believe that I never drank until I was 21 - but it's true. In fact, I was 21 for a week before I had any alcohol and then, I pretty much had it all in one night thanks to my dear friends who had stocked the bar before dinner. (Thanks Joe & Tony!) Social drinking was expected in my career as a paralegal. Pretty much every day ended with at least a drink or two, and sometimes more if we were working late, celebrating a win, strategy planning with clients, or getting paralegals together to complain about our lawyers. Needless to say, I built up a tolerance and earned the nickname "Ali the Alcoholic." I also believed I was drinking just because I could and not because I had a compulsion to pick up a bottle.

With the events of 2008 and early 2009, alcohol became a central part of my daily existence. Friends were coming over--great, pull out the alcohol and celebrate. Boyfriend belittled you or beat you--pull out the alcohol and stifle the emotional pain. Returning to the legal profession's high stress routine after years of actually being happy in a public school classroom--buy more alcohol and drink the night away. Sister and boyfriend hooking up behind your back and eventually having a baby together--that's what the alcohol is there for to ignore what's really going on in the stormy times. Sadly, my last call for alcohol was in hearing the doctor say I had miscarried in part due to the stress of recent relationship ending and in part due to increased drinking behavior. After that, I didn't drink for a long time.....months actually. I felt guilty, depressed and ashamed that my "social drinking" was not helping me heal and was actually doing physical harm as well.

I have an addictive personality. I admit it. I'm all in or I'm not in. I drink in good times and bad, but it's in the bad times that I'm trying to prevent a relapse into alcoholic dependency. These are good times with bad ones just around the edges of my reality. The bottles sit untouched on the counter. I swear some of the weight I lost right away when I started running was actually because I had stopped drinking on a regular (almost daily) basis. That alone keeps me in check to save the calories for celebrations few and far between and not look to the bottles for emotional outlet.

I still can't get the song out of my head though. I really feel like cranking it up, dancing around my living room, and putting a blue raspberry martini in the shaker. But I won't...I'll save the martinis for later when I'm sure I'm a social drinker and not addicted to Brenda's Bottles. I might have to "throw my hands up" and dance some though. LOL

Love and prayers,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Loving you has meant forgiving them

So there's this special someone who has stolen my heart even though I wasn't sure it would be possible given all the background story aka drama, nightmare, pain, anger, hurt, loss, despair, etc. When they look at me, I can't help it though--my heart melts and I find myself wishing things were different. Your smile, your laugh, your efforts to wink back at me are just beyond precious and adorable. You don't know who I am really but it's not your fault. You hold a special place in my heart even though others would not want us to have any connection whatsoever. You, my dear, are a sweet, innocent child of God and my niece, Sophia Grace.

It's a miracle of God's grace that I can look at you and not feel the pain of betrayal as fresh as if it was yesterday's news. I know you'll be the reason my sister and I will one day have restoration of our sisterly bond and friendship. Despite what your parents say/want, you will grow up knowing I love you and want to spoil you rotten just like I would if you were my own. One day, you will get to decide if you want to have anything to do with me or not. The choice in who you love is yours, just as it has been mine. Sweet Sophia, loving you has meant forgiving them. I enjoy watching you grow up from a distance--through posts on Facebook, text messages from other family members, and the occasional family dinner where I get to talk to you even though your mommy won't let me be a real hands-on aunt.

I'm excited that you're about to have your very first birthday party and sad that I won't get to be there to watch you open your presents with your new favorite word "see" on repeat as you point and show off all the new things you're bound to get. I can't wait to see all the pictures of your smiling face covered in cake and hear the stories of how you celebrated God's goodness despite the badness that occurred. I'm not even sure that's a word - badness, but it fits. You are a delight to me even if I can't really love on you like I want to little miss frog princess. Air kisses just aren't the same as stealing your sugar and playing peek-a-boo.

I look at you and realize in loving you, I have forgiven them really and truly...I still don't like what happened, but I can't hold myself in spiritual prison by not forgiving them. Your mommy is my sister after all and was my best friend before your daddy came between us. Your daddy and I were together for a season but nothing good came of it. In fact, quite the opposite--violence, abuse of every kind, criminal behavior, financial woes, miscarriage and a broken heart when I found out that despite everything I had been willing to subject myself to in staying with him, he had been cheating on me with my sister. He really is lost and I pray for him. I feel bad for your mommy because I know what it's like to feel trapped and out of control, no longer yourself, but not sure what to do to change the situation that you willingly allowed to happen. I pray for her too. Most of all, I pray for you, that you will grow up protected from the evil of this world and know that you are loved more than words can describe.

Just a few more days and you'll be a whole year old and I know it's another year closer to when my sweet niece can think for herself and decide if you want to spend time with Auntie 'issa. My heart is open and so my door will always be for you as well, Sophia Grace. Psalm 139

Love and prayers,