What I’m Reading

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I have always been an avid reader; however, after college my reading took a nose dive.  After years of English Literature studies and reading for work, I just did not enjoy it as much as I once did.  I have slowly regained my love of reading, and never lost my excitement for buying new, interesting books.  I have an extensive library and pride myself in it.

My bookshelves contain everything from poetry to collections of letters.  I have classics, fiction, non-fiction, humor, thrillers, romance, and much more.  If I find a book I enjoyed, I usually purchase a copy for a close friend, I think would also enjoy it.  My friends often buy me books, because they reminded them of me.  I like that quality.  If there is a book you think I should read, SHARE WITH ME!  I promise to check it out.

Over the past year or so, I’ve discovered a genre that I find interesting and intriguing.  One book in particular, “You are a Badass:  How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life,” by Jen Sincero.  You may laugh, but the title is what drew me to it.  I am a badass, and I want an awesome life.  I do not think these books are meant to be a lifestyle guide; however, they do help you put some things in perspective.  I found this book while I was involved in Beachbody, which I still love by the way.  I found it on Amazon under suggested reading, picked it up, and noticed a lot of my Beachbody friends are just now reading it.  I like to think I introduced the book to them.  Maybe not, but I did mention it, and post pictures of it in our groups.  So, I’m taking credit.

I have also found Mindy Kahling to be hilarious, and she’s my soul sister.  After reading her first book, I launched myself into her TV Series, “The Mindy Project” and have yet to come up for air.  She is hilarious, and reminds me so much of myself.  You should pick this up, if you want a hilariously honest account of life.

As for now, I am switching it out between three books:  “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson, “Tell No One,” by Harlan Coben, and “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls,” by blogger Jes Baker.  These books are all great reads!  Google them, read their free excerpts on Amazon, and tell me what you think.

As you can tell, Harlan Coben is my guilty pleasure at the moment.  I have not read anything by him, until now, and I am totally enjoying his stuff.  Fiction in any form is my guilty pleasure.  I also have a book of poetry I sometimes pick up to just get lost, or contemplate life with.  Reading a poem or two a night is a good relaxing, self-reflecting thing to do.

I have really tried to incorporate reading for betterment into my regimen.  Not because I think you have to, but because I am enthralled with the idea of finding inner peace, happiness, and how other people implement things to make them successful.  I am not trying to mimic these author’s, but I think if they can make something work for them so much that they write a book about it, and share it, why not?!  Why not read about their ideas and best practices.  Maybe that’s just me.  I have also found I enjoy the realness of their writing.  As an example, Jes Baker:  I’ve read her blog for years, and her introduction had me laughing out loud and shaking my head “YES!” in agreement.

So just moments to share what I’m reading, offer some suggestions, and maybe get a few ideas back.  Share with me what you are reading, if you think it’s worth a shot.  I am an open book!

Happy Belated Birthday, America!

I’ve always thought Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. It’s the one holiday where my entire family was usually together. My aunts and uncles would come in from wherever they were; we would eat, the cousins would play, there would be lots of noise, and everyone was happy. This year I realized July 4th has been sadly underrated in my life.

July 4th, of 4th of July, was spent every year in Lebanon, MO.  Every year, my grandpa and grandma would pack up the car, with me in it, and drive the 10 hours to my great-grandma’s house. We would arrive to a house full of aunts and uncles, hugs and kisses, and lots of “Where’s Amber?!” 

We always spent a week in Lebanon.  Usually, I was treated to two seperate shopping trips. One with my Aunt Betty and one with my Aunt Gerri.  My Aunt Lois always took me to Mansfield, MO, where Laura Ingalls Wilder’s final house was. We always took the tour, a bought the next book in the Little House Series. Uncle Lee always took me firework shopping, sparklers galore.  Uncle Homer always had the best hugs.

On the 4th, we had homemade vanilla ice cream.  The uncles a d grandpa took turns cranking the maker. My aunts, granny, and great-grandma were inside constantly cooking, napping, or reading. Aunt Lois was a quilter and always had a new colorful block of beauty to ogle over.

After a day full of eating and napping, we always had some yummy vanilla ice cream before heading off to the racetrack for fireworks. The next day most everyone started packing up and heading off into the seperate directions again, only to be seen again the next year.

Yesterday I realized how downplayed the 4th of July had always been during my childhood. It was never hyped up like Thanksgiving or Christmas. I realized even if this holiday isn’t spent with my family anymore, that I have a childhood of wonderful memories.

This holiday will always be special to me, as it should be for everyone. Not because of the fireworks, BBQing, or boating.  This is the one holiday that simply has one meaning, Happy Birthday, America! Freedom!

The 4th of July is the holiday that allows us to celebrate every other holiday as we wish.  Religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to marry person of color or gender of choice, freedom to voice said opinions, freedom to vote, freedom to sit where you want, freedom to use the same restroom.  Freedom. We celebrate freedom. That statement is so enormous is gives me goosebumps to type it. Freedom. 

I am a woman who not too long ago didn’t have the right to vote, own property, or even have value unless I was married. With the freedom of speech and ability to fight, other women before me gained the right for me. Just like other men and women before us fought for or freedom to be free and celebrate the 4th of July. We have freedom, because someone else paid the price.

So for me, even though I have known all along the important of Independence Day, this year, among the upheaval and hatred in our society, it hit me: Independence Day is the day that allows me to celebrate every other holiday, as well as live every other day, as I choose. I am free and celebrate freedom every day of my life; and from now on, hold the 4th of July a little closer to my heart.

Past, Present, Future

I was driving from my city life, to my old country life on Sunday.  I exited the interstate, turned on to a country road and saw the signs, “Come Enjoy Easter Sunday at the Cowboy Church!”  I knew there was a cowboy church not far on the left, and it made me smile as I got closer and saw all of the cars and people in the parking lot.  They were fellowshipping and talking, most wearing jeans and cowboy hats, then I spotted them; two regal cowboys mounted on their horses by the drive. They looked like statues, sitting still, and serious, rugged lines across their faces, one holding an American flag and the other holding the Christian flag.  It took my breath away.  I forgot to breathe just for a second, as I continued on down the windy road toward my own family.

I spent the day loving on my cousins’ new babies. I played with Lea, the spitfire of a little girl, who never sits still.  She hunted eggs more times that I can count.  I ate more than I like to admit, and I visited, which made me realize I do not get to go it enough.

The family was there, most of us anyway.  We were missing a few who live farther away and could not make it.  We did get to see their Easter pictures online after lunch, and laughed and talked about how much we missed them and how fast times seems to go.  We were a little nostalgic at the Easter’s past.  We remembered how we had prize eggs.  How my cousin Heather always seemed to find said prize egg, and how my grandpa always painted that prize egg.

We talked about our relatives present and past.  We smiled at the memories and laughed at some of them.  Some of them were a little more sad than others, due to we were missing so many people who have passed.  I know for me, I miss my grandpa the most at Easter, due to said prize egg painting and daffodils blooming.  The wind always brings the fresh scent of Spring with it, and a little twinge of sadness.

As I drove home from my Easter Sunday spent with my family, I passed a tractor cutting a field, getting it ready for planting.  I thought of the cowboys again, sitting regally on their horses.  They were messengers of God that day.  To me, they reminded me of all of the things I am thankful for.  I am thankful for all of the farmers in our nation, who provide us with the food we eat daily.  They are not really cowboys, but farmers, but those cowboys symbolized so much to me.

They symbolized the past, of country weekends and nights, the present, of being both country and city, and the future, something I have yet to see.  The country disappeared behind me as I veered onto the interstate, and drove toward my present and future with a little sadness.  Even though I have lived in the city for over 10 years now, I will never lose that part of me that loves dirt roads, fishing holes, four wheelers, trucks, and animals.  I will always want goats and chickens, maybe one day I will have them, but for now, my city life is my life, and I will live in and enjoy the present.

Who Knew?!

I have been feeling pretty low about my career situation lately.  I went to school for this amazing degree, that I love everything about it.  I love literature, I love criticism, I love discussion, and I love analyzing.  I LOVE MY DEGREE!  I worked so hard for it, and I feel like it just sits on the shelf gathering dust, as the diploma that came with it. I have been asking myself, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” a lot lately. The answer is still a teacher, a helper, and a motivator.  Not a coordinator.

For once in my life, I can say I am happy with everything else.  I am happy with my relationship.  I am happy with my friends. I am happy with my hobbies, let me rephrase, I have found hobbies, and I am in love with them.  I am completely head over heels for Maci, the new fur baby in my life.  As well as her daddy, which is a good thing, considering we are coming up on two years.  He definitely has my heart like no other ever has.

I feel like I am getting my creative juices flowing again, writing, painting, creating, and getting the energy out.  Also, I started focusing on my health.  My workout regimen is on point, and I miss it if I miss a morning, and feel weird until I do it.  I have learned to listen to my body, rest when I need it, and push it a little farther each day.  I have registered for a 5K on April 4, and I am stoked!  I have never been excited about doing anything healthy.  It is a new lifestyle and I love this life.

Tonight, I was invited in on an opportunity which I think is amazing, and feel so blessed to have been asked to be a part of.  I have worked hard at finding out who I am over the past few years.  You tend to lose yourself, or really not know who you are until after college.  You are so caught up in working and going to school, and doing what everyone else wants you to do, that you forget to find out what you want to do, or like to do.

After school, I could not even tell people what my hobbies were.  I had not had enough free time to even know what I enjoyed anymore.  I loved to read before, but not the sight of a book made me cringe.  It took me almost two years to pick up a book and read it for fun.  I had read so much throughout my undergrad and my graduate studies that I just wanted to go blank and stare at a TV for hours.  Now, I am finding me, and have spent a good while convincing myself it is okay to put me first for once.

I have been posting a lot of “self-discovery” blogs lately, but I just want people to know that it is okay to put yourself first.   Women tend to put others first, always and forget that they have to take care of themselves as well.  In my plus-sized support group, most of the women are in their 40s and 50s, stating they have forgotten to care for themselves through marriages, children, jobs and so forth.  They are just now realizing how unhealthy they are.  Health is not the only thing that can go to the wayside, happiness, life, and just enjoying the small things tend to be forgotten, and then before you know it, POOF, you realize you lost yourself somewhere along the way.

I am 31, almost 32, single and childless.  I am very thankful for this time in my life.  It is allowing me to focus on me, whereas a few years ago, I was upset and felt like a failure because I ended the relationship I thought was going to be the forever happily ever after.  I fell into a deep depression, I rarely left the house, I slept all of the time, and I was miserable.  Slowly, I came out of my fog, and started venturing out on my own, and realized there is still a life to live.  Even though I hate my job, at the moment, I am blessed to have it.  However, I am so glad I started my journey to fit, because without it, I would not be where I am today.  I have a great group of ladies that I get to communicate, encourage, and see their struggles daily.

Today, I am a happier, healthier me.  I am blessed, and this group, and lifestyle change has opened so many doors for me.  I honestly can say that I have never been happier with myself or with my progress.  I just hope I can motivate, help, and hold hands with other women like myself, that need a little pick me up, or soundboard at some point in their lives.  Women should encourage other women, not put them down.  We are all struggling with our demons, why not help someone through theirs, instead of a *tsk tsk*and a head shake in disappointment or sorrow for them.  Offer a hand to lift them up.  Do not look down on someone unless you are lifting them up.

Reality Check

As most of you know, I have been working on the 21 Day Fix, with Beach Body.  I have enjoyed it so much, as well as all of the ladies I have been working with, that I decided to become a coach.  This does not mean I am in the gym every day, or pushing my program on people, I am merely sharing.  Now, if you are interested in finding out more about the program, or trying it, let me know though, ok? J

I have found that this choice to make a change in my physical lifestyle has helped me in so many ways.  I know exercise is a natural mood elevator, I just did not realize it was this awesome.  I have battled with depression for a few years now, I would say the better part of 10 years.  I know some of you may know this; however, a lot of you do not even have a clue as to how bad it is.

There have been weeks where I have isolated myself in my house, not leaving for anything, except to gather necessities.  If you have ever seen me out on one of these hunting and gathering experiences, more than likely, my hair was not washed, and had not been for days.  I may have had a shower, or may not have.  I usually always shower, because I just have to.  Washing hair?  Not so much.  I never wear make-up out in these instances, and I usually have on a pair of yoga pants and a sweatshirt that is three sizes too big.

I do not share my depression with people. I do not talk about it much.  There are a few people that know how bad it has really gotten, but most do not.  Unless you have suffered from severe depression, there is no way to explain it.  There were weeks I would see my therapist two or three times.  Every day would be the same.  We would sit in her office; I would drink my coffee and cry.  She would nod and ask me questions.

A person can look completely normal and suffer from depression.  I am usually a really joyful person.  I talk to everyone, I laugh, I smile, and I am genuinely nice to everyone.  When I have an episode, I stop talking to people, I sleep or do not sleep, and my diet sucks.  There have been days where I have slept 20 hours out of the 24, and then there are days where I sleep four hours, out of the 24.  People who do not suffer from depression cannot understand what it is like.  They may see you somewhere, or wonder where you have been, but they never really understand.

There is such negativity surrounding depression.  So many people think it is a “fake” disease.  People use it as an excuse to not have to live life.  This is not true.  There is nothing more a depressed person wants to do.  They want to live life, they want to go out and not feel like they are about to burst into tears if someone asks them how they are doing.  They really, really want to live.  It is just harder some days.  Some days, they just cannot make yourself do it.

I am sharing this, because I have found that even though I still have days where it is physically hard to get out of bed and live my life, the change in my physical life has really helped.  I know this is not the case for everyone. There are still days that I have to make myself get out of bed, make myself workout, make myself shower, and make myself leave my house.  Some days I make myself look nice, so I will hopefully feel nice.  It does not always work.

I think sharing this about myself is part of my journey.  My journey to fit is also my journey to love myself, and my life.  It is important to stop hiding things from people, and share who I am.  This is important for me to embrace myself, as I am.  There are private things in life, but depression is not one you should be ashamed of.  I have been for a very long time, and it makes me feel like I am not always sharing the real me with people.  Throughout the years, I find the people that truly love me will love me anyway.  They will love me through my non-hair washing funk, and they will love me after.

The Daffodil

The sunlight hit my face, warming it while the chilly late winter breeze blew through my hair, and nipped my nose.  My nose is cold, it is always cold, but I am bundled up with my scarf, my hat, and my late winter, spring ware.  I am ready for spring.  My favorite season, the season of renewal and of birth.  This year, I will be renewed and reborn.

I have been working on a project of me.  I have taken the focus off of everything else in my life, and focused on me.  I am focusing on my health, my finances, my diet, and my career.  I am in a good place in life.  It is March 7.  The fact hits me hard.  So hard, it knocks the air right out of my lungs.  Tears sting my shaded eyes.

Today is his birthday.  Today, we would be celebrating 82 years.  Today, we are not celebrating.  I get in my car, turn down the radio and reflect.  I call my grandmother.  We chat and talk and even bring him up.  We bring up his love of warm milk on sleepless nights.  I share a story of him making me warm milk in the middle of the night a few times.  Apparently, she never knew.  It was like we still had little secrets that were just between us.  I laughed saying, he was probably sleepy and wanted me to go to sleep, so he gave me milk to he could.  She laughed too.

We end our conversation, not mentioning it is his birthday.  I continue driving to my boyfriend’s house.  I do not listen to the radio on the way.  I drive in silence, surrounded by memories of birthdays past.  Mine, his, Mom’s, Granny’s, Heather’s, everyone really.  They have always been big days in our family.  They are the day you were born.  You came into this world, all new and shiny.  You had yet to be tainted with the world and it’s harsh realities.

Birthdays are good days.  Today’s birthday is always bittersweet to me.  I smile and think of all of the happy times, and funny times, and good times.  I wipe away a tear at lost memories that were never had.  I wonder what he would think of me now.  I am 31 years old.  I live alone.  I have a job that I find mediocre.  I have a degree that I love, but never use.  What would he say?  What would his advice be?  Would he be proud of me?  Would he be disappointed in me?

I pull up to the curb, and start to unload my stuff.  I know that inside there will be a happy home, filled with puppy love, and snuggles from my love.  I know that we will relax and enjoy each other’s company.  I know that we will discuss our lives and important details, like what is for dinner.  We will discuss our parenting with the new puppy in our lives.  We will be happy.  We will be content, and both completely in love with our new little furball.

I glance around, squinting against the sun and see it.  There is only one, but it is there.  Earlier than normal, but never too early for me.  A daffodil.  There it is.  Alone.  On the edge of a neighbor’s yard.  I smile, tearing up again.  Many memories were lost, but he is still there to say hello, and remind me he is there for me, even now. Under my breathe I tell him I love him and I miss him so much.  I take a moment to just stare at the flower, loving it; treasuring it.  I walk inside with a small smile on my lips.

Beemon and the Beachbody

I have had so many people ask me about the program I am doing.  I wanted to actually share some of it here with you.  I thought it would be easier than trying to update the information in a Facebook status.

I joined a Challenge group, hosted by my new celebrity (to me) BFF, Coach Tulin Emre.  I LOVE HER!  I cannot say this enough.  She is an amazing woman and inspiration, not only in fitness, but it in life.  She has so much insight and wisdom to share on so many levels.  My coach focuses on plus-sized women who are battling PCOS, Endometrioses, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and all of the other health issues that can come with being a “full bodied” person.  (I use this term in honor of Leonard Nemoy.)   I also say can come with, because not everyone suffers from the same outcome, so there are many different health problems/risks for anyone, not just plus sized women.

I found out a year ago I had endometrioses.  This was devastating for me.  I researched and I realized  a lot of women suffer from this same issue.  I have had surgery, which has helped with the physical issues so far.  During the process of my research, I found Coach Tulin.  I watched some of her videos, about modification of exercises for bigger women, and I watched her helpful hint videos.  I sat for hours watching the content.

During my private viewing, I not only learned the had lost 80 lbs., but she had lost everything a few years ago.  She had been homeless with two kids, and a husband who had lost his ability to walk due to MS.  Now, this is a rundown, if you want to hear the whole story, look her up on YouTube.  She was inspiring as a person to me first, and then eventually a physical inspiration.  I stalked her online for over a year.  I had reached out and made contact a couple of times.  It took me almost a year, but I finally decided to go all in.

She mentioned her Challenge group on Facebook first.  I stalked around, and eventually reached out.  Her first question to me was, “What are you looking for in your life?”  I sat stunned for a minute, why is she asking about life when I’m talking about her Challenge group to workout.  Then it hit me, after all of my stalking and creeping around her social media sites, she is interested in the smaller details to get to the BIG result.

I told her my story.  I have had gastric bypass.  I have lost 150 lbs. in 3 years.  I have gained 30 lbs., if not 40 lbs, of that back.  I had stopped being active and started being lazy.  I wanted a workout that I could do, a plan that I could follow, and I know she could help me get that.  I mean we were the same weight, and she was doing!  I had to be able to do it.

Now, I have never been athletic.  Ever.  In my life.   As I shared before, running a lap around the football field during band camp terrified me.  This was a challenge, but I did not that I felt better than I had before, but now I was not feeling so great.  I knew it would be a challenge, but I also knew the challenge group was a support group, as well.  She told me about her group, what she expected.

She expected me to show up.  That is it.  She is a coach, not a coddler.  She would work for me, if I worked for me.  If I disappeared, she was not chasing me.  It was all up to me.  I know me well enough, to know that I need some sort of structure in my life to make a change.  She told me about cleaning eating, and for me, some of it has been a challenge, but since my surgery, I ate pretty clean, except for the Starbucks.  (Dramatic music here…)

She did not tell me I could not have Starbucks, she just said, you have to find what fits you.  This is the plan I recommend.  I looked it over, I thought, I can try anything for 30 days.  See if I like it, if I see results, if I don’t send it back for my money back.  I even signed up as a coach so I could get the coach’s discount.  Any discount is better than no discount.  Am I right?

So I signed up for the 21 Day Fix and Shakeology.  I have done protein shakes pretty consistently since my gastric bypass, so I was prepared.  Oh honey, I was NOT prepared. It was delicious!  So nom.  With my package, I received two 21 day Fix workout DVD’s (30 minutes of intense workout a day), I received the 21 day Clean Eating Guide, the containers that they recommend to measure your servings with, my Shakeology, and the blender bottle.  Oh, and a bonus PLYO workout DVD.

I felt like a sponge.  I could not get through all of the material fast enough.  I read everything, I looked at everything, I felt like it was Christmas.  I even watched all of the workouts to see what I was getting into.  I saw it and thought, I can do this.  If I need help, I have Tulin.  She is literally a phone call, a message, or an e-mail away.  She is there for me.

Needless to say, I have not looked back since I started this journey.  I love it. I have not regretted making my decision to start the fix, and I find that I feel better.  I have more energy.  I crave my Shakeology.  By the way, this is not a protein drink, or a liquid diet.  The drink is dense nutrition.  I will post a link to the video that tells you everything that is it in.  It is amazing. It is like a so many superfoods that taste like chocolate.  Hello, my love…. I eat more now than I ate before I started, but I am making healthier eating decisions, and never feel hungry.  I actually do not like to call it a diet, because it is not.  It is just a different life for me.  It is a lifestyle change, just like getting healthy has always been.

I just wanted to share since I have had so many people ask me what I am doing, and how it works.  Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have, I LOVE talking about my journey with everyone.  Also, I am a coach, so if you want to try anything that I have mentioned, ask me!  Don’t just depend on the website and google to help you.  Ask me!  You all know me so well, and know I will be so honest it hurts sometimes.  So ask me!

As promised the video: (watch until the end, it’s funny and short!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwgaeGBvm4c