Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gratitude- Again.

Some day soon I want to do another Ashead update, where I share "what in the world are the Ashead's doing?", but today something else is on my mind.  Gratitude. Thankfulness. Peace. Remembering. Gratitude.

The past several months have been a big struggle for Richard and I - a lot of hard things have been thrown our way.  It seems one after another, without the first one or several getting resolved before we have more thrown our way. It has been a challenge and I'm not going to get into the details of the issues that remain at hand and hard, but as I thought about these stresses today, and prayed, God answered me in the way he often does. Gratitude.  I am brought to remembrance of the many good things still in life and a need to know that blessings abound, sometimes they are just not the ones I'm looking for- so I might miss them.

So, today's gratitude list.

**  Although things have been hard for the parents of the family, the kids do not seem overly affected. They are all functioning well and seem only marginally aware of the concerns.  I'm grateful for this, that for the most part  it appears, they are not feeling the weight of the world upon them as it seems we are.

** I'm grateful that through the  winding path of life and the places I've been and people I've interacted with I've made friendships with people who have been a strength in a variety of ways.  Maybe they have expertise or experience with some of the issues we are now dealing with and lend an ear, or insight, support and encouragement. Others are true friends who reach out in support and allow me to ramble and rant at times. Especially grateful for those who get me and my personality and why some of the things we have been dealing would be hard for me.

** There are still lots of great things going on for our family such as
     * Whitney will be graduating next month.  She is looking forward to her time with FEMA Corps. She just attended prom with a sweet young man and was on prom court.
     * Andrew just finished another year of college successfully and is home for the summer and working.
     * Jayna is doing well in school,and also just had her 2nd piano recital.
     * We have a vacation planned to Boston with plans for whale watching, seeing Newsies and more!
     * Richard is enjoying teaching the PA motorcycle safety courses.

** Then there are some of the "big" more universal things to be grateful such as living in a country and area where I don't fear for my family's physical safety regularly,  Having a home and food.  Libraries where I can get lots of books. A belief in answers to prayers.

Anyhow, that is where I am today. Trying to find peace in the good and being grateful for that.

And so it goes...

Reading Now- "Mozart's Last Aria" by Matt Rees
Recently Read- "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande- highly recommended reading for every adult! We need to have conversations about life, living and dying and what is most important to each other individually.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother's Day and an Open Door

Richard and I headed to bed a bit ago, and I left the bedroom door wide open.  I've always liked to have the door open some and some light coming in; he on the other hand prefers it completely closed.  He is not a mom.  Whitney has been gone since Thursday morning on her school's senior trip. She'll get home late sometime tonight, I don't really know when to expect her, but when she gets home, what I want her to see is the open door, both literally and figuratively.  She knows when she gets home she is expected to check in and let me know she's home, not just tonight, but any of the many nights that she gets home after we've gone to bed.  But, as a mom I want to get as much as I can from that late night check in, and that is where having an open door helps. How does she sound as she's telling us she's home? Changes in her voice are more noticeable with an open door.  Is she just sounding tired, or is there something in her tone that makes me wonder if she's upset? Do I just say good night, or wait a few minutes and then go check on her and make sure she's feeling okay all the way around.  I also want to see her just a bit as she enters the room across the hall. Is there any sadness or frustration on her face, is there a slump in her shoulders that makes her look more than just tired, or a smile on her face.  These are things that as a mom, even when woken from sleep that I am looking for.
However, I also want my kids to always see an "open door".  I want them to know that no matter how early or late, that I'm here for them. I want them to see me as a safe place to ask questions, to process their thoughts and to become who they truly are.  I want them to know that my love for them isn't conditional - it's not based on certain expectations or achievements.  I want them to see an open door when they call for a ride at an inconvenient time or when they are choosing beliefs that aren't my own. I want them to see an open door- a door they are always welcomed through, not one they tiptoe by in fear.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a mom to each of them. Andrew, Whitney and Jayna- who continue to teach me.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Healthy Changes- follow up

So it's been about 3 weeks since I started on a slow journey to get healthy. I've started with adding in one new challenge each week- all of them relatively small changes but I hope by making small changes, eventually they will add up to big changes. Doing these small things helps me to feel more in control and able to follow through.  In the past when I would take on a "diet" mentality, it required me to change so many things at once that I don't think I could sustain it long term ( and obviously didn't), which just puts you on the yo-yo path. I would love to report that all though it's been only 3 weeks doing simple things that I've lost 10 lbs. or something, but it's just not true.  The first week I was down a little, the 2nd week up higher than my initial starting weight and tomorrow will be the weigh in for this week- my weight tends to fluctuate, but if it stays where it was yesterday that would probably put me back down to about what I was the first week where I had lost a smidge. Here's a review of the goals and how they are going.

Week 1- Ditch artificially or sugar sweetened sodas and flavored waters, start drinking 9 cups of water a day. I just felt this was an overall healthy goal and also not too much of a stretch.  Only in the past few years had I really started drinking more and more artificially sweetened sodas and such on a more regular basis. I still occasionally want that sweet taste, but I don't buy it , so it's not here. My youngest daughter has also started drinking milk more often than a soda, so that is good too, I think.  It is mostly when we are out or travelling that I think I will have to consciously think more about this- for example when we are on a long drive it would be normal for us to stop and get sodas at the gas station- and I always didn't want to buy a water bottle because it seemed silly- water was free, so instead I would usually get a diet soda.  So sometimes yes, my body feels heavy and full of water, and there are days I spend more time in the bathroom than I would like, but my nails are also nice and shiny and I feel like this is just a healthy, natural goal.

Week2- Limit eating sweets to only one time a day.  It's a little embarrassing that this even had to be a goal, but it did. I would often eat something sweet multiple times during the day, especially on stressful days.  It didn't have to be much, a handful of chocolate chips here, a cookie there, but it may be several times a day. Sweets were definitely a coping strategy. Doing this goal has made me insightful.  This is what I have found- I CAN control my sugar cravings and not give in, I like to often save my "sweet" for the end of the day, it has made me more aware and deliberate in my food choices. However, this is still an area of struggle for me. I find that when I do decide it is my time of the day to eat sweets, remember I never said only 1 sweet, only 1 time a day, I find that I eat more than I may be satisfied with, I feel I have to get all I could possibly want, or maybe I'll order a small blizzard instead of the mini one, just because I can.  I'm still working on this- breaking the power sweets have over me, it's a process, and knowing is half the battle right? However, I do see new thought patterns emerging- for example yesterday I was at a church function and they served lunch with dessert available. It looked delicious and normally I would have had some without a thought, but I knew that that night was Jayna's piano recital and that we would most likely be going out to Dairy Queen afterwards, so although it was hard and a very conscious decision, I was able to choose to skip the dessert because I knew we would be having something later and that is where I wanted to spend my "sweet". That thought process is not something I would have done before, unless I was on a "diet", which I don't really feel like this is- in a positive way.

Week 3- Exercise 3 times a week for at least 20 minutes. I know, it sounds like such a tiny goal. Exercise is something that I have difficulty with when it comes to consistency and injuries. There have been times when I actively exercise 5 days a week or so and then times when I am doing hardly nothing. Immediately before this, I was at the nothing part.  However, about a month or so ago I was doing really well at exercising a few days a week. I had started in part to keep depression at bay. I had a video game that I actually enjoy with a variety of exercise opportunities.  And then I threw my back out. Weeks of pain and now I am okay, until I do anything outside of my normal daily movements.  If I do something more such as pull garbage cans, mow the yard or cut tree limbs, I again end up with a hurting back. I haven't gotten back to the video yet and this week I just walked to meet my goal. They say you should find something fun and make it a part of your life but that seems to back fire on me. Enjoyed the video game = hurt back, also I've enjoyed playing tennis in the past but I usually end up with a hurt shoulder. Again 3 times a week at 20 minutes isn't going to make someone really lose weight, but I do think it helps someone be healthier and push them towards the losing weight goal as well. Something is better than nothing right?

Week 4- This upcoming week I think I am going to not add anything else in but keep working on the 3 goals above, hoping to make the exercise part not feel so dreadful and hopefully tweaking the sweet eating to be happy with just enough. I think adding in another goal right now would make me start to feel out of balance- too many things hard at once.  I think I just need one more week on these goals before I add a new.

And so it goes...

Just Read- "We Have Always Lived In The Castle" by Shirley Jackson- the same author that wrote "The Lottery", which I watched in school at 7th grade which traumatized me. Andrew read this book and loved it. Her books are those that make you think of community and society as a whole and how we act.  I give it 3/5 stars.

Currently Reading- "Inside the O'Briens" by Lisa Genova. She also wrote "Still Alice" which I enjoyed which was about a lady and her battle with early onset Alzheimer's. This story (fiction) is about a family whose Dad has Huntington's disease. Good so far.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Wanted- Cheerleaders, not coaches.

The end of December I took a leave of absence from my job as an activities director to manage some family needs. By the middle of January, I knew that the needs were more involved and that I wouldn't be returning to my job. This was  hard, yet the right choice.  It put me in a new position.  So many people find that they have too much stuff to do and not enough time, but for me all of a sudden I felt like I had all this time, but not enough stuff to keep me happily engaged.  Although I was needed at home, since all of my kids are in school I was often home alone- and yes, I could spend loads of time cooking and cleaning, I can tell you neither are my passion.  So I decided it would be a transformative year for me. I had desires to: use my girl power, become spiritually stronger, get healthier and overall become the best me possible.  Now a few months in- I can't say I've changed drastically, although I do feel like I've done little things in probably all of these categories, but mostly I've gotten busy wasting time or spending time on what isn't most important to me- it is so easy to do.  Anyhow the realization is that to accomplish the above goals it takes time- but more importantly a set plan.  So I've been thinking about the health issue- especially in regards to weight.  I've been processing through my life, and my story because I think you have to understand where you are and why before you can make changes.

So here goes- How did I get so fat???
Now listen, I don't consider that a negative statement, I'm not overly beating myself up, but the truth is I'm not only fat, I'm obese.  I don't believe being obese means you can't be beautiful, but what I know for myself is that being so overweight limits me- and I don't like to be limited. And I don't necessarily mean the limits you put on yourself, because I think many overweight people limit themselves. Growing up I felt like my mom often didn't want to take us swimming because she didn't want to get in a swimsuit- I have really tried to not live like that- I have put on a swimming suit to take my kids to water parks, snorkeling at Disney and more.  And now I have to say my mom swims on a regular basis. However, I do feel limits and one of the biggest for me is when planning trips or activities wondering or worrying if I will be to overweight to do something- for example before going to Disney I did a lot of research about fitting into rides and such- now thankfully Disney is a size friendly theme park and I didn't have any problems, however wondering about it did cause me worry that I can really do without.  Am I too heavy for a Segway tour, too heavy for sky diving, for horseback riding.  I love doing things and I hate worrying about if I will be able to.  Will I have to set out an activity while I send my husband and kids to participate- that sounds sad.  So I have to say once upon a time I wish I had a list of all the activities I would like to do and a maximum weight allowed to do such things- of course I never knew I needed a list, because I never knew that I would be where I am now. I also feel like I don't feel mentally or spiritually as well when I am so overweight. It limits what I do, because although I try not to feel self -conscious , sometimes you just do.  I also know my body is a gift from God, and that I am expected to care for it well and that when I don't, spiritually I suffer.

So back to HOW did I get so fat?
Genetics and lifestyle- the early years. Both of my parents spent a lot of my childhood being overweight.  My dad and mom were both short as well- and when you're short, there is just less space for those calories to go.  We didn't have packaged, processed food, but we did have probably a meat and potatoes mentality, although vegetables and fruit were available as well. Also lots of homemade goodies such as pies and cookies.  Healthy habits weren't really talked about.  I know I over ate then but at the same time we put in so much physical labor that it probably balanced out to allow me to be around a size 10-12 during my high school years. My dad encouraged badminton, horseshoes and ping pong as active fun.

A misunderstanding of religious teachings?- I remember all these lessons about vanity and how it was wrong and that you shouldn't be so concerned about how you look, as well as the importance of not judging others on the way they look- and somehow I got it in my head that it was wrong to care or worry about how you looked.  I know we also had lessons on healthy eating and the Word of Wisdom, which then mostly seemed like a list of "Don'ts", but I feel like it was the anti- vanity lessons that stuck.  And I agree you shouldn't judge others on how they look, but there is nothing wrong and actually something right with wanting to look nice. And in reality the church teaches to care for our body- but my teenage brain got everything a little skewed.

Marriage and Life- Early on in our marriage I got down to one of my lowest adult weights of around 125.  I think I was able to do that then for a few reasons- we couldn't really afford eating out or buying many extra treats, our life was simpler- just two people and time to really plan out meals and count calories. I gained a lot of weight with our first child, but was able to lose it.  However after our second child was born, and basically from then on, I've been gaining weight. Yes sometimes with a loss and regain thrown in.  I'm not sure if I was always a stress eater or became one or that it was just noticeable because all of the sudden I had a lot more stress, but I would definitely say I am a stress eater. I have recognized this, but haven't yet learned how to do this differently.  I think I need to do 2 things- learn to get stressed less, but then also learn to substitute something else to do when I am stressed. So as well as being a stress eater, there are many other things I do wrong and some things I do right. 

My goal now is to set goals to start incorporating healthy habits and to find time to really focus on what I need to do. Time to really think about the steps to take.  I'm not on a lose 100 lbs by next year plan or triple the exercise plan or only eat veggies plan, I just want to mentally feel well, physically feel well and eventually get to a point where I don't have this nagging worry over my head of "will I be able to do that", I have every intention of  spending a lot of fun time with my family as I age. Right this minute I don't know exactly what goal or goals I'm going to work on first, although I have started a list of ideas. I'm going to talk to Richard tonight and discuss this, maybe we will do this together or even choose our own healthy habit to start on, but be able to support each other.
I' m happy to have cheerleaders on my journey, more than coaches right now- if I have learned anything it is that sometimes ( all the time?) you have to choose what works for you and ditch everyone else's "you shoulds", but feel free to become a cheerleader on my team!

And so it goes...

Reading Now- "Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste Ng and "Half the Sky" by Nicholas D.Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn

Recently Read- "1984" by George Orwell- thought provoking
"Longbourne" by  Jo Baker- a fun read showing another side of  "Pride and Prejudice"
"The Light Between Oceans" by  M.L.Stedman- Great story! A page turner except for the fact that you don't want it to end!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

I'm Done Feeling Sorry Myself- Please Stop Feeling Sorry For Me Too.

Marriage. Is. Hard.

 I. Love. Being. Married.

 Marriage. Is. Hard.

Great accomplishments require lots and lots of hard work. A great marriage IS a great accomplishment- thus it requires lots of hard work.  And I don’t just mean work, like making time for dates and overlooking your hubby’s quirks that drive you insane or figuring out how to share housework so one person isn’t feeling overworked and or underappreciated. I mean HARD work. Hard like finding again your identity as an individual and as a couple when a defining factor has drastically changed. Hard like realizing some of your goals that you had hoped for as a couple just are not going to happen, and beyond realizing that, accepting that without blame or anger, and then discovering other goals you can share. Hard like wanting to yell out at church that “ Hey, we’re not contagious! If you associate with both me AND my husband doesn’t mean your spouse will lose his religion! Give it a try- invite my WHOLE family over” and “Please stop feeling sorry for me!”

My sweet husband and I have been married for 23 years.  Long enough to experience some HARD work.  I have dwelt on a lot of that hard work that came from him going from being an active Mormon ( or member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints) to being an Atheist. But to be honest- we had our difficulties before then, because you know what? LIFE is HARD.  LIFE IS WONDERFUL, BUT LIFE IS HARD.

Anyhow, the change from Richard being an active Mormon, as I am, to absolutely not being one provided the avenue for us to tackle some really hard work.  Which we have, and truthfully after about 10 years we continue to tackle this hard work. I am still trying to find my own personal identity as well as our couple identity because things that had clearly defined us before no longer exist.  And only recently am I recognizing the need to define us differently- because I’m kind of tired of feeling like “poor me”, because you know what?  “Poor me” isn’t accurate and it makes you feel like crap getting stuck in that mind frame. Lucky, blessed me- now that’s accurate. Why lucky me?  Because I have a husband willing to work through the HARD stuff too, because you know what?  This has been hard on him to.  When he decided our religion no longer worked for him, he had hoped that I would come to believe differently as well, but didn’t. I’m not going into details about how things were hard for him, that is his story, but they were hard.  And we worked and we worked and we worked. And as we hammered away trying to create an amazing relationship, yes sometimes one of our hearts got bruised. But the work continued. The bruises healed. We both try to support each other in our individuality.  He is constant and kind.  I hope he can say the same about me. Sharing a religion may make some things easier, but no longer will I think it is what defines a good marriage.  I have seen plenty of same faith marriages with abuse, criticism and infidelity.  And in our marriage I’ve seen compassion, friendship, respect, understanding and love.  Why would I accept a “poor me” attitude about that!  So I’m done with that, and if you’ve ever felt sorry for me because of the change in Richard’s religion, I’m letting you know now- please don’t, instead just realize that yep, amazing accomplishments take lots of HARD work, and team Ashead is just going to keep on working hard!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2014- A year of Learning

Whether I wanted to learn or not, 2014 decided that it had a lot to teach me.  Some of the things I learned this year:

1.  I learned about my Dad.  My Pops passed away in July and as we celebrated his life and prepared for and had his funeral I learned more and more about him.  Things I wish I would have known before he passed.  He never talked a lot about himself, but at his funeral it was opened up for people to share their thoughts/memories of him. I learned a lot. After the funeral two individuals were talking about how it was "the best funeral ever!"- and they truly sounded excited and happy about it.  And you know what- I agree. His life was celebrated and I learned more of his awesomeness and how he touched many.  Even at the time of his death, he was still teaching us.

2.  I learned about myself.  I started a new job this year and it stretched me. I did things I've never done- plan a picnic for 300, pull off a huge bazaar, become a manager, do a radio ad. Of course I had help, I couldn't have done it without help, but I learned I could do things I didn't know I could.  I learned that people had confidence in me and that built my own confidence.

3.  I've learned that I really do have friends and that a lot of people are here for me. I have a hard time making close friends- the kind that you run to lunch with feel comfortable dropping in on without notice.  I have had them and I'm grateful- but in general I just feel like I don't make close friends very well. However, I have learned that I have friends just the same. This year has had some really tough spots, but time and time again I have been blessed with caring friends who stepped up to the plate in one way or the other.  Whether it was answering questions, providing a meal, texting me to ask how I was doing, letting me know I'm not alone in one way or another.  I feel so blessed, and chastened for the times I felt sorry for myself saying I didn't have friends.  There is more than one way to be a friend.

4.  To go along with #3, I also learned that it really is the "thought that counts" - at times people did whatever they thought might be useful to us or kind.  And it really didn't matter if it was or wasn't- but what did matter is that I knew that they were trying to reach out to us and help us in whatever way they could think of.

I've learned more this year as well, but sometimes what I've learned is wrapped up in someone elses story that isn't really mine to share. 2014 taught me many things, but what I hold in my heart is that I'm blessed and have much to be thankful for.

And so it goes...

Reading Now: "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" and "Nine Lives"
Just Read- "How to be an American Housewife"