Sunday, September 18, 2016

Re-Defining Rachel

It's been a while since I've written anything. I've not been so moved. Life has been a whirlwind this past year and many things have changed. That's the beauty of my life. We have a saying in Texas..."Don't like the weather? Give it five minutes and it'll change!" (Except for the hot part...that doesn't seem to ever change.) That's what I've come to expect in my life...nothing ever stays the exact same. While somethings will never change (I love attention; I love to fix things; I love to be right; I am flawed)...other parts of my life have been an ever turning kaleidoscope (where I live; what I look like; my confidence; who I love and much more).

When I was a young lady (term used loosely since I've never really seemed to embody the qualities of "lady") I had severe issues with self confidence. I mean I had NONE. This is evidenced by my clear lack of a mirror (I point you to my last post and the picture of my 24-year-old-self wearing a sweater vest, shiny shirt and pleated chinos.) I mean seriously...what WAS I thinking?

As a small kiddo I had few friends. As a teen I had even fewer. I didn't think I had any worth and no one would ever love me. Early in my adulthood I turned to alcohol to be my friend for a very short time. It didn't take me long to figure out that change was necessary (6 months to be exact). Then I decided that the only person who would love me would be the first man to show me any sort of attention. I married him and found out very shortly thereafter that my mother was right about all the warning bells she was hearing. He was an alcoholic who was gearing up to be physically abusive. Thankfully I abhor pain and left before he could prove how good his aim was.

Then like a blessing from heaven, Eddie came into my life. He loved me in that ugly sweater vest. He loved me with my nerdy wire rimmed glasses and bad bangs. He loved me so much he asked me to marry him so we moved in together and started our lives...yet another chapter that brought a significant change to my life. You see, we lived in Nashville. Me...the girl with no confidence or belief in herself...I moved to another state to start a life. That might be exactly when my real life started. It was either sink or swim and I discovered I had a pretty strong survival streak. Then in June 2002 we decided to move to Texas. Yet again, I was able to reinvent myself and start fresh.

Over the years, I have grown and adapted to different circumstances. Some times the growth was ugly and painful. Sometimes I hurt the people I loved and sometimes I just hurt myself. But through the fire was forged something that is stronger today after all the tests of the past. Now I am almost halfway through year 40 and I can still see where there is more work for me to do. I am not afraid of it; I will not deny myself the chance to make further positive changes.

I am a mother to a young lady who is so much like me...she's sassy, loves to sing and is a touch dramatic and oversensitive. The title I didn't think I'd ever hold...Mommy...is heavy sometimes when she asks me why she doesn't look like the other girls (why is she fat; or why are her eyes not blue; or why does she have brown hair and not blonde - girls can seem shallow sometimes but these are real issues!). While I try to teach her to love herself just as she is (she is not fat; she has the prettiest brown eyes and her hair is the loveliest shade and is so thick!), I hope she is also picking up on the lesson I am trying to teach by example. If you don't like something about yourself...it's ok. You don't have to continue to be the person you were yesterday. You have the power to change and adapt and grow. It may be painful sometimes but in the end the sun always shines.

I'd be willing to bet that many of the people I went to grade school and high school with would not even know it was me if we were in the same room together. My own nephew Justin didn't recognize me this past spring when he saw me for the first time in almost 15 years. And it's not just the physical, which is pretty dang different...but also in the way I carry myself. I no longer shy away from eye contact. I don't slouch as much. I am usually the one to state my opinions without hesitancy or filter (don't believe me, just ask me).

These are all things that I would have never done "back in the day". While many believe they lived their best days in the past, I feel like my best days are yet to come. Every year I feel stronger and more myself. I consistently seek to change and grow...but mostly I just strive to learn something new every day and the change happens without me realizing it. I truly hope that this shines through and is apparent.


Note: This past spring, I took part in a photo shoot that I set up as a goal during my first full year of physical fitness training and weight loss. Casey Withers of C. Withers Media Group worked very hard to get me out of my shell to enjoy the shoot and to believe that I actually deserved to be in front of his camera...you see he normally shoots athletes and models who are professionals. The image below made me feel strong and I was actually really shocked when I saw the image. I think I even said, "Is that me?" I'll be back in front of his camera again this spring and I can't wait to see what changes occur in me in a year's time!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Journey to a Better Me...with Roxanne's Help

I believe that if you've ever read my ramblings...you understand that I am over weight. I've been over weight pretty much my entire life. I really remember understanding that I was big in elementary and middle school. I surely looked different from the other girls. At age 24, I think I just gave up the fight...you can see that in the "before picture" below.

After my child was born, I was determined to make a change. I tried that program that teaches you to track "points" with temporary success. I worked with a personal trainer and started to see some real changes (again, see mid-progress photo) around age 34. But each time I would experience success I would regress and gain back everything that I had worked so hard to lose. I even tried a weight loss dietary supplement which worked in the short term but ended up making my body forget how to burn calories on it's own. 

Then in December of 2014, I decided to talk with a friend of mine, Roxanne Ellis of Major Gainz Fitness, who had started offering personal fitness and nutritional coaching services. She's a real athlete who has competed on the big stage; still working on her pro-card. She's the original member of Major Gainz Fitness and had her very own major transformation after having twins. She told me something CRAZY. I could eat, be satisfied and still lose weight. 

Isn't that the promise of all fad diets that always only work for about 5 weeks? Well, I'll tell you there was no huge weight loss in the first week of this program like I had experienced on the other programs I had tried. In fact, I think I actually gained weight. Other people following the program might have lost weight in their first weeks...but not me. I was tired of chewing...she had me eating so much! 

Let me back up a minute and explain a little. What we do is track MACRO NUTRIENTS. It's been referred to as "IIFYM" or "If It Fits Your Macros" and "Flexible Dieting". Every food you eat has these magic elements...Fat, Carbs, Protein & Fiber. I found through tracking these MACROS that I actually was not eating enough all this time. Sure fats & carbs are easy to achieve (and most times exceed the daily recommended amount) but protein & fiber were real eye openers. Seems like a lot to take into account but if you think about it...it's the most holistic way to consider how you are fueling your body. So with MyFitnessPal on my phone and Roxanne Ellis at my back, I started on the journey.

I usually get most of my food in forms of healthy fresh foods. Lean chicken is a go to source for protein. But when I want a cupcake...I have a DAMN cupcake. I no longer feel deprived as I am now equipped with the knowledge of how those treats will effect the rest of my food day. I plan ahead and try to stick to my plan. But when I can't, it's no big deal. That type of flexibility has made a world of difference.

There have been many times in which I've wondered if I have what it takes to do this long term. But every time I've doubted myself, I've had Roxanne there to help me get through the uncertainty. And just when I think, "surely, this is as small as you are going to get," I see another dip on the scale or in the tape measure. Clothes fit better...shopping is WAY more fun now. 

I'm no where near the finish line but now I can visualize it. I still have about 50 pounds left to lose before I'm at my goal weight...but who knows...maybe I'll end up going a little further. We'll just have to see! But one thing is for sure...I don't think I'd be where I am without the caring, nurturing relationship with my coach. 


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Humor...You Are My Best Friend

It's been a while since I have posted here. I guess life has been moving so quickly that I haven't had much time to be inspired. But the need to spew my thoughts is always just under the surface so here goes...

I find in my line of work there are several ways to approach communicating with the teams of people I partner with. Each group presents their own brand of challenges and all require a specified approach. But one thing I find unites all people is humor. Now of course you have to know your audience and some groups can take the blue humor I love so much and others are just straight-up UPtight. But no matter, I think that if you can find a way to bring humor into the equation, people will relax and start to open up.

One of my favorite things in life is to crack a joke and hear people laugh. Being the nerd that I am not all my jokes land (sometimes the best jokes are the ones that crack yourself up!) but when they do...it's like I've just bitten into a York Peppermint Patty! But my all time favorite type of humor is self deprecating. I have a ton of friends who seem to think that is a sign of lack of confidence but I see it in a completely different light. I mean come on...If I can't laugh at myself I have no right to laugh at anyone else. And let's face it...laughing at other people is sometimes quite delightful.

The other night I was at a formal event and was having a great time. I was cracking jokes at myself, and making everyone laugh. And like always got lectured about "not being mean to yourself!" To that I say lighten up man! I may make fun but no one should ever mistake that for a lack of confidence on my part. I think I'm the SHIT!

But seriously, I'm fairly aware of who and what I am. I'm flawed and quite comfortable in those flaws. The beauty to be found in self awareness is the freedom it gives you to just be yourself without worry of what other people are thinking (who cares really?). I think I first realized just how wonderful it was to be able to live life and not give two shakes about what people thought of me when I made my daughter laugh for the first time. In her smile and first little giggles, I realized just how much I loved the sound of laughter and how good it felt to know I was the cause of that sound.

I don't know if I could do a stand-up routine, but I know I can make Anna laugh. I can make my co-workers laugh. And when me and my sister get together...it's like a tag team comedy show. Throw my mom in the mix and we laugh till our bellies ache. As much as I love to hear laughter, I love to laugh myself. So next time we meet share with me your best joke or funny story and I'll give you mine. But no pressure...I know not everyone can be funny as me! (insert LOL and drop the mic)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Attention Junkie

From time to time, I sit and reflect on my feelings and try to get in touch with what's going on inside my heart and mind. I know this may seem silly and self indulgent but hear me out. Sometimes we are going so fast in life that we don't take time to really contemplate why we do the things we do (acting, thinking and feeling can become an act of our inner autopilot). Someone casually states their opinion and without realizing it your whole day can be thrown off course. Do you ever wonder why that is? The only way to figure these things out is to dive into what makes you tick. I do this by thinking of myself as if I were someone else looking in...if I were someone else what would I think of me?

In my latest self exploration (that sounded dirty but it so isn't), I realized that what I crave most out of anything, is unsolicited, and undivided, attention. That realization came after I was thinking that I hadn't gotten any attention from the hubs in a while. I mean we have a four year old with no family in town...that means that date night comes only every once in a blue moon. I was reminding myself that he gives me plenty of attention and going through all the things he does to show his love--I'll save you all the sappy details but trust me...he's a good man--when it hit me! It's not that he doesn't give attention...it's that the attention isn't always unsolicited nor is it ever undivided.

In our stage of marriage I have to compete with many things/people. First and, rightly, foremost is our daughter. She is an only child and my husband's only known blood relative. That's a special bond that endears him to me more than I can even describe. Watching them play and be silly together warms my heart to no end. Second, and not so rightly, is the TV and the computer. That's right, I listed them together because this is the only area in which my dear man is willing to multi-task. He watches television (while flipping the channels) and plays on the computer simultaneously. Don't get me wrong...he's in the same room as me, so I've got that going for me! We both work and at night we spend time together but it's not anything exciting. It mainly consists of resting and waiting to go to bed so we can go to work again. On the weekends we spend time together as a family...again, it's time well spent, but the attention I personally get it usually tied into the rest of the family (dog included).

Not to only pick on my husband (and I'll say it again, lest you think I complain too much...he's a GREAT husband), this same issue exists with other factions of my inner circle. A dear friend and I were talking over pedicures recently about how we try not to get disappointed when other people don't bring as much enthusiasm over us as we bring over them. Meaning that we both have friends who we reach out to but the friend doesn't reach out to us as much. We are excited to spend time with those friends but they can sometimes seem to fail in showing us they are as excited as we are. What is is about me that craves other people's attention? Why is it that I desire to feel like other people are thinking about me as they sit on their couch watching TV? And WHY can't they just reach out to me without me having to initiate the contact?

Yes, as I was thinking about this, it did occur to me that this all sounds very immature and just a little (o.k. a lot) self centered. But after I gave myself a mental wedgie and shoved my psyche into a locker, I cut myself some slack. Doesn't everyone want to feel like the people in their life WANT to be there? (I'm getting a mental image of Kathy Bates in "Misery"...no one wants to be the friend who metaphorically ties their friends or loved ones down in order to get them to spend time with them!) We all want those we love to reciprocate and to do so without our prompting. As a society we have added so many ways to stay connected, and on many levels, I am so grateful for such tools as Facebook, Skype and others. But because we have such instant access to all our friends and family, and many times the access is hand-held, we tend to forget to pay attention to who we are with when we are with them. That's where the undivided part comes in.

This year, for our anniversary (13 years) we didn't do anything overly special but it was one of the best ones yet. We spent about two hours without our daughter and it was GREAT...I know that might sound horrible, but all the other parents out there totally understand where I'm coming from. We talked about adult stuff and enjoyed a little tiny slice of peace and quiet (living with our daughter is like living in a Disney musical, 24-7). Then, because the babysitter ended up coming down with stomach flu, we all got dressed up and went to our anniversary dinner as a family. It was quite nice. Just having ALL of my husbands attention for a couple of hours was just what the doctor ordered. A small thing, yet it seemed to feed my heart. He didn't play with the computer or the remote the whole time!

So for any men reading this entry...remember to show your ladies that you love them by doing something they would like without having to be reminded. Surprise them by paying them attention to them without distraction. Anyone with a dear friend you haven't reached out to in a while...pick up the phone and call them. Let's all remember to give those we love the attention they deserve as a loved one. Don't call someone just because you feel obligated...reach out because you genuinely want to. Trust me, they will be happy just knowing that you care about them and will be fulfilled by your unsolicited, undivided attention.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sweet memories...

Today, as I made my way through the annoying, bumper-to-bumper traffic, "Whiter Shade of Pale" began to play over my iHeart Radio. I was instantly transported to my mom and dad's living room. I remember sitting on the floor, watching them dance and feeling giddy to see them so happy in that moment. These memories and pictures are triggered at the oddest times. A smell or a song, a reference to a movie...the slightest thing can take me back and remind me of my childhood.

No matter what, I always knew that I was loved and that there was love in our home. My parents had their struggles just like everyone else; but even when they were worried about money or dealing with stresses at work they always made sure we felt their love.

Today was one of those days where I felt like I couldn't get all my cylinders firing. Every task I took on was a challenge and I was just a beat off tempo. This brief, four-minute interlude was just what I needed to wipe away the struggles of the day and remind me of sweet memories. These memories bring me joy and contentment when I need it most. I surely hope that Eddie and I are giving Anna pictures of happiness.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hulk Mommy

Today was a revelation. I. Am. No. Fun. Meaning, the teenagers at the mall do not find me funny. And I am a-okay with that!

After a week-long round of sickness with my 4-year-old, we promised her something fun. She'd been going stir crazy, so the Hubs and I put our heads together and decided a trip to the mall for some games and rides would be "light enough" to not overdo it on her first day back in action. Note: parents are not always right.

It escaped our attention that this was the busiest day of the summer mall season as it was Texas tax free holiday and ALL the crazies were out buying school clothes. Idiots running amok through the mall...it's got to be the way evil masterminds have planned to take us all out. Lure them into the mall with the hopes of saving 8.25% on their purchases and then...BOOM! Anywho...I digress.

At first things were going okay. The little teenager working the cashier at the arcade was slow and a little confused but he meant well. I had to keep telling him what order to do his work because he was kept getting distracted. (I could hear my mother's voice saying, "Be Methodical in your work!") He just needed a little help staying focused. Anna had a great time playing the games; ski-ball, Dance, Dance Revolution, the driving games and she even played her first round of putt-putt golf. We rode the little roller coaster and she smiled and said, "Mommy, thank you so much for bringing me...I'm so happy!"

It wasn't until we stepped out of the safe, sanctuary of Tilt arcade that the madness began. The rest of the mall was teaming with mindless people shuffling from store to store. Everyone talking on their cell phones to, who had to be the president, the pope or the queen since the call was so important they had to stop in the middle of the mall walkway stopping all of the rest of us cattle dead in our tracks. Why can't people get the concept of walking/staying to the right. We drive on the right here in America, so it stands to reason when you are traversing any other thoroughfare, you'd adhere to the same principals. I digress yet again.

We made our way to the carousel, which was my sweet baby's final requested activity. We paid our money, only after the cashier insisted on finishing her conversation, which I can tell you was FASCINATING. We stood in line. As we got onto the ride and Anna found the horse she wanted, a fourteen-ish girl walked around my sweet angel and stepped over her head to climb her selfish little butt onto my baby's horse. RAGE. Pure RAGE! I told her, "Excuse me, but my daughter was already climbing onto this horse, can't you find another one?" Of course, my luck, the little Jesibelle either brilliantly played the "no English" card or actually didn't speak any English. Either way, I was forced to tell Anna we had to find a different horse. Lucky for me, Anna chose the one right behind the little hussy. So my mommy rage simmered as I took pleasure in making this poor little selfish teen very uncomfortable. I mean it was like I was chasing her the whole carousel ride. She kept looking back at me and I just kept giving her a very pointed stare. How dare she steal the horse right out from under a 4-year-old...let alone, MY 4-year-old.

Then after we finished up the carousel ride, we made our way to the book store for a browse through the kids section. Anna loves to look at all the books. As we made our way back to her section, I eyed the next group of foes. A group of VERY clever pubescent kids (girls and boys) were making the kids' books dirty and laughing it up. I basically pulled a Moses move and divided them all as I declared in a loud, very embarrassing voice, "Remember, this is where the FOUR-year-olds play!" Oh, I didn't miss the eyes rolling. I hope none of them wore eye contacts because they would have gotten stuck from all the eye rolling. But I don't care. I take pleasure in the fact that although they gave me looks that said, "stupid adult", they did move their shenanigans a little further away from where my baby was playing.

 I swear that I don't think I have ever liked teenagers even when I was one. There are only a handful of ones that I've ever been able to tolerate and most of them are related to me. I can't stand anyone -- teenagers, adults, either way -- who act like they are the only people on the planet. I've posted before about my irritation/anger in these situations. I am here to fully admit that my Hulk Mommy came out today. When people and their selfishness effect my daughter, I get angry. I now understand why my mom always went a little nuts when anyone ever tried to mess with me. I wanted to choke a couple of them out today. In my mind's eye I saw myself tearing my shirtsleeves off, making one of them a headband (a la Rambo), grabbing a Samurai sword from the comic book store and just cleaning house. In the background all the other frustrated shoppers with unsatisfied Mommy Rage are cheering and waving their packages in the air. In the end, they carried me out of the mall on their shoulders and there was finally order in the land; Civilization restored!

Monday, July 29, 2013

People Watching

Tonight I made good on a promise to get back to the gym. I was loathe to do so and being me had to find ways to entertain myself while I was on the old hamster wheel (a/k/a treadmill). I began to, in what I thought was a cleaver and inadvertent style, look around at the gym rats and other people like me who were clearly there for the first time in a long time.

There was the guy who was OVER doing every exercise he attempted and looked like he was going to give himself a hernia. Don't get me wrong...I love a show with feats of strenght as much as the next person, but this guy was just goofy. While doing vertical leg lifts (which I freely, gladly admit that I cannot do) he was kicking his legs way above his head. The momentum of each kick was taking him higher and higher. I honestly thought he would flip himself over the machine. I could hear my former trainer, Brendan, in my head saying, "he's doing it wrong!"

Then there was the guy next to me. He was running on his hamster wheel and at first I was really impressed with how fast he was going. Then the noises started. Mind you, I was jammin' out to my favorite 90's rock, but could still hear him grunting and burping as if he were going to toss his cookies at any moment. Little did he know that he was working out next to a sympathetic puker. Then came the desperate clinging to the handles. It really looked like he was going to go flying off the back of the machine.

Of course there were the skinny people who looked all trim and fit. Oddly enough, they didn't seem to be sweating. The girls had their hair up as if to say, "I'm not here to impress, I'm here to work." But their staged pacing from one machine to the next said, "I'm here to be noticed by hot guys." But ladies...remember you are at the YMCA. Not as many hot guys as there are moms and dads hoping to improve their health and just get away from the freakin' kids for a minute...even if it means I have to torture myself on a treadmill for 45 minutes! The "fit men" were less obvious. As they had to prove to their buddy that they were manly by taking turns spotting each other while seeing who can lift the most weight. But my eagle eye didn't miss the many "eye tours" around the gym and where they tended to linger.  I can't imagine trying to meet someone at the gym. I mean, I'm sweaty. I had garlic & onion in my lunch so my sweat does not smell good. TRUST. That was my one happy moment while having to work out next to Belchy the Uncoordinated for forty-five minutes.

There are also a set of folks who wear khaki pants and penny loafers to work out. I am not sure why this is, but I have seen it in other gym settings: 24 Fitness, Neighborhood Fitness Center & at a certain retirement community where I used to slave/toil for 50+ hours a week. No, I know what you are thinking...I'm not referring to old people in general. I am referring to a certain ethnicity (which is not important). It always weirds me out to see a dude in khakis and a short sleeved button down walking on a treadmill. Is he getting ready for a door to door sales man walking challenge? Dude...I don't want what you are selling. You creep me out!

As I mentioned, I thought I was looking around in a stealthy manner...and that no one would be the wiser. But I have always struggled with my "poker" face. Usually, if I haven't actually told you what I'm thinking yet, it's written on my face. As I looked at Mr. Over Achiever, I could feel my face pulling while I tried not to laugh. But then a young couple who were working out together saw me, followed my eye and then they started laughing. I feel terrible, but really? Was he working on a try out for the Rockettes? I got caught a few more times before I left my hamster wheel; and for all those who did catch me and gave me dirty looks for people watching, I say, "You were people watching in order to catch me at it!"

But at the end of this rant, is a lady who's feeling pretty proud of herself for making it to the gym in the first place. You see, I HATE exercise, but I know I need it. I've made the commitment to do this with my husband and I WILL stick to it this time. Even if that means that no one in the gym is safe from me hosting my own Night at the Improv in my head as I work out. Whatever keeps a person motivated, Right?!

This is how I felt at the end of my time in the gym tonight: