2015 Year in Review

When I look back at this past year, I’m completely filled with gratitude. If I had to choose one word to summarize 2015, I would say enlightening.

So much has happened this year. So many changes, mostly on a personal level. When I entered the year, I was less than happy with myself. I had let myself get to a point of being somewhat unhappy. And complacent. Although I had so much going for me, a good job, had just bought my own place, I just wasn’t where I wanted to be. Most of that related to my health and fitness. I wanted to get back in shape, but was having a terrible time finding the motivation and will.

During and after my divorce, I had to find the strength to make some much needed changes in my life. I had grown through that period, but a part of me realizes now that I was kind of flying blind. I was going through the motions of what I knew I needed to accomplish. I glossed everything over, and plowed through, looking for what was on the other side. But I wasn’t fully processing everything along the way, and I didn’t realize that there was so much more to be done. I thought once I came through that period, everything would be ok. Magic. That’s where I got complacent. But life is funny that way. We are constantly growing and changing with the tides.

I’ve experienced so much more growth this year. I set my mind to making changes. I changed my diet. I started running again. I feel fantastic! I lost the weight (for the last time!) and I’ve been keeping it off just by being mindful of my choices. I’ve set goals for myself, and kept them.

I got in front of a camera for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-many years. Like, a real camera. Not just selfie’s with a cell phone. 🙂 And from a photographer that has spent so many years hiding behind one, it was time to practice what I preach. (And I’m gonna preach… get out there and get some pictures taken! Real ones. Do it for yourself and those that love you, just the way you are!)

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I had my first post-divorce relationship, if you’d call it that. And through that process I’ve learned even more. I’ve never been more comfortable and ok with who I am. I have a lot to offer, and either I’ll be accepted and appreciated, or I won’t. But what someone else thinks or feels about who I am or what I have to give, is not reflective of my own feelings. I can only be me, and staying true to who I am is so important. Sometimes friendship is all there is, and that’s ok. I think the biggest lesson here, however, is the importance of honesty. I have no time or tolerance for bullshit (ie people who hide behind lies and dishonesty in any way, shape, or form). At the end of the day, I aim to love the best way I can, treat others the way I want to be treated, show respect and appreciation, forgive when forgiveness is necessary, be honest and open with everyone, including myself, and hope for the best.

I also realized that I need to be challenged. I think running fills a bit of that void. It gives me something to work towards. A sense of accomplishment, too. But I also see the need to be challenged in other areas. I’ve been feeling underutilized at work. I love my job. And I love the industry and what I do. However, I also know that I am capable of so much more. I need something more challenging, more sense of purpose. So I’m going back to school to finish out my associate’s degree and work towards a bachelor’s. I need to feel like I am doing everything in my power to be my best self. And I couldn’t be more excited about it!

So yes, this year has been filled with enlightenment. Realizations that, no matter how much I love everyone else and want them to be happy, ultimately it comes down to doing what’s right for me. Accepting that maybe I don’t have it all figured out. That maybe the best is yet to come. My tag line says it all, I’m still learning to be me. The best me that I can be. One that I’m proud of, regardless of what anyone else wants me to be.

If you have never failed at anything, then you have never reached for a big enough goal. If you only choose goals that are safe, familiar and right, you’ll never stretch far enough to know who you really can become or what you are capable of doing.

To do something different, you will need to be someone different. Decide to leave your safety zone. Move beyond fear of failure to the possibility of authentically and consistently living your truth and creating a bigger life. You have something special. You have GREATNESS within you! ~Les Brown

Pain, Grief and Acceptance

Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do. ~Brené Brown

Last month, I wrote a post on my birthday about learning to finally love myself. You can read that here. But I’m not perfect.

I love myself for all that I am. I really do. And I accept myself. But it’s a constant battle. Every day is something. Almost daily, I look in the mirror and see the body of the person I was 100 pounds ago. I know that’s not me any more, but that’s still what I see.

Almost daily, I find myself constantly wanting to ask “Why?”. I know I’m a wonderful person, inside and out. And it’s what’s on the inside that matters more than anything. But I still wonder.

It’s a daily thought process of mine, reminding myself that I’m perfect just the way I am. Even though I’m not perfect, far from it. But I constantly see all my mistakes, all my imperfections, and I wonder if that’s what everyone else sees too?

Fall is a very hard time for me. My absolute favorite season, but it bears so many negative reminders. My birthday. Every year for the past 5 years I’m reminded that I don’t have someone to take me to dinner and celebrate. My divorce was finalized in October 3 years ago, another reminder of my failures. And this year a friend posted that they are celebrating 20 years, they were married in 1995, as was I. I don’t think I ever allowed myself to grieve that, given all the other circumstances distracting me. October also marks the anniversary of my ex’s trial, another painful reminder. And through it all, I’m reminded of how strong I’ve had to stay. Carrying so much on my shoulders.

I know I’m strong. I know I’m independent. I know I’m beautiful. But I constantly have to remind myself of these things. And of what I’m capable of. Physically and mentally.

I just applied to go back to college to work towards a bachelor’s degree. Something I’ve always thought of, and never done. I often wonder if part of my desire stems from wanting to be better. Feeling like I’m not good enough. As if some degree will make me a better person. (It won’t, I know that. I’m going back because it’s something I’ve always wanted. Again, proof for myself that I’m capable.)

Like running. I run because I can. I prove to myself regularly that I’m capable. That my body can accomplish far more than I give it credit for.

All these things weigh on me daily. And I just keep pushing through. And trying to remain positive and smile.

And then today happened. Earlier this month, I actually paid a photographer to take photos of myself and my kids. It was more for me, truth be told, but I really wanted pictures with my kids also. It’s been almost 10 years since I had photos of me with them (and of course my ex was in those too). It was money I didn’t really have to spend, but I did it for me.

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And today I got the previews. It was all I could do to keep from tearing up at work. Looking at those photos and seeing me for the beautiful person I am. And accepting what I see. Seeing me still smiling after all I’ve been through. And happy.

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And I’m once again reminded of why I love photography so much in the first place. I always wanted to give others that feeling of being proud of who they are. And showing that love and beauty through the lens. And this is also why I advocate for everyone to get in front of the camera! It’s so important, to do it for your family, but most importantly, for yourself. Especially as women and moms. We get so caught up in everyone else, that we forget about ourselves.

So thank you so much, Scarlett. For making me feel beautiful. And worthy. And reminding me exactly what I’m made of. And that yes, I AM enough. I will treasure these photos always.

Dear Mr. Marathon Man

Sometimes the simplest little acts can make such a difference in a persons life. 

Yesterday was a great day. You see, I’ve always shied away from being in front of a camera. I hated myself too much to allow too many pictures to be taken of me. I didn’t want to be remembered, not like that. 

But as my children have grown, and I’ve looked back for photos of me with them and came up practically empty, I regretted that choice. And in the process of learning to accept myself, I’ve also learned to love myself. 

So when you came by us taking pictures outside the Chicago theater yesterday, I was in the middle of a photo shoot to celebrate me. To take some photos with my children. To embrace all that I am. And to move on. To finally let go of that person of the past and all that I dealt with. To embrace the new me. 

And there you were. Asking to take a photo with some strange 40-something female in a dress on a city sidewalk. But that simple act just made my day that much more special. And I thank you. 

Best of luck to you and all the runners at today’s marathon. I will be cheering you on in spirit. 

Sincerely,

A fellow runner friend, who maybe someday will be there too. 

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Even a bad run is better than no run at all. 

So my last blog post I was patting myself on the back. Today? Not so much. 

This is what happened:

  
Not so great, for sure. It’s been a rough few days. Have pain in my foot, which felt perfectly fine this morning. But worked double yesterday, and it was a late night. And we won’t talk about how I pulled my calf muscle yesterday. Let’s just say it happened and leave it at that. 😁

But you know what? I still got out there and did something that only 6 months ago I could only dream of. 

And this:

  
Makes it all worth it. To be able to run and soak this all in. Something that is so easy to take for granted. 

So yes, it wasn’t a great run. But it was my run. And it doesn’t make me any less of a runner. We all have bad days. And that’s ok. We should still be so proud of what we accomplish every day we step outside that door. I know I am!

Me

The best gift I can give myself, is loving me for all that I am.

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Happy Birthday to me! Yes, today is my birthday, and it’s a great day! But then every day is a great day, as long as we make it that way.

A little more than a week ago, a friend posted something on Facebook that really got me thinking. About me and where I am, where I’ve been, and how I feel about myself.

For years, I’ve always compared myself to everyone else. I’m not sure why. I never really thought of myself as someone with low self esteem, but looking back I sure was! I was never as pretty as the other girls. Never as athletic. Never the popular one. And the biggie, never as thin as they were. I always saw something in the mirror that, looking back, was completely false. I was never overweight in high school, although I thought I was.

So it’s been a lot of years of fighting with myself. Trying to be something better. Always feeling like I could never be good enough. That no matter how hard I tried, I always failed. And this goes back to my post from last week, I would just shut down and do nothing because I was so overwhelmed with trying to accomplish the impossible. And I hated myself.

Since my divorce, I’ve been trying to focus on finding myself. Figuring out exactly who it is I am, and who I want to be. And learning to be ok with whoever that person is. And doing it on my own and being ok with that too.

Which brings me to today. And the best gift I can give myself, is loving me for all that I am. I’m caring and compassionate. I’m friendly and loving. I’m intelligent, loyal, and honest. Strong and independent. I’m healthy. I’m happy. I’m flawed. I’m scarred. I make mistakes. I’m not perfect. But I’m me. And that’s ok. Raw and vulnerable. Perfectly imperfect. A constant work in progress.

I avoided the camera for so long. Always choosing to take the pictures rather than be in them. And looking back, I’m sorry I wasn’t there more. That there are so few pictures of me with my own children. I’ve only recently started getting in pictures, and taking pictures of myself. And I love what I see. So here I am. This is me. With makeup and without. Sweaty and not. But always beautiful, just the same.


And because it’s my birthday, I’m just throwing this out there again. Please check out my fundraising website, and help me make a difference for children, no matter how small. That is my only wish today. 

Bittersweet

When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.  ~Shauna Niequist

I read both of Shauna’s books last Fall, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet. This particular quote was found on the back of Bittersweet, and I immediately loved the quote. With everything I have been dealing with, this just summed it up. Life isn’t all a box of chocolates, sometimes we are handed some pretty bitter stuff. But I came to realize early on that it’s all just a lesson in life. The trials we face are nothing more than the means to grow as people. To evolve into who we are meant to be. Life is a beautiful thing, and the sooner we can face everything that comes our way with that mentality, the better off we’ll be.

Change is probably the hardest thing for me to accept and do. Because change brings about the unknown. It’s bittersweet. No matter how much I may be looking forward to the sweet, I also have to deal with the bitterness that is a part of it as well. For the past several months, I’ve been working towards changes in my life. Moving on. But now that these changes are actually starting to occur, even though it’s everything I’ve been working for, I’m sensing a bit of the bitterness involved. I know it’s time, and I’m looking forward to it. But I’m going to miss a lot of what I’m leaving behind.

Today is my last day at the only job I’ve ever really known for the past 5.5 years. I know I need to move on. Not only because I need a full time income, but I’m just ready. But I’m going to miss all the people. The bitter. I’m looking forward to my new job, I’ll be back where I was before I left 12 years ago. Same job, different company. The sweet. I’m also looking forward to the freedom that will come with the change. And although I know I’m on the right path, and I’ll be happier, it doesn’t make it easy. But I’ve learned to embrace change. To accept what is. And move forward.

Last night, we had another decent sized snowfall. Bittersweet. I love snow. It’s so pretty, especially the snow we just got. The way it hung onto all the branches. But I hate driving in it, shoveling it, all the not so fun stuff. At least this one waited to arrive in mass until after I was home last night!

From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. ~Psalm 61:2

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Black and White

My daughter and I were at a counseling session recently, talking about life. She sees everything as very black and white. I never realized this about her in the past. My son, yes, he’s always been very logical and concrete. But my daughter, she was more of a dreamer, a creative.

She brought up math. She says that’s why she loves math, it’s black and white, either you’re right or you’re wrong. There’s no maybe, no gray area. But as our counselor explained, it CAN be very grey. She’s very good with analogies. For example, in math, you have a definite problem, and a definite end, but everything in between can be very grey. You can get to the end many different ways sometimes. And that’s what happens in life. We have problems, and we have end goals (which may not always be so concrete as in math), but everything in between is very grey. Many ways to reach our goals. How we go about it, is what determines our path in life.

And I realized, this is why I, too, always loved math. It was always my favorite subject. I usually enjoyed the problem solving process, but I especially loved the fact that answers were either right or wrong. I was never a fan of having to make choices, or give opinions. I wanted everything to be black and white.

But I’ve also realized that, along with the preference for black and white, comes the need for expression. For something that allows you to be free from the concrete. Life can’t always be black and white. It isn’t. And we all need some outlet to allow us to feel the grey. For me, that’s why I love photography. I was never an art person. Hated it in school. I always said I wasn’t creative enough. And I couldn’t draw to save my life! But not all art has to involve pencils, or chalk, or paint. I chose photography as a way to express that creative side. That grey area. When I first started really getting into taking pictures, it was merely a means to capture the moments of my children’s lives. I wanted to remember their youth. But it quickly became more than just the people in the pictures. It was about creating art. Yes, using the subject, be it people, animals, or other “things”, but also experimenting with what you can do with the rest of what’s in the photo. Learning to really make a photo appealing, and draw others in to experience the expression of the art.

I posted a photo not too long ago on facebook that was black and white. A friend of mine commented about how she loves black and white photos, because it allows her to create the rest of the photo in her mind. I never really thought of black and white that way before. But it’s kind of a reminder, that even with black and white, there’s always room for interpretation, that grey area.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13

Reminders

I often have people asking me how I’m doing. What’s going on. And I know for every one of those, there’s probably two people that are afraid to ask. That don’t want to pry. I was talking to a friend last Summer. Questions were asked, and then an apology for asking. I said I didn’t mind… I’m an open book at this point. Or am I?

I really don’t have anything to hide. Anything that I’m not proud of just shows I’m human. I make mistakes, but I’ll own them. But I’ve realized recently, that there’s a lot that I really haven’t talked about. I think part of me just gets tired of talking about it all. I don’t care that people know. And part of me thinks everyone is probably tired of hearing my woes anyway! And honestly, it’s hard to stay positive when you’re talking about what’s not working right now!

I have daily reminders of the past year. Scars, some would say. But I prefer to call them reminders. Yes, there’s no shortage of emotional reminders. Every day. Multiple times. Every time I walk through my hallway. Every day I go to work. Every time I get in the van. But I choose to use them as positive reminders, not negative. Reminders of the smart, beautiful, thoughtful children I have. That I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for.

And then there’s the physical reminders. The two surgical scars I see every day. Reminders of the pain of the past year. But also reminders of the lessons I’ve learned. Of the thankfulness that what was there is now gone. To release fear for faith. To appreciate every day. And perhaps most importantly, to not put off until tomorrow what can (and should) be done today.

So for all my friends out there that are probably wondering… please know that I’m just trying to remain positive. To be thankful for that which I do have. And to not focus on what I don’t. I just want to return to some normalcy in my life. You know, the one that moves on. Yes, there’s a lot going on. There probably will be for some time. But I know things will be alright eventually. That’s my faith. That’s what gets me through.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. ~Joshua 1:9

Thirty-One

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
~Proverbs 31:10-31

Wow! That’s a long verse! I don’t usually post verses that are that long, but I couldn’t pull out just a snippet of that one.

A little history… last Summer I was invited to a purse party. I had been looking for a new purse for myself, and I saw a friends and loved it. She told me she was having a party, and I asked for an invite. I fell in love with the products, bought my purse, and I love it! Fast forward to Fall, and I was invited to another party from a different friend. I had considered signing up to sell as an independent consultant, but found out she signed up as well, so I decided against it.

A few weeks ago, she had posted something on her facebook wall about the company. That same weekend, I ran into someone, a stranger, that was asking about my purse. I totally felt like a sales person at that point! And I thought, if only I sold the stuff myself! So I met with my new consultant friend, and discussed the possibility. She gave me some information, and I came home and read all about it on the website. I found out that the woman that started the company, came up with the name from this passage in the bible. The virtuous woman. The company is all about empowering and encouraging women and girls. To be this person that God wants. To be all we were meant to be and are capable of being. And I realized… maybe THIS is the company for me! I’ve tried direct sales before. But didn’t put my whole heart into it. But this time, my circumstances are different, I’m a different person. I love the products, and I love what the company stands for.

So with that, I decided to take the plunge. An independent consultant. I may not be all that verse wants me to be, but I’m going to try. And I’m going to empower myself. To do what I need to do. Both for myself, and my family.

A New Year

It’s a new year, and that can mean only one thing. Change. I’ve never been much of a New Year’s Resolution kind of person. Sure, I’d set a resolution, only to fail within a week, maybe two. But I know I never stuck with it because I didn’t really WANT to change whatever it was. What’s the point in making a resolution for change, unless you are really ready for it in your heart and soul? Yes, a new year is a good time to make those changes, if you truly ARE ready. And that’s where I’m at.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. The biggest ones in the last year. I own them. I know I’m not perfect. And I know nothing will change if I blame everyone else for everything going on in my life. Yes, I contributed to the trials of the past year. But I’ve learned from it, and I’ve grown. True change can only come with acceptance. I accept myself for all that I am. The loving, kind person, that has faults and imperfections. A work in progress.

New Year’s Day I had this idea. How about I make a top 10 list. A top 10 list of lessons I’ve learned in the past year. It just flowed, without much thought. I was going to post it then, but my internet hadn’t been working at home for over a month. I’ve been going to the library almost daily, but my time there has been consumed with trying to find a job. But last week, my smart, kind son fixed it for me! So, here’s my list.

Top 10 Lessons of 2011

  1. Accept help from wherever it comes. Don’t be too proud. Sometimes help can come from the most unexpected people.
  2. Along those lines, don’t be afraid to ASK for help. If you need something, you know who you can count on, ask! After all, friends and family aren’t going to know how you’re feeling and what you may need to get you through, but you know they’ll be there for you if you just ask.
  3. Never act out of reaction. Take the time to think things through. And taking a week to ponder how you will act wisely, is much different than taking a week to plot your revenge!
  4. The most painful life events require some leaps of faith for growth. If you don’t leap, you’ll stay where you are. And that obviously wasn’t working for you.
  5. Truly moving on requires letting go. Moving on does no good if you’re still holding onto what was. The biggest move you can make, is learning to accept what is.
  6. Everything happens for a reason. We won’t understand those reasons all the time, but in time it’ll all make sense. Truly believing in this one statement will really put your heart and soul in a calm, peaceful state that probably won’t make sense.
  7. Believe. In something. In someone. Believe in God. Believe in the power of the universe. Whatever you feel in your heart, just believe. But most importantly, believe in YOURSELF! If you believe, you can achieve!
  8. Being a parent is the most difficult job there is. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions, doing what we think is best, no matter the pain we cause. We can only hope the pain is temporary, and some day they’ll understand. Thankfully, the rewards are more than worth it!
  9. True happiness can only be found within. Relying on others to make you happy will only make you miserable.
  10. Be thankful for everything, and every one, in your life. For you’ll never know what the future holds, and what you may lose. Nothing is permanent.

Obviously, it’s been a while since I blogged, and a lot has happened. Holidays and both kids’ birthdays, which were a great reminder to me to be truly thankful for everything. Tomorrow is never a guarantee, we have to live each moment to the fullest, appreciating what we have today. There’s this part of me that wishes 2011 would never have happened. But if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have 2012. Yes, it was the most painful year of my life, but it also provided the most awakening, most importantly within myself. I’ve learned so much this past year, and can never wish that away. Here’s to an amazing 2012! For all of us!

On to my photos…. here it is, January 14th. And only two days ago did we receive the first real snowfall of the year! Not just the year 2012, but for the winter season! I don’t think I ever remember a year where we had NO snow until January! Sure, it would fall, then melt, but nothing! So I decided to take a walk this morning, and I took some pictures of the white that abounds. Not as pretty as it would have been had I taken them on Thursday, but late is better than nothing, right?

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. ~2 Corinthians 5:17

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