You Are Stronger Than You Think!

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Lessons From My Personal Health and Fitness Journey

For those of you who don’t know me personally, or haven’t been following me, eight months ago I had enough of how I was feeling, and the weight that had crept on over the past few years. In January I decided to finally take charge, and began a journey towards better health and fitness. My fitness coach had encouraged me to share some of my journey, although it wasn’t my comfort zone. But I did it anyway. Over the course of the last eight months I shared bits and pieces of my journey with my followers on social media. In a few months I discovered that what I was doing, and the progress that I was making, was inspiring others to make similar steps towards their own better health and fitness. I had no idea. My coach was right. So, I decided that no matter how uncomfortable I was sharing progress photos, pictures of food I ate, recipes, tips, etc., it was worth it if it even helped one more person take steps towards better health. And that’s what brings me here today. After eight months, 13 pounds, trial and error, I wanted to share my journey. What I have learned, where I have failed, in hopes that it might help others who have been on the fence about making changes. So the other day I sat down at the computer and began typing up my back story, and what got me to the point that I made the decision to take charge of my health. Three pages and a lot of word vomit later I realized that no one cares about what got me to that point. Everyone has their own back story, their own reasons why they haven’t taken care of themselves, eaten right, exercised, have health issues, etc. I am just like everyone else. So I scratched all of that, and decided that what was most important was what I have learned along the journey. What I have done. What I tried that failed, what I tried that worked, how I stayed on track, and how I faltered at times. Before I get to all of that, instead of pages of word vomit I will give you the Cliffs Notes version that led me to eight months ago.

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Most of my life I never had to worry about what I ate, I had good metabolism and was able to stay pretty thin eating lots of junk I shouldn’t have eaten (I was a major carb and sweet junkie), and not doing much working out (I would go through phases of it). I was one of the girls people hated because I never had to try. I knew it would catch up with me at some point, and in my late 30’s it finally did. I went through phases that I tried to eat healthier and exercise, but then life, or injuries, would get in the way and I never stayed consistent. After the birth of my third child at 37 (nine years after I gave birth to my second child…) my body wasn’t what it had previously been. Between hormones, lack of sleep, and a busy life with a little one plus two older children, it was hard for me to focus on taking care of myself. (Okay, who am I kidding, I never was really good at that, but it was even harder now.) I put on an extra 10 or so pounds that I was struggling to get off. (I know this doesn’t sound like much, but it was a lot on my frame, and enough that it had begun to cause me a lot of other issues.) I knew that if I didn’t put a stop to it soon it was only going to get worse, and harder the older I got. My clothes didn’t fit, I didn’t feel good, I wasn’t sleeping well, I had chronic pain and inflammation, I was exhausted all the time, my energy level was really low, my auto immune skin condition was flaring up terribly. The list goes on, but these were the big ones that I struggled with on a daily basis. I was tired of feeling this way day in and day out. I was 41, I shouldn’t feel like this!

January rolled around and I begged my husband to let me try out a fitness and nutrition program that I had been watching a coach do for a year and a half. He asked me to be honest, was I going to stick with it? I had tried lots of things, and never stuck with any of it. I assured him that I would (although being honest with myself, I wasn’t sure that I could). I knew that one of my big struggles was figuring out exactly what I needed to do, and how to pull all of the pieces together. So I promised him that I would, that having everything I needed to do in front of me was what I needed, ordered the package, and immediately started on my journey. I was excited to feel like I finally had something that might work. Over the next eight months I learned a lot about my self- image, emotions, body, relationship with food, and what I liked and didn’t like as far as exercise goes. So here we go, this is my experience!

Find Support
One of the big things for me had always been trying to do things on my own. That’s part of why I never stuck with anything. When I began my journey I had a fitness coach and an online group of women to ask questions of, share ideas with, share ups and downs with, and hold myself accountable. And I had a supportive spouse that was behind what I was trying to achieve. Whatever works for you, find someone or something. Have a workout partner, a group, join a gym. Ask a friend to help keep you accountable. Whatever it is, find support and encouragement. It makes a world of difference to know that someone else is rooting for you and your goals. I really don’t think I could have made it this far without the coach and group of women I was surrounded by online. It made me want to do better, be better, and stick with it.

Do It For Yourself
Health and Fitness is just like anything else. You have to want to make changes to be able to. You have to want it for yourself. If you are trying to make health and fitness changes because it’s what someone else wants you to do, and not for the right reasons, it will never work. You have to want it for it to drive you. My husband never made me feel like I needed to change my body. It came from an unhappiness with myself. Did he subtly tell me that I couldn’t just keep buying new clothes because I was gaining weight and nothing fit? Sure. But that was the honest truth. He was right. He never once told me I didn’t look good or make me feel like I wasn’t attractive. But now he tells me all of the time how great I look, how hard I’ve worked, how pretty I am. If that doesn’t encourage you I sure don’t know what will! It’s so nice to receive the recognition from my spouse and know that he is also proud of what I have accomplished, but to know that I did this because it’s what I wanted. This summer he did admit to me that the previous summer I was pushing being able to look decent in a bikini. But you know what, he never said that to me until AFTER I got back in shape. He never made me feel bad about myself. If you are the spouse of someone that needs a little work to get back to a healthier state, PLEASE read this and take it to heart. What they need is encouragement to make themselves healthier. Not derogatory comments about where they are.

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Figure Out What Is Driving You
If you have goals and dreams, there has to be something driving those. Think about what those are. What are the real reasons that you want to achieve the health and fitness goals you have? In the beginning mine was losing weight. It quickly turned into so much more when I realized the changes it was making in my body, and I added to those goals to feel better and get healthier. And, I wanted to show my husband that for once I could stick with it. Part of me was all about just proving him wrong since I knew he didn’t think I would stick with it. The further I got in my journey, the more I reached and exceeded my goals, and added new ones. I never dreamed that my body would be as toned as it has become. That was not initially in my goals. But when you see changes and like what you see, it drives you even more to keep at it. Whatever it is that is driving you, think about that daily. If you keep your end goals in mind the baby steps will seem much more important.

Take Things At Your Own Pace
Everyone is in a different place when they begin a health and/or fitness journey. Some people have worked out before, some haven’t. Some have a lot of weight to lose, some have a little. Some have a lot of health problems, some have very few. Some don’t eat a very healthy diet, some eat very healthy. We are all different. We all come from different places and have different struggles. Yours will be different than mine. Sometimes you need to start with baby steps so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. And that’s OK. I had a conversation with a friend today that just started trying to focus more on her health. She seemed down on herself for the slow start and time of the mile she had run a few days this week. Hold up! You haven’t done any exercise for years. A mile, at whatever pace, three days this week, is a HUGE step towards getting yourself going. You are up, you are moving, you are doing something! In my book that counts for a lot. Maybe you start with giving up soda and then add in other dietary changes. Maybe you walk 10 minutes a few days a week and then work up to more days and more time. Maybe you quit having unhealthy snacks or processed food. Whatever little change you need to make to get started is a step in the right direction. Then just keep adding to those changes. For me, I knew that if I was going to do it, I had to go all in. I started working out every single day to create the habit. I cut out refined sugars. I started a balanced nutrition plan based on macro nutrients. I cut out processed foods for the most part. I drank lots of water. But that doesn’t work for everyone. We are all different. Just do SOMETHING. Every little something you change is better than where you were the day before.

Be Kind To Yourself
There is no doubt that along the way you will hit some rocky patches. You will miss workouts, you will eat things you shouldn’t, you may have injuries that slow you down. You may be at a place physically that all of this just isn’t easy. That’s OK. It’s a process and a journey. When you falter in your workouts and eating, just get right back at it. One day isn’t going to make a difference in the scheme of an entire journey.

Find What Works For You
For me, this was huge. I had dabbled with finding workouts on Pinterest and various things. I never could really find something I felt that I really liked. And I never knew how to put all of those pieces together. For me I knew I had to have a plan in place, something that told me exactly what to do and when to do it. The fitness plan that I signed up for had all of that put together for me. That took the guessing out of it so that all I had to do was figure out what type of workout I would enjoy. I tried a few different things and realized that anything aerobic, dancing, or plyometrics made me feel completely clumsy, and I didn’t enjoy them at all, and plyometrics workouts caused my knee and lower back to hurt more. I discovered that I really like a routine that has weights in it! Who knew! Once I was able to focus on that I began to look forward to and enjoy my workouts so much more. If something makes me feel awkward, I won’t want to do it. There are different kinds of routines out there to fit everyone’s style and needs. Some people love to dance (don’t get me wrong, I love to shake my booty, but not for my workout). Some people love yoga. Try different things until you find what best suits you. And that you enjoy. The package I ordered has all different types of workouts so I can move from one to another or change it up when I need to. And most of them are between 30-45 minutes, which easily fits in my schedule. It’s been great for me. And I loved that I didn’t have to go to a gym. Some people are more motivated at a gym but for me it’s just one more thing. If I work out at home I don’t have to work it around childcare, I don’t have to worry about people watching me (except my kids), I don’t have to make the excuse of fitting it in my schedule. I just have to walk downstairs and turn the work out on. How easy is that?! For me I discovered that if I get my work out done first thing in the morning there is more likelihood that it will get done, and other things won’t get in the way. So that has become my routine.

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Don’t Kill Yourself With Long Work Outs
We used to be taught that to get in shape you needed to spend hours in the gym and doing cardio. Research is now showing us that this isn’t the case! You can get just as much if not more out of a shorter high intensity work out than spending two hours at the gym or lifting heavy weights and killing your body. This certainly makes it easier to fit in, and less reason to make excuses. And it it’s better for your body and can give you better results, well that’s a win win in my book!

Stick With It
You know that old saying that 21 days creates a habit? It’s true. The reason you need to try to do something every day is that it puts your body into the groove, it makes working out a habit that’s easier to maintain. The plan I first started following had a workout for every day of the week. One was a yoga routine which allowed your body to stretch and recover but it still kept you doing something. Don’t get me wrong, there were many days that I did not feel like doing it, or thought I will just take a rest day. But I stuck with it. And every week that passed made it so much easier to do it, and it felt like less of a chore. Before I knew it working out was a part of my daily routine, and I craved having it. I had more energy and my body was already feeling better.

Change Up Your Nutrition

It was obvious for me that the way I had been eating wasn’t working. This may not be the case for everyone, but even if you eat healthy and have plateaued and can’t reach your goals, it’s often related to your nutrition and how your body is burning the fuel you are putting in it. I knew I wasn’t healthy, and I knew what I needed to cut out. What I didn’t know was exactly how I should be eating to achieve my goawl. There are so many different nutrition plans that you can follow that will keep you on track, eating healthy, and fueling your body properly. I started out eating based on a macro nutrient plan. It helped to get me on a better track for eating a well-balanced diet, cutting out processed foods and refined sugar, reducing carbs, and increasing protein and vegetables. It worked great for awhile but then I felt like I had plateaued and like I was so focused on eating and fitting in the macros, and what I was putting in my body. It became harder for me to sustain. I began to crave more carbs, and even tried to find excuses to up myself to the next level just so I could eat more carbs. Over the summer I fell into some bad habits again and slowly let some bad nutrition creep back in. And then we went on a two week vacation. I gained back 5 of the pounds that I had worked so hard to take off! My stomach was starting to become a mess again and really causing me issues. My energy dipped. I felt more tired and wasn’t sleeping as well. When we returned from vacation I knew that I had to remove gluten, because long ago I discovered that it was the root of my stomach issues. I made a conscious effort to do so, and then started learning about the ketogenic diet. The science and research behind it made sense. My fitness coach was having great success with it over the past several months, so I decided to give it a go. I absolutely feared that cutting out carbs and all sugars (even natural ones like honey and maple syrup) was going to be the death of me. Seriously. I LOVE carbs and sugar, and had lived for them! But I gave it a shot and jumped in head first. Not gonna lie. The first 4-5 days were a struggle. I had a severe migraine, felt bloated, and at times lethargic. But I had read that this could happen, so I stuck it out. After my body detoxed again and balanced back out, I started feeling great. I quickly dropped a couple of the pounds I had put on and my body was leaning out again. Pain and inflammation was decreasing and I had more energy. Then two weeks later I added in taking an exogenous ketone supplement (check it out here) that helps to put the body in the state of ketosis. Game changer!

My little guy loves to help me cook yummy, healthy treats!
My little guy loves to help me cook yummy, healthy treats!

Immediately I felt better, had a lot more energy, felt more focused, performed better in work outs, started sleeping better, my skin began clearing up, pain and inflammation continued decreasing even more, my body really began to lean out, and I noticed drastic positive changes in the symptoms of my autoimmune skin condition, Lichen Sclerosus. If you have followed my journey with Lichen Sclerosus you know that this is a huge added benefit! The exogenous ketones have not only helped me with my fitness and weight loss goals, but have had so many added health benefits I can’t even tell you how amazing it has been! Not every nutrition plan works for everybody, so do some research and try some different things until you find what works for you, what you enjoy, and what is easy for you to maintain. If it is too difficult for your lifestyle and you don’t enjoy the way you are eating, you will never be able to maintain it long term. I’m not saying don’t ever enjoy a few things. There are times when you need to enjoy some pizza, a slice of cake, or whatever treat you enjoy. If you follow a healthy nutrition plan most of the time it won’t hurt you to have a cheat meal every now and then. It helps you to feel satisfied with how you are eating!

Listen To Your Body

Our bodies know what they can take, and when you are pushing it too much, and it has a way of letting you know it’s time to back off. This was tough for me to embrace at first, but I started realizing that I had to listen to my body and what it was telling me. I had to take a break from work outs for 6 weeks over the summer because my shoulder and lower back pain was really getting worse again and I was in a lot of pain. I knew if I didn’t rest my body I was only going to make things worse. So I took a rest, and then started back in doing some yoga to ease my body back into things. Between the rest, the yoga, and the change in nutrition of cutting out grains and sugar, my body healed and I was able to get back on track and back to normal work outs. During this time of changing up my nutrition I also learned that for me having grains and even the small amount of carbs and natural sugars that I had been eating only caused me to crave these things more. After I transitioned to the ketogenic diet and added in the exogenous ketones my cravings drastically reduced and for the most part are completely non-existent. I have learned that when my body has these things, it only wants more of them. And that is exactly what got me into trouble!

Some days are easy, some days are a struggle. This particular day was a struggle the entire work out.
Some days are easy, some days are a struggle. This particular day was a struggle the entire work out.

Stay Off The Scale
Yes, you heard me right. And yes, I know how impossible it is. In the beginning I was literally on the scale every morning watching for changes, and driving myself, and my coach, crazy when I didn’t see movement. My coach kept telling me to stay off the scale, but I just couldn’t! I wanted tangible results and I wanted them now! But in all honesty, it only made me more frustrated. The number on the scale will likely move quickly at first if you are drinking lots of water. Then it will become slow. Weigh yourself once a week, and first thing in the morning. More than that is unnecessary and will only make you frustrated with yourself. You may not see much movement on the scale for awhile, and then suddenly it will happen. That’s OK, just stick with it and you will see results!

Take Measurements and Photos
I cannot stress enough how important it is to do this! I took measurements and photos the day I began my journey. And those are how I was truly able to see my progress. My clothes felt like they were fitting looser, and I thought I was seeing changes, but when you put photos side by side that is when you will really be able to see the transformation. I did this about every month, and really helped me to be excited about the results I was achieving, and give me the drive to keep pushing forward. I know those first photos are not fun to take, or go back and look at, but seriously. Do it. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
This one is sooo hard, especially with social media. Remember that everyone’s body is different. Everyone finds progress at different rates. And not everyone’s body is intended to look the same. And seriously, a lot of the photos on social media do not show the full truth of how someone looks… There are many angles, lighting, and times of day that can make someone look drastically different. For me I know that especially my mid-section can change in appearance throughout the course of the day depending on what I’ve eaten, how much water I have drank, when I worked out, etc. I can take a photo in the morning and by noon look completely different there. So don’t let others photos and progress fool you, or discourage you. You are uniquely you, and that is perfectly OK. I still look at my mid-section and see cellulite and think that by this point surely that should be gone, especially 13 pounds later! But you know what? I’ve had three children. Not everything on my body will ever be able to look the way it did prior to growing, nurturing, delivering, and raising three kids! And now I’m OK with that. It’s part of who I am, and part of being a mother. I’m no longer ashamed of that. What I am is ecstatic with the changes I have made to my body, health, and mind.

Learn About Yourself
Along this journey I learned so much about myself that I hadn’t learned before, or hadn’t allowed myself to see. I never thought I could stick with it, I did. I never thought I could get back in this kind of shape, I did. I never thought I like lifting weight, I do. I never thought I could cut out carbs and sugar, I can. I realized that I am stronger than I think I am, and I can accomplish more than I ever dreamed I could. And it was all me. I was the one who was determined and put the work in. And I also realized that this journey was about so much more than just weight loss and fitness. I am in a better state emotionally. I have more self confidence. I feel better about myself and how I look. There is so much more of an emotional connection than I ever realized.

 

The long and short of it is that no one thing works for every person. Don’t become frustrated because one program or nutrition plan doesn’t work for you. Keep researching and trying different things! Once you find what best suits you and your lifestyle, you will get in a groove and be able to make headway towards your goals. Today, eight months later, I met, and exceeded my weight loss goal. I don’t even know the last time that I saw this number on the scale, or was this toned. It has been a really long time. I am probably pretty much at my ideal weight now. I love the muscle tone that I have gained and how my body has leaned out and looks healthy. My skin glows and is clearer. I feel great, inflammation and pain are pretty much gone. I never dreamed that I would be able to stick to it, let alone achieve what I have. All of the expectations I had eight months ago are out the window because I way surpassed them! It feels amazing to know that I accomplished this through hard work and dedication, and that I have found ways to sustain this lifestyle and be completely satisfied with how I am eating. Coming from a carbaholic sweet tooth, I am telling you that if I can do it, you can too! What steps will you take today that will help guide you to a healthier place?! You are stronger than you think!

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Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

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So, I haven’t posted on the blog in a long time because, well because of exactly what I’m writing about today. I sit here today putting my thoughts onto the screen of my phone through the WordPress app, while I shove a salad down in between chores, errands, and running my kids to and from activities and appointments. For all intents and purposes, most people view me as a “stay at home mom”. The reality is that while I don’t work a full time job outside of the house, I am a part-time real estate agent, run a small home based business, and do the books for my husbands clinical practice. I have many irons in the fire! In addition to that, like most other moms, I play taxi driver to my 3 kids, am a chef, maid, and personal assistant just to name a few. And right now I’m feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, inadequate, and frustrated. There. I said it.

I mean sure, I’d like everyone to think that my life is perfect just like most people’s social media shows, but it isn’t. In fact, that is exactly why I created this blog in the first place. Remember? Real Life? And unfortunately while writing has always been an outlet for me, real life got in the way, and I had to start letting go of some things. The blog posts were one unnecessary thing that worked its way out of my life. But here I am today, trying to release my frustrations, knowing that there are a lot of other mothers feeling the same way I am, but not wanting to admit it.

On the surface it appears that I am frustrated with just all of the tasks I’m dealing with. But the root of the problem isn’t the tasks per se, but rather how our lives have become so crazy busy. If kids want to play on a good sports team, be accepted into a good college, have a “good” career and future, it seems that the path to those things has been paved so differently than it was 30 years ago when I was a kid. Wow. 30 years ago? Tomorrow I will be 42! How on earth can I be this old?! Where has the time gone? Oh yeah, the last 15 years have been spent running my kids all over the place to give them the opportunity to pursue their dreams, and to try to be a “great mom”. Instead, what all of this has done is make me feel like I am not “good” at any one thing I’m trying to be! My duties as a mom, parent, wife, housekeeper, and business owner all suffer because there isn’t enough of me to fill all of these roles with perfection. And to be honest, I don’t like it. I don’t like feeling less than adequate. I don’t like not being able to keep my house clean. I don’t like seeing my parenting and marriage suffer because life is so crazy.

While I have felt this way for quite some time, the slap in the face came this morning. As I was running around the house picking up after everyone, doing dishes, doing laundry, my 4 year old was begging for someone to play with him. He asked his sister who apparently responded that she didn’t want to right now, that she is the only one that ever plays with him. Wow. My heart sank seeing how my 12 year old daughter viewed things. And she’s right to some degree. I want to sit and play with him, to work on learning activities, to do science experiments, to have fun with him. There just never seems to be enough time. In that moment my eyes welled up with tears, and I felt like the worst parent in the world. I felt like a failure.

How did this become my life? How did I become so busy that I don’t have time to sit down and play with my child like I wish I could? Let me tell you. Society has changed. Expectations have changed. Sports have changed. Technology has changed. We have changed. Our kids have changed. Gone are the days where a kid just played on a little league hometown baseball team because he enjoyed it. Welcome to the days where parents push their young child to be on “the” elite baseball club team, travel every weekend for out of town tournaments, and spend a fortune to give them the opportunity to play ball, because this is the only way to now. This wasn’t how it was when I was a kid. None of this was. We had no cell phones to text and play games on, we picked up the phone and called our friends. We made plans to hang out instead of “hanging out” virtually on Xbox or through snap chat together. There were no travel club teams. I don’t remember my parents running all the time, but maybe I just don’t remember because they were the ones in the trenches like I am now. And it occurs to me, did my mom feel this same way when I was a kid?

Today’s perfect day included being slapped in the face with reality, being begged by my 4 year old to play, attempting science experiments the 4 year old has been begging for that turned out to be a total flop, a heart to heart discussion with my two older children about the state of things right now which sent me upstairs in tears, and the grounding of my oldest from technology today for things we repeatedly ask to be done that repeatedly get ignored. A day of parenting at its finest!

I do my best to try to fill all of these roles, and I do to some degree. But I don’t feel like I do any of it perfectly. Maybe I have too high of expectations for myself. Or maybe this is everyone else’s life too in spite of what they portray on social media. I try to keep a fairly clean house, I provide home cooked healthy meals almost every night in spite of our crazy sports schedule, even if that means cooking dinner at 4:00. But still, on the eve of my 42nd birthday, I feel completely and totally inadequate. This started out to be a post ranting about the expectations we as parents now have for our kids, the expectations they have of us, and how we got to this place, and somehow turned into the realization that right now I am feeling like a failure. But as I think about it more, I’m doing the best I can to be perfect. My family is thriving and healthy, they have hot healthy meals at home almost every day, our home is fairly clean, and somehow I manage to squeeze in running them everywhere and managing three different business activities. I am always exhausted and rarely take time for myself aside from my daily workouts. But I guess I’m about as close as I can be to perfect. I’m perfectly imperfect. And trying to learn to be okay with that, but as a perfectionist that isn’t an easy task. I’m not a Pinterest perfect mom, and I wish I were, but in this season of life with a four year old and two teenagers, what I am is here for them, and doing the best I can to manage it all. There aren’t fancy graphics and a lot of editing time poured into this post, because that’s the whole point of it! This is just my raw, emotional thoughts spilling out in the midst of a busy day. So for all you other moms out there that feel inadequate, overwhelmed, and imperfect, join me on the eve of my birthday in embracing being Perfectly Imperfect!

Wishing you peace and love,

Laura

Haters Gonna Hate

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As I am standing in my kitchen cooking grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids lunches tomorrow, and watching a tray of bacon cook in the oven (Which by the way smells delicious! Who doesn’t love bacon?!), my mind drifts off to a comment that was left on my blog post Lichen Sclerosus – There IS Hope that was left over the weekend. It has been on my mind the past couple days. So I decided to make efficient use of my time, and jot down my thoughts (err type them in my blog app) while I am standing over the stove.

Have you ever thought to yourself “I wish I had…” that many clients, that nice of a house, that expensive car… ” I wish I was…” that successful, that smart, that wealthy… Whatever the thought may be, we have all had those moments that we wish we were something we weren’t, or wish we could attain something we haven’t. The keeping up with the Jones’ mentality. The I should be able to have what everyone else has notion. The thoughts that drive some people to CREATE dreams and DO big things, but that remain wishes for many others. And sometimes that desire to have or be something you aren’t turns into HATE.

 

Dream Big Large

When I originally shared my very personal story about living with Lichen Sclerosus, I had absolutely no intentions of ever turning it into a business. That was not even a thought in my mind. I shared my story, and the recipe that I created, from a place deep within my heart that truly wanted to help others find relief and better wellness. Over time and the course of some events with the essential oil company that I was a distributor for, I was no longer able to just share my recipe, at the request of the essential oil company. After having numerous conversations with friends and mentors, it was brought to my attention that I had the SOLUTION to a PROBLEM. Something that many people needed. Something that could change people’s lives. And that I should take that solution and turn it into a business, just as so many successful entrepreneurs have done. So I did. I started a business, LifeWorks Skin Essentials, and created my flagship product, Restore Natural Oil Blend. I have invested a lot of time, as well as money, to provide a product that fills a void in the health and wellness field. And it’s working. It’s providing people that have an un-treatable and miserable skin condition with relief from some of the symptoms. Relief that wasn’t available before, and that they never thought they would find. And with that relief it is providing a HOPE for a better and healthier future.

But of course with any success comes the HATE. Those people I talked about above that want what you have. In this case, the HATE seems to be that some people (albeit only a few that have voiced it) feel like I am taking advantage of people who have a miserable health condition. That this is an emotional and miserable condition and that I should be GIVING my recipe away, not turning it into a product for sale. That I am taking money from people that I shouldn’t be. You can please some people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I guess I have a hard time understanding how selling the product I am selling is any different from any other health and wellness product. And guess what? I also live with this miserable condition and all that goes along with it. So yeah, I know EXACTLY what it is like.

Unfortunately in the age we now live in, everyone wants something for nothing. In this case, you did the research but you should just SHARE it with everyone. Everyone else shouldn’t have to do the research, invest the time, invest the money, invest the passion. Divide the knowledge among all those that need it. (Hmmmm this is sounding very similar to a current political candidates stance on things… 😜) This particular commenter even suggested that at her young age, if this is what she has to look forward to, her outlook living with this condition is bleak at best. Well, I say to that, I chose to EMBRACE my life with Lichen Sclerosus, and find ways to live a better life with it. I chose to DO something about it! YOU have control over your outlook and your future, CHOOSING your destiny. You can choose to have a bleak outlook on your future, or you can choose to embrace it.

The few “hate” comments that I have received, I have not let bother me. I don’t dwell on it. I do dwell on the emails that I receive from people thrilled that for the first time they are able to manage their symptoms. Thanking me for creating a product that really works. Sharing their success stories with me. Excited to have hope that they never thought they would have. So you know what haters? Just go on and hate. But I am going to continue plugging away and doing what I’m doing. Investing time and money to find better ways to bring this product to the people that really need it.

My advice to any of you who have a spark of a dream, a thought of something you can do, or be, or create? In the words of a very smart little three year old, my son Brett, “Let’s do this!” You CAN do it. You WILL do it. Take charge of your thoughts and don’t let others (the HATERS) bring you down. Don’t let others tell you that you can’t. Don’t think you aren’t good enough, smart enough, strong enough, wealthy enough. Don’t think that because you are a stay at home mom that you don’t have time. Don’t let the hate overtake your thoughts. I am just an average person like you. I have an average college degree. I live like everyone else. But I had a spark of a dream, led by a passion to help others. I listened to others encouragement and I allowed that spark to grow, and turn into a dream. And I made that dream a reality!

Haters gonna hate, no matter what you do. But the number of supporters will far outweigh the haters. So go on, create a dream! And turn that dream into reality. And ignore the haters.

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I Have A Dream

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I hate to admit this, but I am 40 years old and up until this point have not been one to really ever set goals. Sure over the years I have had fleeting thoughts about things I would like to do or achieve, but I can’t say that I have truly sat down and written out a real dream or goal to work towards, let alone the steps to get there. And apparently I am not in the minority. Most people either don’t have goals, or don’t write them down. Research shows that those who write down their goals achieve significantly more than their counterparts who do not write down goals. So maybe that explains why I feel like I haven’t achieved much in my life…

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Not only have I not been one to set goals or find a dream, but I can honestly say that at 40 years old I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I graduated high school having an interest in accounting but not truly knowing what I wanted to focus my college course of study in, starting my freshman year declaring a major in Business Administration. This seemed like a good path given my interest in accounting, but I still had no specific focus. During my first year one of my Business courses, Statistics, gave me a wake up call to the parts of business that I didn’t enjoy, and didn’t come easily to me. And as I continued to think about a career in accounting, I came to realize that I was too creative to crunch numbers all day. The more I thought about what I enjoyed, the more I thought about the Communication field. After much thought I changed my major to Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations and a minor in Business Administration. I loved all of my Communication classes, they encompassed so many things I enjoyed, embraced the more creative side I had. But after graduation the job market was tough, and I had a difficult time finding a job, and a difficult time finding a focus because my course of study was so broad.

After several years and a couple of job changes I finally found a position that I loved, working for a wonderful and creative company. It fit me perfectly, and I loved my coworkers. It was a fun atmosphere and allowed me to use my talents and enjoy what I was doing. Then I became pregnant with my first child, and during the pregnancy the company decided to close the division that I worked in. My last day with the company was right before my due date. While I hated to leave a job I truly enjoyed, I viewed it as a blessing to get to be home with my child.

After being home for a few years and having another child I decided to get back into the work force to give myself something to challenge my brain, and to be around people. I worked a few part time jobs that fit around our family and life, but did not fit within any certain career path. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grow up…

After eventually going back to work full time for a few years, I became pregnant with my third child, and was once again faced with the decision to stay home or continue working. After working from home part time for awhile, the company decided to change directions with their plan and I was out of a job. At this point I was nearly 40, and still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grow up… And now out of a job. So I decided to continue staying home with my children, and dabbled in some Multi Level Marketing ventures that didn’t really pan out the way I had hoped. I guess it’s just not my cup of tea.

Enter where we are today. All of the years that I worked off and on between children with no career path, I had absolutely no goals, no vision, no dreams to reach towards. And didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grow up. Then I was diagnosed with a miserable auto immune skin disease, Lichen Sclerosus, that has no medical treatment that truly works, and no cure. You can read about it in my post Lichen Sclerosus – There IS Hope. After suffering and using medical protocols that did nothing to help my condition, I set out to research and try to find something I could do naturally that might help relieve the symptoms. I created an essential oil based formula that actually provided relief for the first time. My doctor was amazed at the results I was getting. So, I wrote the blog post about it and had a huge amount of traffic to that particular post. So many people were contacting me wanting to know exactly what I used, desperate to find something to help after living miserably for years. After blending my recipe themselves, many reached back out to me thanking me for sharing this with them, that it was a life changer. I was encouraged that the formula was not only working for me, but for many others as well. And I was changing lives and helping people to feel better. Then enter everything that began happening with the FDA and homeopathic products, and I was no longer able to share my recipe after the essential oil company that I was a distributor for asked me to remove any specifics about essential oils and medical conditions from my blog site. Then the wheels started turning. There had to be a way to get this out there to all of the people, like me, that suffer from Lichen Sclerosus. After talking with several entrepreneur friends, I was encouraged to do as so many others have done. I had a solution to a problem that people needed to solve. So I set out to create the solution in the form of a skin care product. And www.lifeworksskinessentials.com was born! Over the past few months the orders have slowly come in, and are now growing at a pretty good pace. I am beginning to see a good amount of repeat customers, and continue receiving emails from customers with positive feedback about how the product has worked for them, and helped them to find relief after years of suffering. My passion for helping others and continuing to grow this business increases every day. After meeting with a local entrepreneur that took a similar path with a natural product that has now been FDA approved, I am even more encouraged than ever to keep pushing forward to get my product in front of all those who could benefit from it. And I now have a goal. I am taking the steps to research and put together a proposal for testing and clinical trials to work towards FDA approval of the product, which will allow me to more effectively market the product to those who need it. Finally having a goal to work towards and a real passion for something is both exciting and scary all at the same time. I feel like I have a purpose outside of my family, something that I can call my own, a dream that can help provide a better life for my family, and a goal that will help others achieve better health and wellness so that they can fully enjoy their family. But of course reaching these dreams and goals won’t come without sacrifice and time. But I am determined to do what it takes to fulfill this dream, and reach this goal. Thanks to the support and encouragement of many people in my life and new connections that I have formed, I know that I can do this. Now to just figure out exactly how to get there…

Are you one of the few that actually sets and writes down goals? Or are you in the majority that doesn’t? I am quickly learning that if you don’t have a dream or a goal, you have nothing solid to work towards. So get out there, find your passion, create a dream, and set a goal! And then work towards it! And yes, moms, you CAN do it!

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Mission Possible

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So I have been a little absent from my blog for awhile now. About 9 months. There are times in our lives when we have to take a step back, evaluate how we are spending our time, and make adjustments. As life got a little crazy, writing blog posts was one of the things that I had to let go of for awhile. While I love writing, it was making life a little  more hectic, and taking time away from my family. This post has been in the works since last fall, and I finally have the time to sit down and complete it. So, enjoy my thoughts on potty training my third child!

At the beginning of last summer I set out on a mission. A mission that I thought was going to be impossible, but I was determined to do my best to give it a go. Potty training my third child. The third child who up until that point would throw a fit and scream every time you would attempt to put him on or get him to sit on the potty, talk about potty training, or get out big boy underwear. Brett at the time was two-and-half. I knew that he might not be ready given his responses to the previous efforts I had made, but I also knew there was a chance that this extremely strong willed child might really be ready, that maybe he had just been expressing his strong will and independence. The ” do it on my time” attitude.

Let me just start out by saying that potty training a toddler when you are 40-years old is not what it was when you were 30-years old. Okay, I will be completely honest. Nothing I do with my toddler now that I am 40-years old is what it was when I was 30-years old with my second child. Less time, less patience, and of course, a strong willed child added to that. Sigh. Yes, here it is again. The discussion about the milestone birthday I recently had. But I digress…

Brett proud of himself on the potty!
Brett proud of himself on the potty!

My first child, Garrett, was relatively easy to potty train. In a matter of days he had the whole thing down. From the first day we started he woke up dry in the morning and at nap time, and immediately started using the potty chair. It was a piece of cake until we soon after hit a snafu with going number two on the potty, which he had mastered and then suddenly the tables turned. Getting through that was somewhat of a struggle, but the whole situation was not nearly as difficult as I had anticipated. All in all, I thought it was a breeze.

Bring on child number two, Lydia. From birth Lydia had a bit of a sassier attitude. Of the two, she was the climber, the one that got into everything, the one that pushed the limits. She wasn’t really strong willed, just determined and curious. She was not, however, determined to go on the potty. She didn’t really want to have much to do with it. She didn’t resist being put on the potty, she just wasn’t interested. I put off potty training knowing it was going to be a waste of time if I attempted it too early. We finally started potty training and… it took forever. She was certainly on her own schedule. Even once she had mastered going on the potty, she still wasn’t dry in the morning or after nap.

Enter child number three, 8 years later. And me 8 years older. Brett can certainly be considered in the class of strong willed child. I thought Lydia had determination. Oh, she had nothing on this one! If he doesn’t want to do something, it is nearly impossible to force him to. Over the past several months I had tried to slowly introduce him to the potty chair, big boy underwear, the big boy toilet. At first he would sit on the potty chair, read the book, push the buttons (oh yeah, 8 and 10 years ago the potty chair we had didn’t have buttons to push!). He seemed interested somewhat. Until I began to attempt potty training. You would have thought I was murdering the child! All of a sudden a switch flipped and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with the potty. Try to put him on the potty chair or toilet, he would scream bloody murder and fight you. Try to show him big boy underwear and he would scream “No!” and run away. I tried buying fun underwear with his favorite characters, Paw Patrol. I tried buying a fun toilet seat that you put on top of the toilet. I tried talking up the potty and being a big boy using it like Daddy, Bubby, Sissy, Papa, Nana and Mommy. Nope. None of it helped. In fact, I think it made him even more determined to not do it! I even tried bribing him with M&M’s, which is something we never allow him to eat. Nothing was working.

I finally decided that any “slow” method of potty training was not going to work with this one. Early in the summer we had a week that we didn’t have to be anywhere. So I decided this was the time. We stayed home for a week, he ran around the house nearly naked, and I put him on the potty every 30 minutes or so. We went through many accidents at first, but then it started to click. He was going pee on the potty! Hallelujah! The angels were singing! The trumpets were blaring! But… number two was still not happening. Can I tell you how tired I was of cleaning poop out of underwear or off the floor?! After the week was up, we had made great progress, but we still weren’t there. And he refused to go on a toilet outside of the house. In lieu of dealing with accidents when we weren’t home, I ended up putting him in pull ups when we had to go somewhere, which only confused him and he would just do the deed in the pull ups instead of attempt to go on the potty. While I was frustrated, I didn’t give up, and we kept plugging along. And during the process, I realized something that was even more important than potty training and getting my toddler out of diapers.

The kids at Silver Dollar City.
The kids at Silver Dollar City.
Garrett and Lydia riding kiddie rides with Brett at Silver Dollar City.
Garrett and Lydia riding kiddie rides with Brett at Silver Dollar City.

I mentioned earlier my two older children. They are now 14 and 11. So, there is quite an age gap between them and Brett. They have always been very helpful with him, love to play with him, and seem to really care about him. But the potty training was what really showed me just how much these two care about their little brother. They encouraged him, they helped to praise him, they would sit with him while he used the potty. They even helped to clean him up after we finally started going number two on the potty. They were completely involved in the effort, wanting him to succeed, wanting to help, wanting to show him love and praise. That was the moment that it occurred to me just how lucky we are. As a parent I am so lucky to have three amazing children. Lucky that the older two are good kids. Blessed that the older two have adjusted well to our blended family. But most importantly, I realized just how lucky my kids are. Brett gets to grow up with an older brother and sister who love him from the bottom of their hearts, who want to be supportive of him, who want to be there for him, who want to teach him. And the older two kids? Well they get to grow up knowing that they are doing all of these things for their little brother. That they are a part of him, and molding who he becomes. They get to carry the satisfaction of being a role model for their little brother.

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Garrett playing in the snow with Brett.

There are many times that I feel guilty. I feel bad for both my toddler and my older two children. There are times that it isn’t fair. It’s difficult to have a toddler and teenagers, and keep them all involved and happy with activities. It’s difficult to find things that all three of them will enjoy. There are times that Brett has to sacrifice while he sits and watches Bubby and Sissy play sports or attend practices. There are times that Brett can’t go do the things they do because he is just too little. There are times he is upset because they are not home. And the big kids have to make sacrifices too. Now that Brett is getting older they have to sit through his activities. They get drug along to things he will enjoy like bounce houses and the zoo. There are times when they don’t get to do the things they would rather do, or go the places they would prefer to go. But you know what? They all understand and accept the fact that we are a family, and there are times when we have to make sacrifices so that our family members can enjoy life too. All in all, I think each of them will grow up a better person for it. More well rounded, more understanding, more accepting. And as as a parent, it is teaching us to remember that phrase that my parents engrained in my head. Life isn’t always fair. But guess what, in the end, it is. They all get their fair share of fun and age appropriate activities. They each get our affection and our time in different ways and at different moments. It evens out in the end. It can be challenging, but clearly we are doing something right when we see just how much the older children care about their little brother.

Lydia playing with Brett in a bounce house.
Lydia playing with Brett in a bounce house.

And as for the potty training, my mom reminded me in September, that it really didn’t take that long to have Brett fully potty trained in spite of how long it SEEMED. I really wasn’t cleaning up poop forever. Once again, mom is right!

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Memorial Day. Celebration or time of remembrance?

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For many Memorial Day is just another  holiday. Another day off work. Another excuse to get together with friends and BBQ. Another chance to go to the lake and live it up. But for many it is not a time of celebration. It’s a time of sadness as they remember loved ones lost who gave their life as the ultimate sacrifice serving our country.

Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” after the American Civil War. It began as a way to decorate the graves of the fallen Union soldiers with flowers, and remember the sacrifice they gave. Over time the holiday merged with a Confederate holiday tradition observed on a different day, and became known as Memorial Day.

Growing up I only knew the holiday as Memorial Day. My family had no specific traditions that had been carried on to honor fallen veterans. Like many, it was just a time we spent at the lake with friends and family. As I grew older I was exposed to a celebration that my now ex-husbands family referred to as Decoration. It seemed so strange to me. They gathered at a country cemetery, placed flowers on graves of lost family members, stood around the graves talking, and then had a pot luck lunch right outside the cemetery gates. At first I just chalked it up to being a “country” thing. I never knew anyone that celebrated it in that manner. After participating in this event several years, and becoming an adult, I began to realize the importance behind the real holiday. What I once thought seemed so odd became something I respected and now understood. (However I still think it’s strange to eat lunch right outside the cemetery gates!)

As time has gone on and I have gotten older, the holiday has come to mean more to me. While I personally have not lost a loved one that served in the military, I have close friends who have. I now understand the sacrifice made by our US military, as well as their families. I have seen the struggles families go through while their loved ones are deployed. I see the pain and heartache of close friends who lost a loved one while serving our country, giving the ultimate sacrifice. For those who lost loved ones, this holiday can be very bittersweet. It’s a nice time to remember their loved one, but it can be a time of sadness also, thinking about the great loss in their life. For many, the loss was of a life way too young. A life that really had just begun. A life that was dedicated to serving our country and protecting our freedoms.

As you celebrate Memorial Day this year, take time to think about what it’s really all about. Take time to think about the wives, husbands, parents, siblings, children who lost a loved one serving our country, protecting our freedoms. Think about the sacrifice those veterans made, and the sacrifice their survivors make every day of their lives.

Decoration Day, Memorial Day, whatever you choose to call it, remember that it’s not just a holiday. It’s a time to remember.

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Motherhood. The Toughest Job In The World.

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Motherhood. It’s not just a title. It’s a job. And a very important one at that. It is one of the most rewarding, yet toughest jobs all at the same time. And it’s a job that requires full time attention 24 hours a day. There are no breaks or sick days.

Motherhood is one of the most important things many women do in their lives. Not only do we have to care for every aspect of our children’s lives, we have to teach, shape, and mold them to become caring, giving, loving, productive adults. We have to guide them down a path for their future. And I learned from the very best. My mom taught me, and still teaches me, everything I could have asked for. She has been a wonderful guidance in my life, supporting me through every decision I have made in my life. She’s been a rock and a cheerleader.

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My mom and I with my children at Silver Dollar City this Spring.

 

Because motherhood is so important, it can be very rewarding. From seeing your baby take their first steps and say their first words, to seeing your teenager excelling in sports and school. After a long difficult day, a hug from your child, tucking them in at night, checking in on them before you go to bed seeing them asleep. Those are the moments that make motherhood worth every sacrifice. Among all of the duties that we perform as a mother, being a cheerleader is one of the very most rewarding. Seeing your child grow into an adult, following their dreams and pursuing their passions, and cheering for them every step of the way. That is the best part of the job!

I’m not going to lie, just like anything else in life, with rewards also come difficulties, and challenges. Being everything to a child doesn’t come easy. As a mother we are a nurse, teacher, taxi service, chef, maid, counselor, coach, finance manager, bank, caregiver, listener. We get to hear about the good stuff as well as the bad stuff, and console our children when they hit bumps in the road, using them as teaching experiences. We also get to experience the good stuff and the bad stuff when they do as they are asked, and when they begin testing the waters and becoming defiant teenagers. As parents we typically see the best and the worst of our children. Who else would they be more comfortable with letting down their guard and vulnerability. Some children are easy to raise, others are much more difficult. Some children never get into trouble, others are constantly in trouble. Some children require more attention and emotional availability than others. Some children require more guidance and more hand holding than others. Being a mother can be more difficult than any other job in the world. Trying to figure out our children, their needs, their abilities, what drives them, how to deal with their personalities. Let’s be honest, every mother has had her share of days that she just wants to throw her hands in the air and be done, or sit down and have a good cry. It comes with the territory. We are EVERYTHING to our children. And it takes a lot of you to be EVERYTHING.

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My mom helping my children with our annual Christmas Cookie baking.

 

Being a mother is tough enough with a partner or spouse along your side to help guide, shape, mold, and care for your children. But doing it alone is even more challenging, and more exhausting. I’ve been there. Although for a brief period of time in comparison, I was a single mom. I get it. Whether you are a single mom with an ex spouse in the picture, or a single mom with no prior spouse in the picture, it’s tough. Several of my dearest friends are single parents, and I have seen their rewards as well as their challenges and struggles. They each are a single parent for different reasons, and each have different struggles due to their individual situations.  I have heard the praises and the laughs, and I have also heard the fear and the tears. Being a single mom takes on a completely different level of parenting, and fear. Fear that you aren’t able to be EVERYTHING to your child. That you aren’t able to be good enough, strong enough, make the right decisions. But I can tell you that each one of these women that I know is a fantastic parent. Their children are their world, and they would each sacrifice EVERYTHING for them. Whether they realize it or not, they are EVERYTHING and are doing EVERYTHING as best they can. So today, and on this Mother’s Day weekend, I want to honor my dear friends who are single moms. I want to tell them that they are doing a great job and raising wonderful children. I want to tell them that they are loved dearly. If you know a single mom out there, take time this weekend to tell her how important she is. To tell her “Happy Mother’s Day”.  Wishing my friends, and all the single mother’s out there, a wonderful weekend. Happy Mother’s Day!

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