Finally Leaping

Leaping woman at sunset

I’ve finally done it!

Those who know me, know that making a decision (and sticking with it) is a huge thing for me.  I have always been indecisive, paralyzed by indecision.  A major life change sometimes takes years for me to commit to.  But this year is definately the year for big change.

Maybe it’s because my children are both officially upper-classmen in high school.  My son is officially a senior. My daughter is now a Junior.  And as I reflect on the time I’ve been blessed with them, I realize that most of that time has been focused on the day to day tasks of the taxi driver,  mom, and the employee.  Not unusual for most moms, single or not.  Over the last few years. time was spread even thinner as I tried to turn something I loved (sports photography) into a business.  I stayed stressed, slept very little (often only 2-3 hours/night), and lost much of the progress I’d made previously on my health (because let’s face it, who has time to prepare healthy meals when there isn’t even enough time to sleep).

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I’m not sure when it happened, whether it was overnight, or over the course of weeks, but I settled on a decision.  I FINALLY realized that I have very little time left with my kids at home, and a short life expectancy if I didn’t make a change.  (Well, in fairness, I ACKNOWLEDGED my health issues a long time ago, and succeeding in making strides to improve my lifestyle choices…. until life got too hectic and I slid back into my old routines and poor habits.)

May 15th was officially my last day at my old job.  I am now embarking on a new journey, and excited for an opportunity to try something new.

If you live in Oklahoma, you know that the future of Oklahoma Medicaid is seriously in question.  As a Medicaid waiver program (ADvantage) LPN/Case Manager, I have much insite into where our legislators have gone wrong. It was disheartening to watch as people go without needed medical and mental health resources, while experiencing the money and time draining drudgery of a heavily beaurocratic, labor intensive program.  I spent more time WRITING about helping people, than it took to actually do the HELPING. A request for a simple ADvantage service (like requesting incontinent supplies, a shower chair, or home delivered meals) required a minimum of 5 forms (as many as 60 and no less than 52 pages for a new yearly plan) to be submitted to DHS. Then I had to document all of the work done to justify payment to my company for the work done.

Stress, paperwork, business.

My life had become a whirlwind of paper.

I was recently encouraged to apply for a similar job as a Humana Care Manager.  And I got it!

I feel like I’ve stepped out of the stone ages. No more paper.And so much more time spent delivering needed resources, and much less writing about it!  No more working late into the evening, finishing stacks of paperwork.  And if that wasn’t enough, nearly doubling my income.  For the first time in … maybe ever… I am seeing a light at the end of the Single Mom Financial Tunnel!

Silhouette of a girl on bright background in a tunnel

I’ve also decided to step back from photography (except as a hobby)  I can no longer justify the long hours and the toll its taken on my health.  I gave it time, hoping it would be a viable career move.  It wasn’t. And my passion for photography suffered as well.  So, while I’ll still photograph what I love, photography will no longer be an income generator for me.  That decision alone lifted the weight of the world off my shoulders.

Now, if you know me, you know this is a HUGE step.  But I’ve jumped in with both feet, and the water is fine!  I’m optimistic for my future, and ready to take some new steps toward ensuring a long and happy life!

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12255493_10206887707966300_1633988014_oIt’s a New Year, and most of us have made a habit of making New Year’s resolutions; to lose weight, to make more money, to find love, to quit smoking, and the list goes on.  We believe that we can pick something and make a change.  Baby steps.  And most of us fail miserably.  Why?

I’m no different.  In July of 2014, I made the usual resolutions to improve myself.  I knew I was unhealthy, depressed, and on the verge of just giving up.  I am a girl who does NOTHING in moderation.  Work, play, art, relaxation… and giving up.

The first half of the year I chugged along, getting through each day one at a time.  Barely.  I felt like life was dragging me along, and I had no control.

In July, I decided to FINALLY to go to the eye doctor (since I’d been wearing the same glasses for 10 years) and get myself contacts for the first time ever. My eye doctor discovered that I had signs of intracranial hypertension. (Increased pressure on my brain), which can lead to blindness, stroke, and other health issues. WHAT?!?!

In addition to this new information, I’d been trying to ignore the fact that for over a year,  I hadn’t been able breathe, had a chronic cough, frequent chest pains, and chronic severe pain and depressionI finally broke down and went to see my doctor after years of ‘sucking it up’ because ‘I was fat, and it was to be expected’.

A few blood tests and an MRI later I had answers.  Rather than the lung cancer, brain tumor, or severe heart disease that I expected, we found that I was severely anemic which was causing insufficient oxygenation, and therefore difficulty breathing, chest pain and fatigue.  I was borderline diabetic, but none of my symptoms were related to that.  The intracranial hypertension was idiopathic (no known reason).  The only treatments are 1) weight loss, 2 )spinal taps to reduce pressure and 3) diuretics to decrease fluid.  Medication was started immediately.  (No one is sticking a needle into my spine… yet.)

And I resolved to lose weight.  And I did.  I lost 60 lbs.  In six months.  Then I stalled out.

Now there were a lot of changes for me in 2015. I met someone that made me happier than I think I’d ever been. I was already beginning to feel better with 60 lbs gone.  I had a hysterectomy in March, and a few months later I was no longer anemic, nor was I borderline diabetic.  As my energy level increased, so did my level of activity. My patient load nearly doubled at work, and I took on more photography sessions and events.

And then I broke.  That great guy chose someone else.  My weight loss stalled.  Lots of speedbumps at work and  technical issues in my photography business, and before I knew it I was buried in work both at work and at home.  I worked 8-5 or more at work, and then came home and worked on photography until 3 or 4 am.  I was back to being fatigued, eating opportunistically in drive-thrus, pizza delivery, and convenience stores.

The only thing that kept me going was the fear of not being liked.  I know. Pathetic.  But I’d promised all these pictures to people, and I hated the thought of letting them down.  It took one post on facebook by someone who felt they needed to publicly berate and humiliate me for having to wait for her pictures to tip the scale and send me plummeting.

My confidence collapsed, my passion for photography dwindled, my will to live was extinguished.  Suicidal thoughts were daily.  I resented my wonderful, beautiful teens for existing because it meant that I couldn’t be selfish and check out.  I couldn’t end it because it would forever affect them.  I felt trapped in a life where I was unloved, unappreciated, unwanted, and unnoticed.

Of course, most of us know that reality is nothing but our own perception and interpretation of our experiences and surroundings, and your reality is not MY reality. Nor is mine, yours.  In the matter of days, the friendly smiles and interactions I’d enjoyed with coworkers, athletes, coaches, parents, and friends turned from the relaxed, joyful, and satisfying exchanges to what felt like judgemental, impatient, and painfully short interactions.

And then I withdrew.  I avoided eye contact, conversation, and any form of interaction. When I did attempt social interaction it felt forced and insincere, because I just didn’t feel like I had anything to offer anyone and would influence negatively anyone I came in contact with.

I cried daily. Not just drippy tears, but ugly faced sobbing that would be so humiliating if anyone ever saw you.  I cried from the depths of my soul, and while I experienced mild temporary relief from these outburst, the physical pain became stronger every day.  It became unbareable.  At times I felt as if I just breathed too deep I would physically shatter into a million pieces.  Yes, even the physical, autonomic act of breathing was like being sliced with razorblades.

For the first time in a decade, Christmas turned out to be a blessing for me (where it usually was a soul numbing reminder that I was alone in the world.)  This year it because an opportunity to focus on others rather than on how lonely I am.  And now, as I enter a new year, I am climbing out of the hole I’d slid into months ago.

So now that I am attempting to climb out of this hole I’ve dug for myself, I’m looking into 2016 to chart a course to a better life.  Weight loss? Sure.  Love? I’m open.  But the changes I need to make are not so superficial, nor are they goals for just this year.  What I want is to build a life that I have more control of while being flexible enough to handle the things I am not in control of.  To love myself enough not to care if others do, while loving them inspite of how they show their love, or lack of, towards me.  To foster healthy relationships while gently separating myself from those that affect me negatively.  To focus on my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And to remind myself that it is okay to say no, and limit the work that I accept (in photography… my day job boss probably would be less understanding, and that’s the job that pays the bills.)

May you all discover what makes your life worth living, nurture those things, and minimize the things that wrestle away your will to go on.  Share your passion, release your pain before you cause pain to others, and embrace the beauty and love you experience every day.  Don’t forget to breathe, put down social media and enjoy human to human connections more, and make time to build new relationships.  Be kind. Don’t make assumptions. Always do you best, and don’t ever think your best isn’t good enough. And learn not to take things personally.  Be gracious. Be honest. And above all, be true to yourself.  Be fearless, and do the things that you are afraid of. Move forward, not backward.  Love  yourself.

A Little of This, and a Little of That

It has been an interesting week.  After weeks of stress and long working hours, things are beginning to slow down a little.  Still much work to be done, but a little more time to get it done in.  Unfortunately, I must be sedentary to get it done, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I have struggled to remain on plan most of the last few weeks, and haven’t always been successful.  There have been trips to fast food resteraunts, where I’ve not eaten entirely paleo, but did manage to stay grain free which is a huge part of this battle for me.  I went to my favorite bistro one day, a quaint little place that offers gluten free breads and wraps, and fresh, homeade soups.  Unfortunately, they goofed and gave me regular bread on my grilled ham and cheese, and it left me feeling sick for 3 days.  I’m just now returning to normal.  The headache was a little more persistent than usual, and really brought me down.

At least, I think that is what it was.  In March I underwent a partial hysterectomy.  And I’m so very glad I did.  No more anemia, quite a bit more energy, and I can wear white pants for the first time in my life!  On the downside, since I was never very regular to begin with, and I still have my ovaries, I am beginning to realize that I still have some PMS symptoms:  The food cravings, and most of all, the sudden need to cry myself silly for a day. What’s difficult about that is that now I never know when to expect it, so when it hits me it is difficult to know if I’m truly depressed, or if I can just expect to feel normal again tomorrow.  I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  After a day of misery and self loathing, I WILL wake up the next day and I’ll know then.  Thankfully, this morning I woke up my usual self.  Strong, determined and ready to conquer the day.

I have been hovering between 280 and 285 for over a  month.  It’s been frustrating, and every other attempt, I would have started sliding back into my old ways.  Not this time.  I may not have been on point at every meal, not always paleo, but always gluten free (by choice anyway.)   This morning I stepped on the scale and was happy to see a 279.2.  May that trend continue!

And there have been several non-scale  victories.  This week I played raquetball twice.  It was awesome, and felt so good to use my body in an agressive fashion!  It’s been a long time, and I liked it!

Even better, BEFORE I played, I realized I was able to raise my foot onto the opposite knee (to put on my socks and shoes, and TIE my shoes )  without having to grab my foot and PULL it onto my knee!!!  I just put it up there, pretty as you please!  I sat there stunned for a moment, just staring at my independent foot in wonder.  Now for anyone who has never had the pleasure of having to wrestle with their body to get shoes and socks on, this may sound strange.  Why do you think I have been wearing slip on shoes for the better part of 5 years?  The effort it took to lean over and grab my foot, while my abdominal organs were being forced upward into my chest cavity by my lap, was traumatic. First you feel all the blood rushing to your face, then the air being pushed out of your lungs to make way for everything below to take up residence where the air should have been.  I had to suffocate myself anytime I wanted to wear shoes!

And thus the woman who wore only slide on shoes was born.  I must admit, I am not the least bit sad to see her go.  Step one, wear normal shoes!  I’m hoping someday I will even get to wear heels again!

I spend a good part of today planning a weekend getaway for next weekend. It’s been a while since I just escaped with a friend and no kids.  It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything that didn’t involve work in some fashion.  So next week, Ashley and I are headed to Eureka Springs, Arkansas!  And for once, the plan isn’t to spend a bunch of money (just half that lol).  Instead we are making it an active weekend.  Friday night, dinner and dancing is on the agenda, Saturday we will be hiking the Blue Springs trails… AND taking pictures of the botanical gardens.  A little shoppin and relaxation in the afternoon, then dinner and some more dancing in the evening.  Sunday we will head out for Buffalo River and do some more hiking (and picture taking)  I’m excited!

I hope you are all finding ways to be not only active but having fun while you do it!

Back on Track!

Fajita Salad
Fajita Salad

True to form, I have been off plan for the past couple of weeks.  and it’s been a CRAZY two weeks.  But things are finally starting to slow down, and I was able to FINALLY get back on track, effective today!

I know what your thinking.  “More excuses.”  A reasonable thought.  I know if you want it bad enough you are going to get it done.  And I DO really want it.  I want ALOT of things, and sometimes everything converges together and I have to choose one.  Family, photography, work, sleep, or weight loss.

As a single mother, not working is not an option, and per usual, when things in one area of my life go crazy, they ALL do!  For the first time in a while I’ve had more than 40 hrs worth of work to get done in LESS than 40 hours.  At the same time,  ‘my on the side’ photography business went wild.  Baseball/softball/tball season  is one of my busiest times anyway, but this year the months worth of work had to be crammed into 2 weeks because half of the season was rained out!  And I had requests from twice the number of teams that I did last year!  (I couldn’t possibly say no, when I’m trying to build this burgeoning little business.)

In the last 2 weeks I haven’t slept more than 4 hours a night, trying to process thousands of pictures, all the while, my computer has been acting up and taking 4-5 times as long to complete tasks.  I’m surprised I have any HAIR left, and I haven’t yanked it out in frustration.

Which brings us to today.  I finally crawled into bed at 630 this morning and slept a full 5 hours. Woohoo.  When I woke up I got back to work, but instead of continuing to fight with the computer, I focused on fixing whatever was causing the problem.  By 5pm I’d made a bit of progress, but I needed a break. What better time to plan a menu for the week and go grocery shopping, right?  And thats what I did.  Then I came home and COOKED!  For the first time in weeks!  Todays picture (above) was my plate just before I finally got to eat, since I’d forgotten all day, unless you count a handful of blackberries for lunch.

For me, in order to be successful, I have to go by the KISS philosophy.  “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”  So I fired up the castiron skillet and fried up some beef fajitas (with bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, butter, chili powder and garlic.)  I served mine over a bed of lettuce and made my own dressing by simply mixing salsa and sour cream together.  Yum.  And so easy.  A little homemade guacamole on some black bean tortilla chips.  And wallah!  I’m a happy girl.

While I was at it, I boiled up some eggs for a quick, on the go, breakfast, and packed some leftovers for lunch tomorrow at the office.  In the morning I will start my crock pot and we will have some BBQ pulled pork, coleslaw, and BBQ beans.

Now I realize this is not strictly paleo, but I’m not beating myself up for it.  And that makes me a winner. Because I’m moving in the right direction, and accepting of my limitations now.  I’m just so glad that I have finally figured out that life is not black and white, win or lose, succeed or fail.  There’s a lot of gray in there.  And if you beat yourself up every time you aren’t perfect, you are just setting yourself up for more failure in the future.

Love yourself, do your best, and own it all. The victories AND the challenges.  And know that it is all part of this amazing journey.  I hope you are all had a blessed day!

A New Challenge

Yes, I know, following my blog is like watching a magic show… Now you see me, now you don’t…. Oh look, there I am again! Well, I could say that life is complicated.  But that would be an excuse.  Everyone’s lives are complicated.  Some of us still manage to manage their time and meet deadlines.  I am not yet one of them, but I’m working on it!

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(Myself and my dear friend, Jen. This is what I’ve been up to! Photographing! Her’s was my first wedding. It wasn’t the plan but when the photographer didnt show up, and I was glad I could be there and help out in a pinch.)

Since my last post on April 6th (oh my! Thats 6 weeks ago! So much for daily posts!) I’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster.  After my surgery I was healing well, until suddenly, I wasn’t.  A few doctors visits later, and I am finally healed and ready proceed.  Unfortunately, during that down time, which also included a crazy end of year sports schedule, (my son qualified for the state championship track meet!), a wedding,  more changes at the day job, and a bout of depression, I went completely off lifestyle.  I reverted to the crazy woman, living out of her car (not literally), fast food garbage littering the passenger side floorboard, frantically running from one place to the next!  It’s so strange how we can realize how unhappy we are and knowing how good we CAN feel, and still not make the proper adjustments…. day after day…. month after month… year after year, and convince ourselves it’s out of our hands, and that we have no control over those choices we feel we are FORCED to make because we had no options.

Or, at least, that’s what we choose to believe…. Until we choose not to.

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(My son, the runner with the black and blue shoes running at the Oklahoma High School state track meet.)

This week I finally got back on track: First with food choices, then with remembering my medications, and finally with adding exercise.  I actually went for a walk this week.  Yes, ONE.  One 1 mile walk.  Don’t judge. It was a start.

So, when I last weighed on April 4th, I celebrated dropping into the 270’s with a 279.  Stepping on the scale this morning I was a tad bit terrified.  And then a lot bit relieved.  I was afraid I had gained back 20 lbs, but to my surprise, I was 285!  Thats a gain of 1 lb a week while I was off plan, which sucks. But 6 lbs is a bump on this journey to lose 180 lbs. I started out at a high of 330. (Thats hurts my fingers and my heart to type).  I have a total weight loss of 45 pounds! Thats nothing to sneeze at.  So it’s time to put on my big girl britches and keep going!

Besides my weight loss goals, I’m also working on improving on my photography craft.  One of the things I’ll be starting is a 365 day challenge. This entails taking a new self portrait every day.  What a great way to merge  my 2 top goals into one, than to practice my photography by recording my weight loss progress!  So I will be starting a new blog to run concurrently with this one to record my progress with photography too.

Then I can neglect TWO blogs! ….

Just kidding… or at least I hope I am.  I may not post every day, But I”m going to commit to at least 1 week.  And more when I am able.

Anyways, it’s going to be a wonderful holiday weekend for me.  Today I will be attending my daughters CHS Soccer End of Year Party.  I’m looking forward to seeing everyone one more time before they all scatter for the summer.

Tomorrow is girls days out (rain or shine), to our annual Rennaisance Festival at the Castle in Muskogee (OK).  Every year I swear I’m going to rent a costume and get into character.  Then every year I end up saying, ‘okay, well next year’. And that is most likely the case again this year because with two kids in high school, the end of the school year gets very expensive. (Oh, who am I kidding?!  Every month of every year has been expensive raising these two on my own.  (But I wouldn’t trade them for anything.)  at least, by this time next year, maybe a corset will actually accomplish something other than making me look like a stuffed pigeon!

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(My favorite shot from last years festival!)

Regardless, I can’t wait to take pictures!  Where else do you get such interesting subject?  Let the fun begin!

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.  And don’t forget to remember the REASON for the holiday.

Monday: Menu planning

Ever hear the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions?”  Yeah, well some weeks that about sums up my eating.  No matter how much you plan, unexpected things happen, and the food you PLANNED to cook just sits in the fridge waiting on you, while you are off living your life. Last week was one of those weeks.  Soccer games out of town that ran later than expected, among other things.  So this weeks menu may look very similar to last weeks! 😉

Here’s hoping everyone has a healthy and successful week!

Monday:  Pork Loin, homeade applesauce, roasted veggies

Tuesday: Smoked sausage with fried potatos, onions, corn

Wednesday: Meatloaf, Green Beans, Cauliflower “mac’ and cheese

Thursday: Crab legs, asparagus, Cheddar paleo biscuits

Friday: BBQ pulled pork, salad

Saturday: Chicken Fajita Salad with salsa/sourcream dressing

Sunday: Pan Seared Chicken with Balsamic Cream Sauce, Mushrooms, and Onions, Roased Veggies

Weigh in Saturday!

Today is a BEAUTIFUL day!  I stepped on the scale (as I do most mornings, just to monitor myself.)  And what I saw there made me do the happy dance!  Back in July when the journey first began, I weighed in at my heaviest weight ever,  330 lbs.  In January, when I began this blog, I weighed in at 308.2. This morning…. (drumroll please)…..

I weighed 279.0!  I have lost 28.2 lbs in 11 weeks.  Thats an average of 2.5 lbs per week.  (Now for a smaller person, that wouldn’t be healthy, but at my size its not uncommon.)  And stepping out of the 280’s forever, and into the 270 for a short time is just reason to celebrate!

And I have lost a grand total of 51 lbs since I began this journey!

This morning I will write a little less and just take the time to soak it in, reflect, and bask in the glow!  Happy Saturday to you all!

Weight / Measurements 

Starting                    Current                       (Lost)

Weight                      308.2                         279.0                             28.2

Neck                          17 .5″                         16.5″                           1″

Bust                            51″                              48″                             3″

Waist                         52.5″                            50″                             2.5″

Hip                             60″                               58″                             2″

Thigh                          30″                               29″                             1″

Calf                             21″                            19.5″                            2.5″