May 4, 2015

...For Life...

MUSH alert!  You've been warned.

As I embark on the process of moving across the Midwest, I am reflecting... a lot.  These next few months while I impatiently try to save every penny, look for places to live and places to work I get to be very much alone with the thought of "good-byes".  While the idea of getting to start over and move on with my life is so wonderful and exciting, there's the very real fact that the town I've known for 11 years will no longer really be a part of my life, as well as many of the people I know here.  It's a little gut-wrenching.  You see, I'm one of those that does not take relationships lightly.  I attach myself to people and even places very deeply.   I place a lot of value on the relationships that I build.  Losing a friend or feeling like I no longer matter to someone really messes me up on the inside. 

It also got me thinking about the people that will always be there, no matter what.  The people that make me a better person.  The people that I sometimes ache to spend time with because time, life, distance gets in the way.  The people that make me glad I'm alive.  The people that I never have to question if I mean to them as much as they mean to me.  These are the people that I can't picture my life without.

Colleen is the girl I met when we were twelve.  She was my canoe partner on our seventh grade outdoor ed. trip.  She's the girl I played countless orchestra concerts and ensembles with.  She's the one that stuck by me and fought for us through the ridiculous and dramatic adolescent years.  Colleen's the girl that makes me feel beautiful, worthy, and treasured.  She is the one I can be honest with no matter what and trust to be honest with me.  She's lovely and grateful and the one who will always bring me back to feeling like I'm 16 in the best ways possible.  She makes me want to be better and helps me to always believe that I can be.

Emilie is the girl I met when I was three.  She lived across the street and was the girl I supposedly convinced to eat dirt.  Supposedly.  ;)  She's the one I said goodbye to at age nine and then rediscovered our friendship at 18.  She's the one I spent countless hours with in the dorms, at retreats for our campus ministry, and the one that survived living with me during the year my parents divorced and I had my heart broken.  She's the one that not only loves how weird I am, but celebrates it.  Emilie is the one I can completely be myself around and never fear judgment.  She's accepting, loving, patient, and has one of the biggest hearts I know. 

Rebecca, I met in my early twenties.  The day she walked into our small group I knew she and I were meant to be friends.  We were and are such different people but it has NEVER mattered.  We were drawn together in the midst of the hardest periods of our lives and our friendship was cemented as a result.  She was there for me and I was there for her.  She's the one that thousands of miles can't take from me.  She's my kindred spirit and the one that I never have to explain things to.  Rebecca is the one who cries with me, understands, and encourages me without fault.  She helps me to see the beauty and hope in everything.  She is beautiful, enduring, and loyal always.

Ineke, I also met in my twenties.  I moved into her apartment as she moved upstairs in our building.  We became friends because of the season of life we were in.  She is the one teaches me.  She teaches me the value of family, to be adventurous, to trust God, and to never accept a life you aren't happy with.  She gets me out of my comfort zone, challenges me, and gives me the motivation to make things happen.  She is the one that allows me to see hope for the future.  She is one of the catalysts in me falling in love with Michigan.  Ineke is the adventurer and the one that makes me want to do big things.

Though I will have to say good-bye to more people than I'd like in a few months, I also know that I do have friendships that have and will stand through whatever changes happen.  I am so thankful.  I'm so, so thankful that God took the time to put these women in my life and to use them to keep me grounded through so much.  And you know what?  These four are not even it!  There are others.  So many others that I know I will be friends with forever.  People that mean so much to me. 

And you know what else?  I'll soon get to do it all over again!!

April 24, 2015

Let the Adventure Begin...

Happy Friday, homies!

Today I wanted to take some time on my 300th blog post to give you all an update on what's going on in my life.  As you're aware, last weekend I finished my first half marathon.  It was a huge feat that I am so proud of and so happy to say that I did on my own.  The race took place in my favorite area of the Midwest: Grand Rapids, Michigan.

I've traveled there many times through my teenage and young adult years for various things.  I first discovered the beauty in Michigan when I was 16, a sophomore in high school on a missions trip with my high school youth group.  We traveled to Sault Ste Marie Michigan and spent a week there serving the community.  Four years later, I traveled back to the upper peninsula to Cedar Campus with my college Intervarsity chapter.  I enjoyed yet another week connecting with my friends and with the Lord.  Finally I was introduced to western Michigan by my dear friend Ineke on a fourth of July vacation several years ago.  There I not only fell in love with the state all over again, but the city of Grand Rapids.  And for years Ineke, my friends Chris and Anna (who are now in Seattle), and Ineke's dear mother have tried to coax me to moving there. 

So what is my point?

My point is that I'm finally going through with it.  I am officially announcing to all of you who have been such wonderful friends, family, readers, encouragers that I am relocating to Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Honestly, it hasn't sunk in yet.  I'm still expecting the scared chicken side of me to back out.  A lot of different factors went into finally making the decision. I've been in Bloomington-Normal for almost 11 years.  Things in my life have been at a bit of a stand still in some areas and I've just felt so completely stuck.  I've begun to feel disconnected from my life here and the people I've always cared so dearly for.  When those feelings first started, I was frustrated by it.  I was confused and convinced it was my fault or that maybe people had just grown tired of me.  Then those feelings really began to put a rift in my relationship with God and the relationships with my friends.  It was so heartbreaking not feeling like a part of the family I'd grown to love over the past 10 years. 

So when this idea came to move to Michigan, I was uncertain.  I didn't want to run away from my problems or start over for the sake of starting over.  I did a lot of thinking.  I was uneasy about it because I still wasn't sure if it was what God wanted.  But over the past week, I remembered a conversation from more than a year ago.  I remember distinctly talking to a friend of mine who relocated to St Louis.  When I asked him how he knew it was the right thing and that it was what God had for him, he said that part of it was because every week that went by, when he walked into our church, it felt less and less like home.

I have to trust that this is what God has for me.  No, I haven't heard a distinct yes or no from him when I've asked him if this is right.  Sometimes, he's silent and the only way to find out is to try and pray that doors open!   If I get there and discover it's just not right, I can always come back. 

I will absolutely miss the friends I have made here, the church I've called home for 10 years, and the memories driving through my college town.  But this new adventure is exactly what I need at this point in my life.  I have made so many changes for myself over the past two years, and a fresh start is going to be something to put a lot of pain behind me and allow me to start new chapters in my life.

I will continue to update here with everything as new plans come about.  I hope to make this transition before the fall, my roommate will more than likely be putting our townhouse on the market at the end of the year to relocate herself. (found out about that AFTER I'd made the decision, so it wasn't a factor)  For now, the goal is to apply for jobs, save as much money as I can, and then once I have enough saved... find an apartment and make the move. 

If you have any advice or words of wisdom for me, I'd be glad to hear them!  Have a fantastic weekend!

April 21, 2015

Half Marathon Top 10

It's done!  I'm done, I'm done, I'm done! 

This past weekend I spent two days in my favorite state to complete the crazy journey that was finishing a half marathon.  I can honestly say I have never experienced anything so challenging as training for this race.   I don't think anyone can comprehend what it takes to train for something like this until they do it.  Not only is it physically exhausting to put in the miles, plan the meals, and get your body into shape, but the emotional aspects of sacrificing time, putting on pounds, and having to constantly remind yourself that you can do it were incredibly hard.  But I did it and I came out of it a stronger person.

So here are my Top 10 moments from my 13.1 in no particular order.

1. Driving into Michigan.  Something about seeing that Pure Michigan sign at the border just makes me giddy.

2. Exploring the city and our swanky hotel before getting some much needed relaxation.

3. Picking up my race bib.  OMG, this is really happening.

4. Arriving at Calder Plaza where I lined up with 1000 other women to do this thing.

5. Running through the chute and being so excited to experience pushing my body to its limit.  (yes, I was excited about that)

6. The countless spectators along the way offering free high fives, motivational posters (my favorites included "You've done harder things that this before" and "Finish with a spirit that is fearless", and cups of water to keep us going.  And of course the group of grown men in tutus and wigs at mile 4/8. 

7. Seeing countless husbands along the course with their children cheering the mommas on. 

8. The course.  Getting to run through my favorite city?  One of the best things ever.  Almost the entire course was along the river.  Several sections crossed bridges.  The whole time I got the unyielding sense that I might just be destined to live there.

9. That freaking FINISH line.  Coming around the corner at 13 miles and seeing that finish line amidst all the spectators sent chills down my back.  I mustered strength to finish running and nearly cried when I finally did. 

10. Actually crying when mom found me and hugged me.  Because something about seeing your mom and because I was freaking done.

Honorable mentions:
*steel cut oats with dried cherries that greeted me at my door at 6am.
*brunch buffet after hobbling back to the hotel
*hot baths with mineral salts
*all the wonderful comments and encouragement on my facebook posts.

April 3, 2015

Awesome Awkward Friday

Haaaaappy Friiiiiday!

And a very happy Easter weekend to you all.  I plan to spend it enjoying sunshine, reading, and basking in gratitude for what my Savior did for me all those years ago. 

*Being made fun of constantly at work for my "evil" laugh.  I'm not evil.  Leave me alone.
*Constantly being in the midst of groups of women talking about childbirth, nursing, and babies.  Sorry, not much to contribute there.
*Me trying to use a foam roller.  Graceful?  I think not.
*My healthy carrot cake fail on Tuesday.  The roommate's response? "I'd eat it, but I wouldn't serve it to other people."  Ooops.
*When you get really excited about something and then share it with someone and they don't get as excited as you.
*Ramona's new habit of putting her foot in her water bowl.  Ick.  Is that your sign that you want to drink out of the faucet, my little weirdo?

*SPRING!!!  It's here!  It's here!
*Warm weather runs and sunshine!
*Colleen's baby shower last Sunday and watching her and Mark get so excited about becoming parents.
*13.1 in t-minus two weeks.  Yikes.  Michigan, I'm coming for ya!
*Seeing JJ Heller next weekend with Joan!
*Walking through my beloved Oak Brook Mall with Momma last Saturday.  Oh so glorious.
*Brunch with Julie and Annette last Sunday.
*Erin E Smith.  You make sitting at a desk all day so much more fun.

March 10, 2015

Bouncing Back: Thoughts on Overcoming Setbacks and Roadblocks

Happy almost spring all!  Hope you are all enjoying the spring weather that has FINALLY made its appearance.  I apologize for the absence the past month.  But the upside, is that the reason for my absence has created a great opportunity for a blog entry!

Today I wanted to take the time to write to all of you on ways to come back from a setback on your road to better health.  Everyone encounters these.  Things are going great.  You've been eating well, working out regularly, seeing changes in the mirror, and just overall feeling better.  Then WHAM! 

Roadblock.  The equivalent of a gigantic rhino in the middle of the road.

This could come in any form.  Injuries, never ending winter weather, stress, busy schedules, illness, family tragedy, really anything can create a setback for you.  A roadblock really is just defined as something that knocks you off your straight and narrow and into the arms of old habits and addictions.  And the scary thing is they can happen to ANYBODY.

Ok, have I scared you?  Sorry. 

But really there's nothing you can't bounce back from.  Some things can take more time than others, but ultimately as long as the desire to meet your goals is still there... you CAN bounce back.  Here is how I've recently been bouncing back from mine!

Take a Breath:  Ok so you've had a horrible day, week, month, of poor food choices.  You haven't set food in the gym in two weeks.  Your running shoes are collecting dust.  You can't remember the last time you actually went to the grocery store.  The best way to handle these overwhelming realities is simply take a step back and take a breath.  Silence the thoughts that are putting you down and telling you that you just don't have what it takes.  The voice telling you you're just destined to be lazy and unhappy?  Tell it to take a hike.  Breathe. 

Look Back:  Take some time to really focus in on the things you HAVE accomplished.  So you've fallen out of routine?  So you've gained 5-10 lbs the past month?  So what!  Think about what you HAVE done.  What are you most proud of yourself for accomplishing?  Focus on those things.  Hold them close to your heart and picture the way you felt when you accomplished them, and remember you're still the person now as you were then when you did.

Talk to a Friend:  Not just any friend, but preferably someone you really trust, who has either gone through a similar journey or possesses the empathy and wisdom (and maybe a little tough love) to help bring you back to yourself.  Tell them what's been going on.  Be honest.  Talk through the struggles you've been having.  Often times, talking about it and bringing the things you're upset about or even ashamed of into the light can really help you narrow in one why things are going poorly and give you ways to fix them. 

Evaluate:  Now that you're back in a sound headspace evaluate the situation.  What are the things that have knocked you out of sync?  What are ways that you can lessen their impact on your life?  Here are a few examples of ones that I've faced over the past month:
*Weather Blues: Take your vitamin D!  Eat foods that are rich in Vitamin D like salmon, tuna, eggs, or take a supplement.  Other foods that can help beat the winter blues are berries, leafy greens, bananas, and flax seeds!
*Injury:  Talk to your doctor about what activity you CAN do.  Often times if the injury isn't severe, you can find other ways to stay active that won't irritate your injury.
*Food Boredom:  Go to the library and check out some new cookbooks or cooking magazines.  Get on Pinterest and search for meal ideas.  Check out cooking shows on Netflix.  There are lots of ways to get new ideas for healthy meals. 
*Just So Busy:  This one is really tricky.  You'll need to really think about what is taking up so much of your time that you've become unmotivated and stressed out.  What can you eliminate from your schedule?  Are you working too much?  Do you say "yes" to too many activities?  Do your best to try and carve out time in your schedule for YOU.  For me personally, I had to say goodbye to my second job.  I looked at my budget and saw that even though money would be tight until I could find a better paying full time job, I'd be able to get by.  I realized that my health, sanity, and time to spend with people I love were more important for the place I'm in now. 

Re-Commit:  Picture your goal.  Picture where you're headed and make a new promise to yourself to move in that direction.  Even if you have to make that promise to yourself again EVERY morning, do it.  You are worth keeping that promise to.  Think about it.  You are the only you there is.  And that's saying something.  If you made a promise to your mom, your child, your best friend, your spouse that you would do something for them... you wouldn't go back on that promise if it was in your power to keep it, would you?  Obviously not.  Well guess what, this promise to yourself?  It's in YOUR power, and only yours to keep.  And you're worth doing that for. 

If you have any other tips for overcoming roadblocks, please comment below!  I'd love to hear what has helped you in the past!  Have a great week brave ones!

January 30, 2015

Awkward Awesome Friday!


Happy Friday Brave Ones!  Hope you all have a fantastic weekend! Be on the look out.  I've got a notebook full of blog/video ideas that will be up over the next few weeks. 

*The amount of times that my manager at the pool adds new students to my classes and DOESN'T tell me.  That IS something I should know, right?
*Learning how to date when you're in your late twenties. 
*Being approached by the greeter at Meijer last night.  7:15.  I was wearing no make-up, my wet-post-pool hair up in a bun, and sweats.  Clearly, I want to get my groceries, go home and eat dinner.  But the greeter catches sight of my SF badge hanging from my purse and proceeds to sing the State Farm jingle at me.  Then when I give him an awkward, nervous, chuckle, he then walks closer to me, gets in my personal bubble and begins to quote the Jake from State Farm Commercial.

*How happy I've been lately.
*Insanity Max30.  It's kicking my ass and it's AWESOME!
*I get to see my sister in three weeks!!
*I get to go see 2Cellos with Colleen in three weeks in Chicago!!
*I get my first tattoo three weeks from TODAY!
*The things that some of my students say.  Zombie-worms, scuba diving, and having big muscles.
*The way veganism has transformed my hair, nails, and cravings.  #winning

January 20, 2015

Vegan Recipes I'm Loving

Hey Brave Ones!  Hope you are all having a FANTASTIC start to 2015!  I know I am!  I wanted to get back here and share with you some amazing vegan recipes that ANY non-vegan would enjoy!  Oh, did I not mention that?  Ha.  Yes.  As of the new year, I have become a vegan.  "But Haley, why would you do that?"  Oh, I shall explain lovelies... later. 

For now, I just want to share some of the tasty things I've been eating!

Black Bean Tacos w/ Avo Cilantro-Lime Sauce: These are STUPID easy!  And STUPID delicious.  I combined the black beans with a can of Rotel instead of salsa.  The trick with the beans is to heat them up first and they'll smoosh easier. (that's my technical term)

Toasted Cilantro Rice: This stuff is fantastic!  Rice can be tricky to make interesting.  But this stuff is packed with flavor and texture!  Serve it along side seasoned black beans and baked sweet taters: holy yum!

Apple Ginger Cake: This was actually a recipe that I found from a cutie on YouTube!  This apple bread? To die for.  So good, especially warm.  I'll be making this into muffins for my swim team meeting this weekend. 

Low Fat Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies:  You'd never know these don't have butter in them.  There's only a little sugar too!  I used 2 Tbsp of stevia and 4 Tbsp of turbinado sugar.  (Naturally Yours was out of xylitol and I couldn't find coconut sugar) I used walnuts and mini vegan chocolate chips.  I also had to bake them a little longer.  So chewy and tasty! 

One Pan Mexican Quinoa: This is my I-Have-No-Time-to-Cook recipe.  Throw everything in a pan and let it make magic.  So flavorful and filling!  I'd count this one as a crowd pleaser!

Other recipes I'm loving?

Megan Elizabeth's sweet potato pizza
Vegan French Toast
Banana Ice Cream (duh!)

January 7, 2015

Did you know.....

That I have an online store?  Did ya, did ya?!

Well I do!  And the link for it is over there.  Just scroll down!


Or click HERE
I wanted to write up a little post about it because I've recently created some really fun designs that I'm dying to share with you!  And a bonus?  A lot of the shirts I've created are actually on sale right now.  Woop! 


I'm really in love with this little sweatshirt.  The front has an arrow pointing up.  I created it as a reminder that when the wearer looks in the mirror they are reminded to be themselves.


Ummmmm because it's pretty much true!

Who doesn't love a dinosaur shirt that promotes eating fruit and veggies?!

pixie dust
Sweat is actually gross.  But the shirt is cute, right?

I've got a couple other ideas in mind.  So keep a look out for new additions!!

January 6, 2015

On Body Image


 (me.  day old hair in sore need of a trim and color. chipped nail polish. weird and all)

This morning I came across this article ironically the day after a candid converstation about body image with my mother.  The article reports about an online photo project created by a photographer from Lithuania named Neringa Rekasiute.  It's purpose is to empower women to put aside society's view of beauty (which is just as bad in Lithuania as it is here) and embrace what it truly means to be beautiful. 

The conversation I had with my mom revolved mainly on the scars that are left behind on women's bodies when we undergo a big change.  Whether it be extreme weight loss, having children, injuries you've overcome, etc our bodies change.  They grow, they shrink, they are left with marks and scars that remind us of our victories and failures. 

In my case, I have lived my entire life as an overweight child/teen/young adult.  I'm finally entering into a period of my life where I will no longer be overweight.  I am strong.  I am built with muscles.  And, I'm scarred. 

As many are aware, when a person (women especially) undergo a dramatic weightloss, they are left with stretch marks, scars, and skin.  Though the muscles underneath are stronger than they've ever been, the outward appearance is shadowed by the reminders of what was.  When a woman has a baby, she is filled with joy over the new life her body helped to create, but then her body is left with extra weight, stretch marks, and ravaged abdominal muscles.  These things can have a huge effect on our self esteem and self worth. 

But news flash: beauty is so much more than the the appearance of our skin, muscles, and scars.

These scars that we're left with should be seen as badges of honor.  The stretch marks left after pregnancy are tiger stripes earned by doing one of the hardest things our God-given bodies were created to do.  The loose skin left after extreme weightloss is a trophy reminding ourselves of what we accomplished ON OUR OWN!  Though they may not be attractive by society's standards, they truly can be something we can be proud of. 

I am an advocate of body acceptance.  I am an advocate for self love, recovery, and wellness.  I thought I'd take this moment however to mention that I'm not an advocate for promotion of unhealthy plus size images of men and women.  Yes, I believe you MUST love yourself no matter your size and shape.  But you also MUST take care of yourself.  If someone is a size 18, 20, 22 and can come back from the doctor with a clean bill of health, great!  But the honestly, that is rare.  (and I only speak from experience).  There are countless celebrities, writers, bloggers, etc out there that promote being extremely plus size, fat and happy, big and beautiful, whatever.  And that's great to promote self-acceptance.  But, it's NOT great to promote unhealthy living, eating garbage frankenfoods, lethargy, and not giving a flying fart about your health. 

With that.  Accept yourself.  Love yourself.  Love yourself enough to take care of your body.  Appreciate it for all that it does for you by respecting it with the things you put into it and the things you do with it.  Love the badges of honor you've earned.

December 19, 2014

Setting New Years Resolutions

Merry Christmas everyone!!!  Hope you're all enjoying this wonderful time of year!  I myself am so incredibly stoked to spend a few days with family next week!  Following Christmas, is my GOLDEN birthday!  29 on the 29th!  WHAT?!!  (Feel free to make a big deal about it.  I know I will be!) 

I know.  The end of the year is crazy for me!  Because then two days after my birthday is another one of my favorites... New Year's Eve! This New Years will be two years since I started on my path to better health.  On New Years Eve of 2012 I bumped into an old college roommate at Emilie and Dave's party.  She had lost a ton of weight since I had seen her last (weight she had gained because of Grave's disease).  She looked happy, healthy, and I was so motivated from seeing her.  I knew that if she could overcome her struggle, I probably could!  So January 1, 2013 is when I started my weight loss journal, created an exercise plan, and began reading about nutrition and healthy cooking.  Though I've had plateaus and moments of weariness... I've never looked back. 

I'm all for treating any day like January first when you need to.  If you have an off day or an off week or several off weeks, I'm all about taking the next moment to say, "No, this is what I want.  I deserve it.  I'm doing it."  But you have to admit... there is something about the ACTUAL January first that is so empowering and full of possibilities!  It's the time to make: RESOLUTIONS!  I've come up with a list of ways to make practical resolutions, keep things simple, and stick to the promises you've made to yourself! 

Nutrition Resolutions:

Don't say: "I'm never going to eat sweets again!"  Because honestly, would you be able to do that?!  Of course not.  You're human.  You're going to have times in your life when you need to indulge.
Try this: "I'm going to make better food choices!"  You can keep it simple by creating the goal to make better choices overall.  So if you normally buy whole milk, start buying 2%, skim, or even a non-dairy variety like almond or cashew milk.  If you normally buy white sandwich bread, switch to whole wheat or Ezekiel bread.  Instead of drinking soda with lunch and/or dinner, replace it with lemon water!  When you go out to eat, try a lighter menu item, replace your fries with veggies or fruit, and skip the soda!

Don't say: "I'm going to eat more veggies."  Because this is not a specific enough goal to actually see a difference in how you feel.
Try this: "I'm going to be sure at least half of my plate consists of vegetables at dinner time."  By making a resolution like this, you are being more specific and making a promise.  It will also help you with your meal planning when you know you have to incorporate those veggies. 

Fitness Resolutions:

Don't say: "I'm going to exercise more!"  When it comes to getting in activity, specific goals are good.
Try this:  "I'm going make sure I exercise for at least 30 minutes, three days a week."  By scheduling your workouts and being specific about how much you'll do, you're making a promise to yourself.  You still have wiggle room in case something comes up one day, you can substitute another day.  You also give yourself room to increase the intensity and length of your workouts as you get stronger.

Don't say:  "I'm going to lose X-amount of pounds."  This can create a lot of pressure and will most likely make you a slave to the scale. 
Try this:  "I want to fit into size-X jeans."  This kind of a goal can give you more leeway.  When you start to exercise you will build muscle.  So though the scale may not budge, your clothes may start to feel better or looser.  Water retention can also mess up numbers on the scale, so it's much better to go by the way your clothes fit.  I know this was a big goal of mine.  To get into a size smaller than I was in high school by the time I got to my reunion.  I did it!  And it was a small thing, but such a huge victory!!

Overall, really sit down and think about what kinds of resolutions you want to set for yourself.  Write them down, put them somewhere you'll see them, create a wellness journal!  The most important part of setting resolutions is to think about what YOU WANT.  Two years ago, I got to a place where enough was enough.  I knew I didn't want to keep living the way I was living.  So I set realistic goals for myself that I knew I could accomplish if I stuck to them!  I'm here to tell you that you will NOT achieve your goals if you don't stick to the resolutions you set for yourself.  No one can force you to.  It has to come from within you because it is FOR YOU and you're worth setting goals for.  Make your goals/resolutions a priority and there's nothing you won't be able to accomplish!

Happy New Year brave ones!!

My Resolutions for 2015:

1. Fit into a certain dress that is currently hanging on my wall.
2. Finish my half marathon in April.
3. Complete Big Shoulders 2015 in under 1:30:00
4. Get to One-derland
5. Achieve my healthy goal weight by my 30th birthday.