Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Lifestyle, Not a Diet

That moment you lost the weight you were lifting every day.
I hesitated writing this blog post because I didn't want to sound like I'm patting myself on the back, tooting my own horn, or achieved anything of importance. I felt inspired to share this little 30 day journey I had with you because I think it's encouraging to know that things are not as impossible as they may seem. I didn't think it was possible to overcome what I joked was my "sugar addiction." I have been a stress eater on and off, finding food to be an answer to problems. It was something I looked to in order to alleviate suffering...whether it was stress caused by studies, deadlines, family illnesses, loss, loneliness, or anxiety. 

Food should be something to enjoy and a pleasant part of our lives, but I started to feel like it was taking over my life. Ever since I was in the monastery, I felt like I had to eat a lot at each meal because you had to wait till the next one to have something, and it might not be that much when you got there. Even though that was seven years ago, I don't think I ever shook that anxious feeling that came sometimes when I was hungry. 

Then I started to do some reading and learned that stress eating is a form of alleviating negative emotions. I have negative emotions? I found this very interesting and realized I needed to make some changes in my life. Changes not just in eating habits, but changes to bring in those positive emotions. So I called it my "feel better" program. I didn't follow a specific diet because I knew I would give up. I didn't cut out everything that was unhealthy because I'm too chicken to go cold turkey. (See what I did there?) When it came down to it, I knew I needed a lifestyle not a diet. 

My story included three simple things: exercise, food, and recreation. I set my own goal to lose 10 lbs in 30 days and was determined to achieve it. Not just because I wanted to lose a little weight, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could live a different way. I could change my lifestyle. I could be someone who found ways to overcome a problem I was struggling with. That I was the one who made the decisions rather than my anxiety.

Exercise: I exercised every day, mostly 30-45 minutes on a stationary bike and read books while doing so. This is my preferred exercise because it helps the arthritis in my knees (which seems crazy to be talking about at my age). Or I would supplement with walking my dog two miles for about half an hour to change up the scenery. I would also lift (pathetically) 5 lb weights 30 times and did some sit-ups. Starting my morning with these routines helped me both physically and mentally. Now I actually look forward to that time because it jumpstarts my day on a positive note. 

Food: I personally found a high protein/low carb plan to be fruitful and cooked at home. Note, high and low, meaning I still ate carbs but just not as much. Yes, I cut out processed foods and sugary desserts. But here's what I still ate. Breakfast: yogurt and a piece of fruit, or bacon (yes bacon) and an omelet. Lunch: homemade grass fed beef hamburger with pickles and ketchup (except on Fridays ;-). Dinner: pork and asparagus, eggplant parmesan, tacos, chicken and zucchini, or spaghetti and meatballs.  Snacks: fruit (sometimes with whipped cream) cheese, or yogurt. Drinks: sparkling water, black tea, chamomile tea, and water. I also tried intermittent fasting between 5pm and 9am, which is really helpful to reset your system. Wait...you lost weight eating your favorite foods? I believe it is more what I wasn't eating (like processed sugar) than what I did eat, which still could be healthier. I admit I found it important to cheat once a week with a hot fudge sundae to keep me going ;-) A shoutout to Urban Cookhouse for my sometimes getting healthy meals out!

Recreation: This was the most important to me. I started to create a regular sleep schedule of about 8-9 hours, as well as a routine for myself during the day--a harder challenge when working from home. I would do something relaxing in the evening (not on a screen) like reading or doing puzzles or socializing. I utilized coping skills that I found helpful at stressful moments (one of which was rearranging my whole house). I prayed a LOT. I planned meals ahead and tried to only buy what was on my grocery list. I spent time with supportive family and friends (one of whom was my accountability coach and inspired me in the first place!), and ultimately tried to keep things in perspective.

So what's the point of all this? That if you find yourself struggling with something similar and feel it is unachievable, I want to say you can do it. Goals are possible. That cliche saying of "you can do anything if you set your mind to it" is so true. You just have to want the goal more than what you are giving up.

So do I still go out to eat sometimes? Yes. Do I still eat that occasional hot fudge sundae? Yes. Was it hard to get through the 30 days? Yes. But! Does being hungry bother me like it used to? No. Is food still the answer to my stress? No. It was by filling my life with positive outlets that gave me the answer. Then food became a part of my life rather than my life. I hope I am the better for it.

May this journey of mine helps readers out there in some way! 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Come Holy Ghost


Most people know the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. I think what is often overlooked are the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. These are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continence, and chastity.

The great feast of Pentecost is an opportunity to ask for both the gifts and the fruits. One of the fruits that stands out the most to me is peace. God's presence, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls, brings the only true and lasting peace to our lives. Peace is the foil to anxiety. I have a feeling it is easier to worry than not to, but harder to be at peace and worry at the same time.

If peace is a "freedom from disturbance" as a literal definition, then the peace that God gives is true freedom indeed. He is the calm amidst the storm and there is not a single person on this earth who does not wish for that calm. What is unfortunate is people often look for it in ways it cannot be found. So if the source of peace is God's grace, then we carry that with us in all moments of our life when our will is united to His. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Rearrange as Change


I recently discovered a list of coping skills that are helpful for those moments when life is challenging (which in my case is dealing with grief from losing my uncle). One of these was to rearrange a room, which created a domino effect of rearranging the whole house for myself. It is an idea for adding a little change to the ordinary and making the space feel fresh. I found it really helpful, for one it felt like I had all new furniture, for another it felt like a new day, and still more made me appreciate that change can be a good thing.

It's hard when you lose someone to adjust to the life without that person physically in it. It's like finding a new normal and trying to fill a void that you don't want to have to fill. It's acceptance and denial, finding you trying to rationalize and remember. There's moments where you replay the past to preserve it into the future. There's days when you can almost hear their voice or see their smile, or days when you grasp at memories before they slip away.

So rearranging a room reminds me of having to rearrange my life, rearrange my schedule, rearrange my affection so that it is directed to a person who can see it all when he couldn't before. He can see the new arrangement of the room and I can hear him say he would like the swivel chairs, the family photos, the view of the backyard, and Teddy asleep in the corner. Yes change is good, change is growth, change reminds you that life is passing and we belong in a place above.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Freedom Isn't Free

I wanted to share an excerpt from the first letter I ever received from Operation Gratitude back in 2016 when I first heard of their care packages to deployed Troops.

"On behalf of Operation Gratitude and the heroes who receive our care packages, I thank you for your generous donation. Your contribution will enable us to send over 200,000 'chock full' Care Packages this year to the tens of thousands of brave men and women still deployed overseas in harsh and remote areas; to their children anxiously awaiting their return; and to Veterans, New Recruits, First Responders, Wounded Heroes and their Care Givers. . . . 

As one former Navy Sailor and current New York Police Department Officer recently wrote: 'Every box, every piece of paper, every cloth, every book, every pen, every pencil, every notebook, every brush, every tooth paste, every shower gel, every puzzle, every magazine, every letter, every piece of candy . . . means a lot to us when we are away from home. It gives us Hope, Confidence, Happiness, Strength & Pride that somebody thinks about us, that someone is there for us. Thank You all. God Bless America.' . . .

Thank you again for your thoughtfulness and wonderful patriotic spirit. Every single donation we receive furthers our mission of saying 'Thank You' to those who serve. The recipients of your generosity will remember your kindness forever. . . ."

Last month I received the tenth letter from them with similar words, made possible by your purchases from my shop. Every Memorial Day I like to write a blog post to encourage Americans to support our Troops. Operation Gratitude even makes it easy with an Amazon wish list to send directly to their assembly station in CA. Check out their needed items here! Let's not forget that freedom isn't free. We should think of them as they think of us, as individuals with families and loved ones and dreams that they risk their lives for day after day.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Forever a Friend


"Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I'll miss you. Until we meet again."

I have never lost anyone so close to me as my uncle. The relation of a niece may seem like a distant relative to some, but not to me. An uncle for me was always that person in your life who made you laugh, who gave you hugs, who met your eye and gave you that twinkle of teasing, who did things not because he had to but because he loved you. That was my uncle to me.

My heart became so united with his by sitting at his bedside for the last eight months, watching a disease slowly steal him away. Not once did he forget who I was. I showed him pictures of my dog, my home, my shop. I said I love you and he said I love you too. He welcomed my kisses, he listened to my stories, he held my hand. One thing I'll never forget is meeting his gaze the week before he left this earth. I gave him a stuffed animal turtle (fondly known ever after as Mr. Turtle) from my trip to the beach. I swallowed hard at that gaze because I knew he was thanking me, even though he couldn't voice it.

I feel him in my moments of Adoration, I see him in the rainbows, I hear him in the sound of laughter, I taste him in chocolate brownies, I smell him in cutting the grass, I hug him in Mr. Turtle. I look for him in my everyday moments and let a tear fall when I feel his absence. But then I remember...

"Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I'll miss you. Until we meet again." Until we meet again, I will always love you...

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Only One Chance


This past week has taught me there are not always second chances in life. That may sound like a depressing thought, but to me it means for the one chance we may have, we have to be all in.

I had never seen someone die before two days ago when I lost my beloved uncle. Somehow that whole week I had a feeling I would be there, which gave me this oxymoron of an uneasy calm. That morning something (or someone) wouldn't let me sleep, a nagging, nagging, nagging thought woke me up and brought me to my uncle's bedside. It was his final moments.

My aunt, cousin, and dear friend/aide were there...my cousin made it within two minutes to say goodbye to her father. The last thing I remember saying to my uncle is that my mother (his sister) was on the phone and said she loved him. I have never seen anything so peaceful, so grace-filled, so remarkably connected to up above.

I watched my family tirelessly care for him in his illness; emotionally, by making his room always a happy place; physically, by medical care down to the nitty gritty of spoon feeding and giving drinks with a syringe; spiritually, by providing him with Holy Communion weekly and the Last Rites; mentally, by keeping him engaged with the family and playing his favorite cop shows, and above all socially by maintaining a constant presence in his life.

This dedicated care and those final moments taught me that you can't go back, you can't turn back the clock, you can't waste time... Sometimes we do only get that one chance not to miss what's truly important. I thank God for every minute I had with my uncle and long to hold his hand once more.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

A Mystery is Coming

The long awaited third entry into the Amanda Case Files Series is on its way! The hoped for release date is July 26th, the feast of St Anne as the book is dedicated to my sister. After two years since the last installment, this novel is long overdue!

Liz Henley is back once again as Amanda Case to solve once and for all the murder of her beloved parents. She goes undercover at the inn where her parents were investigating and follows clue after clue to uncover the killer. This mysterious bed and breakfast near a lighthouse in Maine quickly proves to be its own puzzle.

Who can Liz trust in this case, when suspects begin to point closer and closer to those she loves? A double agent is in her midst and seems to be tracking her every move. When her uncle, who shared the most vital clue, is kidnapped, Amanda Case must discover long unanswered questions before its too late.

Will Officer Fred McNally, who joins her on this mission, figure out the enigma of the key in the watch? Will her brother Sam, who can't stay uninvolved, wind up as the cook at the inn? Will life long family friend Captain Walker betray her?

Find out in two months!!