Death, Regret, and Love

I was eight years old the first time death broke my heart. Even after thirty-five years, I still remember the events of that day- where I was sitting when I overheard my daddy on the phone, the words he spoke, the sadness that crashed down on me like a wave, what my mom and step-father said to me later that day as I sat, sobbing on their laps. There are some moments that are so powerful, no amount of time can diminish the memory. A bullet had fatally pierced my step-brother’s heart in a hunting accident. He was fourteen years old.

As the years passed, I came to understand the concept of death a little more. So, when it came unexpectedly for my grandmother, when I was a teenager, it wasn’t death that I mourned as much as my failure to love her well when she was living.

Regret is a painful experience.

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.
Vernon Law

Sometimes we think such an emotionally difficult experience is going to impact us in such a powerful way, that we cannot help but be transformed in the way we live. Unfortunately, some of life’s greatest lessons must be learned from repeated experience.

I remember the look on their faces when I walked back into my college apartment. My three best friends, sitting in the living room, blank expressions, but pain in their eyes. “You need to call home.” In a moment like that, you know. You may not know exactly, but your heart rate accelerates, your stomach sinks into a knot, and a sense of fear and panic washes over you. You know. Time feels like it literally slows down. You feel like you’re sliding down the wall, landing on the floor, and dropping the phone in slow motion. You feel people rush around and embrace you, but at the same time, you’ve never felt so alone… and you’re only aware of yourself and that juxtaposition of feeling so filled with heaviness, and so empty of everything at the same time. Tragedy is a cruel experience. My older sister was thirty-one years old when she drowned in a canoeing accident. That was my most difficult experience with death, and the toughest lesson I’ve learned about love and regret.

When someone you love dies, your immediate memory of them is your last. You think about the very last moment you saw them, what they were wearing, what they said… what you said- how, and if, you said “goodbye.” You want so desperately to cling to those last moments. The thing is- you never know ahead of time that those moments are your last. When you’re eight and you get mad at your step-brother for going hunting instead of staying home to play with you… when you’re a teenager and you argue with your grandmother because you think she’s meddling in your business… when you’re a college student and your sister calls you at 8am on a Saturday, and you respond in a less than kind way- you’re not thinking what if this is the last thing I say to this person? You don’t realize you’re in that very, last moment.

Regret is a painful experience.

Last week was the anniversary of my sister’s death. It’s been eighteen years, and I still think about the last time I spoke to her. I saw her briefly, the day after that telephone call, but she was asleep on the couch. I didn’t wake her. I wish I had. I wish I had said I was sorry for being unpleasant on the phone. I wish I had hugged her. I wish I had told her how much I dearly loved her. But, I didn’t.

Regret is a painful experience.

Sometimes the things we can’t change teach us the most about life. I’ve learned a lot about death through the years, but my greatest lesson has been on living loving. Trust me when I say that, in the end, nothing is more important. The pride that we carry away from an argument, the bitterness and unforgiveness we cling to with each other, our selfishness with our time, our fears of rejection or expression- these become our biggest regrets in the end.

So, choose your words wisely, and kindly. Open your heart willingly. Be fully engaged in each moment. Make peace with people. Forgive freely. Love intentionally and without fear. Don’t be afraid to express your love to someone. Make each and every moment count.

No one has ever lived with the regret of loving well.

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My New Kitchen Love

I may never eat pasta again. Seriously.

Last week, I picked up this little contraption, called a Veggetti. I. Am. In. Love.

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To be honest, even as I stood in the checkout line, I questioned how much I would actually use the thing and whether or not it was actually worth it. Yes, I’ve been eating much healthier lately, but I’m very self-aware. I know how many times I’ve gotten on these “kicks,” only to retreat to my old habits quickly. My inner Fatty was telling me that my money would be better spent on a cake pop kit. But, I’m not listening to that b*$@& anymore. Look where she’s gotten me! Besides, this is the longest I have lasted with any weight loss and health endeavor (4 weeks and counting).

I have made Veggetti more times this week than Lindsay Lohan has been in court.

Tell me this doesn’t look yummy!

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We seriously may never eat pasta again at home. My five-year old picky eater agreed. He LOVED it. It’s that good. We had it twice with spaghetti sauce and lean beef, and once with sun-dried tomato pesto and chicken. I can’t wait to try it in stir fry. Plus, it’s good just sauteed in a little olive oil, without anything else.

After a month of eating better (more whole foods, less processed foods, less fast food, etc.), I am finding that my body has fewer cravings. I love the way I feel when I eat better. Those first few weeks of change were tough. I wanted to have some serious make out sessions with Little Debbie. But, I stuck with it and am definitely starting to see that reflected in the way I look and feel. So, if you’re struggling with making the changes you want to make- I know it’s hard. I have failed more times than I can count. But, don’t give up. Never give up on yourself. Don’t listen to that inner voice who tells you that you’re just going to fail again. Show him/her what you are made of. Kick her butt. And every time she screams for a cupcake, tell her to shut her pie hole and smother her with zucchini.

They’ll follow my steps.

stairsYou know those moments, as a woman, when you see another woman in all her glorious  perfection- her lean, muscular, toned, sculpted body… her flawless skin and perfectly placed  ponytail of thick, shiny, healthy hair… her coordinated, athletically appropriate attire that  makes her belong on the cover of every fitness magazine? And, naturally, you hate her for no  other reason? Of course you do. We’ve all had those moments. And maybe she has the heart of  Mother Teresa, but she walks (or jogs) by as we’re popping jelly beans like Tic Tacs, and she  might as well be Satan himself.

I saw her at the park the other day. I was enjoying a pleasant afternoon with my kids, watching them play. I had bronchitis, so my perceived laziness was justified (as I sat at the picnic table), but to others, to her, I probably looked like the lazy mom. And she came jogging by with her two kids (about 3 and 5 years old), riding their bikes, without training wheels- because they, like their mom, are apparently destined for perfection.

She went straight for the set of stairs and started running up. Then down. Then up. Down. Up. I’ll confess, I couldn’t stop staring at her body. It was the kind of body I dream about having, but the kind of body only those who jog, and run stairs, and work out can achieve. Then I noticed that her two boys were following her. “I want to run steps with you, Mom.” I heard one of them say. Meanwhile, my kids were on the playground, eating jelly beans. Granted, they get jelly beans once a year… but their first of the season had to be at this particular moment. I felt awesome.

But I learned something in that moment. One: I can be petty. It wasn’t my finest moment of Christian character. Two: I am determining, right now, the path my kids will most easily follow with their activity level. Just as they imitate my lack of patience, they also imitate my activity level. Do I want my kids to see me eating treats and watching too much TV, or do I want them to see me making healthy choices and being active? Just as her kids were wanting to follow in her steps (literally), mine will also follow me.

My desire to be healthy carries far more weight (pun intended) with this realization. I have the power to put my kids on the path to health and wellness. Right now. It’s about much more than me wanting to fit into smaller clothes.

So, I go into today with a deeper sense of motivation. The goals I set for myself mean more because of the impact the process to reach them will have on my kids. The decisions I make today can create a healthier future for them. It’s a responsibility that motivates me.

Those stairs are waiting for me at the park. Not today, because it’s still cold here in Minnesota. But, it’s warming up soon and I’m going to follow in that woman’s steps, so my kids can follow in mine. And who knows- maybe some petty woman at the park will secretly hate me one day. I can hope.

Diet Plans

Diet “plans” are not my favorite- mainly because I don’t plan on counting calories, or carbs, or food points for the rest of my life. I’m lazy low-maintenance. I need a simple, long-term approach that is more of a lifestyle and less of a plan.

Two weeks ago, I started the 21 Day Fix with my best friend. The assumption is that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Some people, like me, may need to do 42 days (or longer).

Basically, you have your categories of food: vegetables, fruits, proteins, carbs, fats, etc. Based on your weight, you eat a specific amount of each of those categories each day. It’s a little high-maintenance in that you have to measure everything out, but it teaches you proper portion control.

You can spend the money on their color-coded measuring cups, but I’m too thrifty and practical for that (read “cheap”). A quick search on Pinterest will give you all the information you need about proper measurements, etc. I don’t do their DVDs, or drink Shakeology.

In my opinion, it’s a good plan because it focuses on real food and portion control. Once you learn to control your portions, you really don’t have to do anything else, but stick with eating better foods. I mean, no one has ever gotten fat eating too much broccoli, right?

I’ve kind of fallen off the plan during the past few days because I’ve been battling a respiratory infection and it’s been easy to use that excuse to eat donuts. I’m kidding. I haven’t eaten any donuts. I thought about a donut yesterday. Great… now I’m thinking about one again! But, I’m trying to get back on track so I’ll try to think about lettuce… clean, crispy, fresh lettuce… cream filled, chocolate glazed lettuce… maybe I should just hide the car keys.

Losing to Gain: It all starts here.

I read somewhere, once, that people who blog about their weight loss are more successful. I guess there’s something to be said about public humiliation. Self-inflicted, of course. Please do not humiliate anyone else publicly- let’s be clear on that.

Here’s the skinny (every pun intended):
When I got pregnant with my son, I decided to enjoy being pregnant. As long as I was gaining weight, I was going to enjoy getting fat. So, I enjoyed my first Super Sonic Cheeseburger, among other things. About 70 lbs later, I thought I was going to give birth to a record setting baby. He weighted in around 7 lbs. Did I really eat 63 lbs of Popeye’s chicken?? Apparently so.

Those first 20 lbs came off within the week after giving birth, and I thought to myself, “I got this!” I was NEVER going to be one of those women who never loses their pregnancy weight.

Almost six years later, I’m still carrying around about 35 buckets of chicken.

So… here I am. Public humiliation accountability time. I know all the right things to do and I can get really motivated for a week or so, but the only thing I consistently lose is determination.

I want this time to be different.

That’s why I’m sharing. A lot. If there’s one thing you can expect from me, it’s honesty. If I end up sitting in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, eating a box of Ding Dongs (cause I’m classy like that), you’ll hear about it. But just know- that is NOT my goal. So, intervene, people. Intervene.

My plan of attack is simply eating better and exercising. Discipline and hard work.

Whether you’re here to support me, join me, or just laugh at me- I hope you’ll walk with me. I’ll try to make it entertaining.

I had planned to do a daily food journal here, but for a couple of reasons, I quickly changed my mind after a couple of days. Firstly, I really don’t have the time to commit to writing what I eat every day. Secondly, I can’t think of anything more boring for people than for them to have to read a list of what I eat every day. So, you’re welcome.