My Brain Says…but My Heart Says…!

One of my challenges from My Bucket List is to write a Business Plan for a Company I’ve Been Thinking About (#280). While I have not actually written a business plan for 214 Fitness, a mobile fitness company I started with my husband; I have had quite a few other challenges in getting its operation running smoothly.

I know that I am supposed to be using empowering words. Words that make me feel like a Rock Star! At least, Tanya Aliza stresses this in her Welcome to Unlimited Fan Page Profits! training. I am taking her training to learn how to set up a Face Book Fan Page for 214 Fitness. (I guess, I can mark off Take An Online Course To Better Myself (#272). Anyway, I have been working on this training for months. I have been working on a website for months. I have been working on brochures for months. Nothing seems to be coming together for me when it comes to setting up a profitable fitness business. It seems I have exceeded my creative mental capacity to design anything remotely pleasing to the eye or attractive enough to entice someone to sign on as a client.

Yesterday, my emotions got the best of me. I was feeling like a failure in the business arena, a failure as a wife-which goes in line of my failure as an athlete, a failure at financial independence, a failure at my full-time “real” job! Ultimately, I was feeling like a failure of LIFE

Being Challenged In Life Is Inevitable, Being Defeated Is Optional. – Roger Crawford

All I could think about was my inability to get this business running and make it successful. I have one client that I have had for seven months. I had another that was really inconsistent and rarely showed for training sessions. I had another that signed a contract and backed out at the last minute. All I get are excuses! Too many to list. Then I thought about my own inconsistencies: inadequate planning, taking on too much other task, helping others instead of focusing on my business and my own fitness, getting side tracked with home, life, social events. These are all valid excuses that makes this whole business adventure not seem worth the time of day. People offer to help but never come around to it.

The fact is my own insecurities get in the way.  I was never designed to be a great athlete…or athlete at all; for that matter. Hell, I didn’t even know there was  a such thing as organized recreational sports until I had children. I thought sports were only played for school teams. Maybe I did know but never realized it was a thing. I tried Track my Junior year in high school. I was awful! I was FAT! I had no skill. I certainly could not run! Ultimately, I was an embarrassed myself and the team! Who was I to think I could ever be part of a team? I had a coach (not surprising that I can’t remember her name) that didn’t really care if I was there or not. She witnessed my inabilities and rather than “coach” me to be good at something, she threw me in on the shot-put. By the way, I couldn’t throw either. I have never had upper body strength! I still cannot do a pull up; even if you put a gun to my head! When she didn’t have enough runners for an event, she threw me on the roster at the last minute. I did not know the difference between a 400 meter and 800 meter track run. There was no one-on-one coaching to help me improve or talks about how I could get better or what I needed to do to fix my weight to make it easier. What do you think I did to overcome this embarrassment? I did something even more embarrassing. Ridiculous actually! I started smoking so I would have an excuse not to join the team my senior year. I had smoked off and on since I was seven years old and it just seemed like the thing to do to cope with everything wrong in my life. However, it became one of the reasons I wanted to open 214 Fitness. I wanted an avenue for young teens and adults to get the training they needed to succeed in whatever sport they wanted to participate in. I want them to be able to choose a different outlet to cope with life and not turn to tobacco products, drugs, or alcohol.  I wanted to be the mentor and the motivator to help them become the best “THEM”!

Lately, I feel I can’t even do that for myself. I feel like I am suffocating most days; watching myself move forward while I am planted in one place. How can I truly help someone else? As least that is what the brain is saying…the heart says “You care way too much to give up on a dream. There are way too many people that need your help!” The brain tells me, “It’s embarrassing for your husband to weigh less than you.” My heart is telling me, “You are fine! You look great! You are beautiful inside and out!” Sometimes, it’s hard to truly feel what the heart is telling you. I have battled weight issues my entire life. I have dealt with name calling, sounds made as I walk down the passageway at school, notes left on lockers. Sadly, that stuff does not stop when you become an adult. I dealt with the same scenarios and some worse while I was stationed in the military. Those memories are why I fought so hard to lose weight when I was stationed in Puerto Rico. It seemed everyone around me was thin and beautiful. I just wanted to be thin and beautiful too. I married and got pregnant; well I got pregnant then got married. After our son was born we went to visit my husband’s family in Texas. His mother was thin and his sister was thinner. I felt like an over-inflated baboon around them. Now, don’t get me wrong. I never heard anything but kind words from them. I am fortunate to be a part of such an amazing, giving, and supportive family. But it did not stop me from feeling fat and insecure. That pressure did motivate me to lose weight. When I joined the military I was roughly 165 pounds. Probably more! I worked out morning, noon, and night. I watched every morsel of food I ate, counted every calorie. I dropped to 114 pounds. I felt so alive. I had so much energy. I loved myself. For the first time in my life, I really did love myself!

Recently, I had talked with my mother and she described her weight loss. She isn’t even trying to lose weight; it’s just happening. Just what I needed to hear at a time I am processing my “fat” talks. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely happy for her efforts (and a little worried that she is losing too much weight). But…I am instantly frustrated! Here I am fighting my entire body’s system to lose weight I have gained since retirement. I am fighting hypothyroidism that doesn’t want to correct itself. I am fighting my mental anguish over the lack of energy and motivation to do anything. I get nowhere. My brain says, “You’re a personal trainer! How can you expect people to want you to train them. You don’t even look like a trainer?!” I feel like I should be on a Fat-Farm! All I want is to look good, feel good, have energy to get through the day without an energy drink or a nap or two, or sometimes three. I want to feel strong and conditioned. What I really want is that feeling of love and happiness I had for myself in Puerto Rico. I felt amazing, energetic, unstoppable. I miss that feeling! But I can’t get it back.

I also have to assess there are things that I am not doing right to get where I need to be. Consistent training and nutrition! Yes, even personal trainers can get off track! I know that my workout routines have been greatly inconsistent since I have been battling pharyngitis, bronchitis, and allergies since Memorial Day. Then there was the high heart rate during runs that concerned my husband enough to insist I get my heart check out before starting to train again. While most of the symptoms are gone; the cough wants to become a permanent inhabitant of my body and my heart turned out to be extremely healthy (as I had told him). I am finally starting to be more consistent in training sessions. I hired a coach to help me get back on track. Dennis Welch of the Dennis Welch Endurance Project. I met Dennis when he lived here in Virginia. We ran in the same running group. Once that group broke off, he started his own. I was training for a marathon with another group and would see the workouts he would do at a local park. He was very intimidating…reminded me of my husband when he would do his workouts. Their concepts were very similar. Anyways, Dennis’ training sessions are brutal! I feel like I can’t even get through a quarter of the workout. I used to get frustrated when I would review them. I would think, “There is no way in hell I can do this! I don’t have that kind of strength or stamina. I am starting completely over. It has been years since I trained for a running event. How does he expect me to do all this within these limitations?” But every time, I go out I have to try to match the plan. That’s the perfectionist in me. Even if I know, It is way beyond my current ability I have to try!

For instance, on my Monday run (Aug 19), the plan as written was:

  • 20:00 warmup of tire pull or easy run, then
  • 10 x 800m at MRP in minutes and seconds, with equal rest recovery jog or walk between as needed.
  • So, to execute, let’s say that your MRP is equivalent to a 3 hour marathon, which would be 3:00:00. So you would then make the hour into minutes and the minutes into seconds. So in this case, you’d run your 800s in 3 minutes. If your MRP is equivalent to a 4 hour marathon, then you’d run your 800s in 4 minutes.

I could not even do a quarter of what was on the plan; partly due to family and schedule commitments. My 20 minute warmup ended at 15 minutes. My 800 meters at Marathon Race Pace (MRP) followed by an 800 meter recovery run/walk between sets was a disaster! Ultimately, I was to complete 800 meters in 5 minutes, jog or walk 800 meters in 5 minutes for 10 sets. I felt pretty good with the first 800 meters but the second set became a run/walk. I ended it at the second set because it was like I was pushing a bulldozer around the track. I felt defeated! So many emotions became too overwhelming to continue. I felt like I lost myself over these past few years and I can’t find me. In fact, during my workout, I could see a vision of me running in the distance ahead, the physical me is steadily dropping back until the vision of me is no longer visible. Now, I have left myself behind! I’m no where in sight. I don’t know where I went. I’m struggling to keep up! It’s all just too fast! Frustration, confusion, feeling lost. Those are the words I feel. Unaccomplished, unsuccessful, failure plague my inner being. I feel myself trying to claw myself out of a hole. The darkness is too great. I can’t see ahead!

Remember, I said that I was inconsistent in training and lacked nutritional value. I believe the nutritional value is the key to these emotions spiraling downward. These feelings stem from not being able to perform at a level I once was at. I can barely push this 159.6 pound body to get out of bed at 5:00 in the morning. When I finally jump out of bed at 5:15, I quickly throw on some clothes (that I did not take the time to lay out the night before), use the bathroom, get a drink of water, take my morning Synthroid for the hypothyroidism, and rush out the door no later than 5:24. Yes, it is just that specific! There is no time for breakfast in this scene! Plus, I have to wait 30 minutes before I can eat. Notice too, that I did not grab a lunchbox. So let’s continue…Leaving any later than 5:24 , I play hell getting a parking spot in the designated parking lot at work. I reach the parking lot by 5:45 most mornings in order to get a parking spot. If I find my timeline is off while driving, I rush as fast as I can to get back on schedule. I finally make it to the parking lot and it gives me time for a short nap before heading into work at 6:20. Still no breakfast. If I get so hungry that I start to shake, I will visit the Rusty Anchor for some breakfast. Nothing in that joint is healthy; unless you consider scrambled eggs with egg shells healthy. Lunchtime…takes way too long to arrive. All I want is to head to my car for another nap. Finally, 11:30 arrives and I head to my car for that short nap I had been waiting all morning for. Forget food! Sleep is way more important. Unfortunately, thirty minutes is never long enough. The alarm goes off at 11:59 and I head back to work. The afternoon drags on forever! Finally, 2:50pm and it’s time to leave the office for the day. I either visit a personal training client or head home. The choices then become workout, clean my much neglected house, or Uber my husband and friend to our next social engagement. It is usually a brewery, a concert, or a local restaurant. Sometimes, it’s all three. It never stops! Oftentimes, my husband will ask me if I ate anything that day. Of course, I lie and say yes so I avoid a confrontation. When he was deployed, my sons were his spies to make sure I ate. I have this aversion to food in the sence that I don’t like to take time to eat. It takes too much time when there are so many other things I need to do.

Honestly, I feel like I sabotage myself. My physical fitness, my weight, everything! I don’t know why. Maybe I don’t deserve to look and feel sexy. Maybe all those school kids were right, my father,…maybe…I’m just fat! Maybe that’s my destiny. Maybe, I had fooled myself all those years ago thinking I was anything of an athlete; a runner. Maybe the strides I made to get better was just a fluke. I wasn’t really supposed to be able to run 9:30 minute miles. Maybe, I wasn’t really supposed to run multiple half marathons, two full marathons, or even a 50K Ultra marathon. Actually, Dennis says there are some people that have not business running. Maybe, I’m one of them! After all, with all the training I put in, I still wasn’t running very fast. At least, that is what my brain wants me to think! My heart tells me that I was destined to be great! I was destined to influence, motivate, and encourage all those people that are just like me in their struggles. People are watching you even when you don’t know they are watching. People are imitating you, even when you are at your worst. People need other people to inspire to be like. Ok, maybe that is only me admiring the abilities of other and wanting to do the same! 

This week, I decided to make a change. Changes are never easy. I set my alarm at 4:30 so I can do a little strength training or maybe some yoga before getting dressed for work…I have not been successful at this yet. Just like Dennis’ workouts, I will keep trying until I get them right. I did manage to take time to hang out with my husband. Really hang out. We ran together…ok, we were in the same park running; just not side by side. We had dinner together…YES, I COOKED! We even watched some TV shows together. It made me realize just how much I missed hanging out with him and working out with him. That was a good win to this change process! Life takes on so much of us that sometimes we forget what is truly important. Sometimes, we let others dictate how we spend our time and we forget to take time for ourselves. Sometimes, we let the opinion of others dictate how we should feel about ourselves. We are all different. We all have different struggles. We all have those mental images of perfection we must battle. We are all perfectly beautiful in our own way. God made us all different for a reason. We are unique. Embrace what makes you unique!  

Success Is Due To Our Stretching To The Challenges Of Life. Failure Comes When We Shrink From Them. – John C. Maxwell

Words, Words, more words…

I have been reading a book that explains how to become a better writer. The book, Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Hardy, details what it takes to…well, the title explains it all. Yes, I am probably one of the few remaining nerds that still find satisfaction in rummaging through the library bookshelves to find the perfect book. I had to hurry out the door when the librarian told me I could check out 30 books at one time! Admittedly, I have checked out this book once before. Hence, as you will notice in the coming sentences, I never finished it. I think I even had to pay a late fee.

In any case, this particular book says I should write at least 30 minutes a day. It does not matter what the subject is, how the words are formed, or even if it just makes sense (or non-sense in my case). The idea is to write. Get the words out of your head and onto paper. It also says, “Our writing can make us look smart or it can make us look stupid. It can make us seem fun, or warm, or competent, or trustworthy. But it can also make us seem humdrum or discombobulated or flat-out boring.” The reason I have had such a hard time writing this year is exactly this reason! I felt words had abandoned me. It was no longer fun or witty; it felt like a job – a boring, everyday mundane job. I am sure most of you can relate because you probably have, well, a boring and mundane job! After all, not everyone can live their dream or even work their dream! I was dealing with this whole writing issue on top of the fiasco with the bathroom remodeling I told you about last month. If you forgot about that whole mess of a life, you should reach back to this story here, Some Challenges Are Not Planned. If there is any story that made me look and feel stupid, it was this one. Talk about putting your trust in people and having it trampled on – along with stealing your money! I do not think anything can make a human feel more stupid that that! 

Anyways, I have been practicing that concept of writing 30 minutes a day but what I wrote is not what I wanted to post. It goes back the above statement where your writing makes you seem humdrum and boring. I felt it was dry, brittle; kind of like the limbs on my lime tree right now. That is not my vision for this blog. I need a little more spice in my life and my reading.

Now, here it is, two days before the end of the month and I still have nothing to post. I reached out to some friends…ok, so it was only two friends, but who’s counting…about what I should write. No offense, Karen and Christine, but you are my wing-ladies and really my only sources of creativity at this point in life. Christine thought I should write about “Balancing Life”. Perfect idea since I have a huge disability with this! A.N.D. since I have not completed any Bucket List items this year, my sources are rather limited. Even though, I still have a gift certificate Christine got me for Christmas to drive a racecar on the Richmond racetrack. Umm, I need to mark that on the non-existent calendar I have for all things fun and adventurous.

Well, that was two days ago and still nothing to post! Yesterday, I spent the majority of my time in bed, with a horrible cough that made my insides feel like they were going to explode and a headache that made my head feel like it was on fire. After all, I have been battling bronchitis since Memorial Day! Should I mention that I was also up all night with these symptoms and a dog that was having pretty much the same kind of night?! It did not take much convincing to call my boss and tell him I would not be at work. 

Anyways, Christine’s ideas sounded like a good one; until I sat down to write. I will put that topic on hold for another day when words do not want to reveal themselves. Today, it is all about Words, words, and more WORDS! Today is really the last day of the month though!

What do you consider makes a good story? How do you write a good story? Where do your ideas come from? Do you really look at the present and past tense of a sentence, the preparatory and non-preparatory statements, or the conjunctions of a word? I learned all those things in Middle School but do not dare ask me to recall what all those things are today. I was good at recognizing them but age has taken hold and my memory does not serve me well. I think my brain freed up space for the less important things in life: cooking, cleaning, and managing a full time job and other people’s schedules. You know the drill ~ at least any adult should. I was excited when I read Chapter 3’s title, Shed High School Rules! Then I realized it was really talking about the paragraph structure and not necessarily the sentence structure. Guess there is going to be a lot of Googling in my future!

Wait! I just discovered Microsoft has this thing called Smart Lookup. If you’ve been reading my blog then you already know I’m computer illiterate. Honestly, I don’t know how my boss puts up with me…I the ability to crash Microsoft Excel better than any test dummy in a fake car. Sometimes, I crash it on every click of the mouse button! Anyways, if you turn on Smart Lookup and right-click on a word (literally), it will find things on the internet related to your “word”! This is how I discovered that Wikipedia defines morphology as “the study of word formation and structure.” You would think I was dissecting something as if I were actually in a science lab! Wow! There’s even a movie called “The Words” with actors and actresses I’ve never heard. Ok, before I continue down this rabbit hole, let’s just get to the point…not sure that I really had one but…

The point is…WORDS! Everybody has them! They may not sound the same from person to person. You know this first hand if you’ve ever said something that someone totally misconstrued what you said. They may not look the same when written on paper. Honestly, how many languages are there? I can barely speak proper English let alone trying to speak another. They may not have the same affect (or is it effect?) for each and every one of us.

Words provide different feelings for different people; whether spoken, unspoken, or written. Think about it! The word love when spoken may leave you feeling happy. When it’s displayed through an action, for instance a hug, may leave you feeling warm and cozy inside. Then when it’s in writing, may put you in tears; much like that fancy Romance novel you’ve been reading. At times, words may leave us speechless. Other times, we say more than we should. Remember that last argument with your spouse or significant other? Yeah, we’ve all been there, I’m sure! The point is, we all have words. It’s the way we use them that truly makes an impact on our audience. Ann also tells us “you’ve got to choose words well – and write with economy and style and honest empathy…”. Afterall, everybody has feelings…ok, maybe not, but Everybody Writes!

Some Challenges are not Planned

I know it has been awhile since I have posted anything. For that, I deeply apologize. You see, 2019 has not been very kind. Some challenges you do not expect, some challenges are not planned, some challenges are not wanted! Challenges are supposed to make you stronger. They are supposed to build your character. Some are supposed to be fun! 2019 has definitely been a match in a boxing ring.

It started out in January. We hired a veteran owned company to remodel our bathrooms. We have three total. We wanted to merge two bathrooms: master bath and guest bath. The plan was to add a door between the two, enlarge the master bath with a bigger shower. We were trying to get a remodel that would modernize the home and accommodate my husband’s failing eye sight, among other medical issues. This house was built in 1979 and looks like it was built then. Very few remodeling was conducted by any of the previous owners. I love this house and wanted to give it the attention it deserved.

The remodeling project was to be completed by Veteran’s Home Remodeling. The owner is Victor Habgood. Imbed that name into your brain! If you live in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, I caution you NOT to use this company! They quoted us $26,000 to do this project that would start on January 28, 2019. They promised it would be completed by February 15, 2019. Per the contract, we gave them the first deposit of $8, 823.77. Both bathrooms were gutted to studs. They completed the first phase without fail. In fact, it was completed within the first week.

The phase began immediately after the first phase ended. We provided another payment of $8,823.76 per the contract guidelines. This is when all the issues began. Employees were not informed on how the project was to be worked (i.e. placement of new wall, routing of plumbing, toilet placements, drawings were not available) prior to construction. The team members was asking us questions that should have been provided to them by the company. They requested drawings and could not get them. I had to stop the process on a Friday and demand the owner report to my home on Monday to discuss the issues were witnessing. Of course, he did not show. He sent another representative that came out and drew a layout of how materials was supposed to be placed.

The employees were not provided the materials ahead of the project to ensure it would suit the layout. For example, they were not provided the vanities, medicine cabinets, shower stall, tile, tile spacers…the list goes on. They requested materials and could not get them. They were informed there was no money to get the supplies and any other excuse they can come up with. Some of the team members used their own funds to purchase materials in order to move ahead on the project. We would listen to discussions among the team members and discovered they weren’t even getting paid! Some had not been paid for several weeks. This went on, well, past the due date. We would inquire about materials. The status they would give was inaccurate because the materials weren’t even ordered at the time. We would ask for proof and would get none. For instance, the tub was not ordered until April 4. Again, well past the due date and after a total of $17,647.52 had been submitted to them. There should have been plenty of money available for this project.

Finally, I had enough! I sent a Letter of Termination to them on April 22. Yes, that’s right 2 months after the project was to be completed. It came to a point where we had to break ties with this company. The lies were too much! The workmanship was subpar by industries standards. It literally looks like unskilled workers came into my home and remodeled these bathrooms. They painted the walls and when it started to peel, they tried to disguise it by painting over it. Areas around the light fixtures was not plastered correctly. The lights were hung upside down because the medicine cabinets were installed too high. Outlets were installed directly underneath the medicine cabinets above the sink faucets. There are holes around the toilet fixtures, sheetrock seams have a “bubbled” appearance, plumbing adapters were placed on the wrong wall for the tub to be connected. This list goes on and on. The worst, in my opinion, is the grout to the shower. The tiles were installed using broken pieces of tile instead of tile spacers. The grout lines range from 3/8th inch to over 1/2 inch in places. There is no consistency.

Each time I have a contractor come give me an estimate, I learn of another issue that needs to be resolved. For instance, had they finished the shower, it would have leaked because it was not sealed properly. Water would have leaked under my house and done a lot of damage. This past week, I had the city inspector come out to determine what was in code and what wasn’t. I am still waiting on that list to be sent to me. I have also submitted a full detailed report to the Department of Professional and Occupation Regulation (DPOR). While they do have a fund to provide assistance in these cases, there is no guarantee that we will ever see reconciliation from this matter.

The worst part, I a member of a Messenger Group of at least thirteen other customers that have been affected by this business. Some have paid money and no work has been done. There are three pending court cases against him in the City of Chesapeake but this ranges throughout Norfolk and Virginia Beach as well.

I say that is the worst part but truly it isn’t! While my husband and I are established and can over come this financial crisis with time, there are young junior sailors that would have been bankrupted by his actions. What I didn’t tell you before is that this was a person I trusted. I worked with him at a command he work at as a Lieutenant. He is a Veteran of our Armed Forces with a start-up business. Those same junior sailors would have taken his rank as word that he would do the job and do it right. Officers in the military are supposed to look after the junior sailors and the junior sailors would have counted on that!

I am a Veteran. My husband is a Veteran. I have two sons that currently serve this great nation. Being a Veteran, or even an active duty member, means a great deal to our family. It is not a name or a title to be taken for granted. It is not to be used to take advantage of other Veterans or anyone for that matter. In the military, we learn to have each others back. We count on each other during the hardest times. We look out for each other, take care of each other. Victor Habgood broke that code of ethics in every possible way. He does not deserve to have the title “Veteran”. He should be stripped of all rights to that title!

Again, I caution you to watch for the name Victor Habgood. Remember this name! I have since learned he has closed the business office and put his website in maintenance mode. He has reached out to other people to sell his business so he can buy an RV and travel the country for a year or two. I say remember the name, Victor Habgood, because there is nothing to stop him from closing down one business and opening up under another business name!

Well, Victor Habgood, I hope you enjoy your vacation and the RV you purchase on the hard earned money of those that trusted you to do a job you neglected to do! Enjoy the time with your family having fun and sightseeing, while the rest of us are struggling to put our lives and financial profiles in order after you stole from us! May your life be ever so happy!

December – Merry and Bright

This December was probably the hardest year for me to get into the spirit of Christmas. For some reason, it seemed more stressful than most. I don’t know why that is. I love Christmas and the spirit around it. It is not about receiving gifts or even the giving of gifts. It is about watching the faces of loved ones when they open their gifts. It’s about experiencing their excitement and potentially making their wishes come true! I try to choose the perfect gift for each recipient. I think about their personalities, their interests and hobbies, and something they would love but would not spend the money on for themselves. I like to be unique but I also like it to represent our relationship. This year, I was at a complete blank. Enough talk about the gifts. It was the second week of December before we ever ventured out to get a tree. Let’s talk about the tree…

THE TREE. For me, the Christmas season only begins once we have a tree. Every year, I set the goal to find the biggest, fattest, most luscious tree on the lot. Every year, we go right after Thanksgiving. I try to choose a day that is cold but not too cold, a little wet but not pouring, and festive. We always go to the same place…every year! It’s a tradition. Tree picking day, is a festivity for me. I bake cookies with the boys, serve hot chocolate or eggnog with a little rum, and play Christmas music as we decorate the tree. At least, that’s how I remember when the boys were younger. Now, they are grown men and haven’t been home for those events in a few years.

Unfortunately, because I was having a hard time getting into the spirit of the season, I waited…and waited…and waited. Maybe it was hard because of how special they used to be and now I just don’t have that. I tried to share it with my nieces and a few of my friends children but I don’t think they were really into the idea of decorating a tree or maybe it was me that just wasn’t into it! The day came when we just had to get one no matter what. Both they boys were home, we had my husband’s cousin join us and even my son’s friend. The day was set to be perfect; except it was a little warm. We made our way to the tree farm. When we arrived the lot was almost bare. The trees were short and scrawny. I was extremely disappointed but I’m sure my husband was extremely happy.

You see, we joke every year about how I have no perception of size and matter. Usually, the tree does not fit in the house and Wes has to spend at least an hour cutting it down enough to get through the door and then more time trimming it so it will fit in the designated corner. TREEZILLA is what my sons call my trees. So not to have a Treezilla this year was kind of disheartening. The last one was thrown in the back yard and took years to deteriorate. I think I ended up throwing it in a fire pit.

After we got the tree, I had to decide what I was going to serve for dinner on Christmas Eve. I always do dinner Christmas Eve so that we can enjoy Christmas Day without too much hassle. Christmas Day is about enjoying each others company and leftovers from the night before. So what was I going to serve? Every year in October, my husband starts with the suggestion of serving a goose! This year he even had the boys chime in and then friend after friend would agree. No! NO! and NOO! At one point, he wanted to get two ducks and a goose so he could set them on the table and say DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE! So let’s talk about the dinner…

THE DINNER. I did surprise my husband with serving a goose. Not the ducks, just goose and ham. Of course, he was at the store when I picked it out. Darn the luck when I got to the register and realized it was going to cost me $70. It was too late to change my mind. He was with me. I just couldn’t endure seeing the disappointment on his face. So the night before Christmas Eve, I started preps. I knew the goose and ham were going to take a lot of attention so I prepared the green bean casserole and cheesy potatoes. I started the mashed potatoes too! Yep, those poor mashed potatoes~they didn’t have a chance from the start.

Originally, I was going to have Karen make them. I had already put her on cookie duty because I suck at baking. (Yes, we talked about baking cookies early while decorating the tree…those were store bought. I just put them in the oven with hopes of not burning them.) I told her I would go ahead and prepare them (mashed potatoes, that is, not cookies) so all I had to do was throw them in the oven just before the goose and ham were done. Well, apparently, I had too many irons in the fire because my mashed potatoes turned into paste. PASTE! I threw away 10 pounds of PASTE! It was late at night. I was frustrated and tired. But I had to go to the store for another 10 pounds of potatoes. I really wanted to scream! Why was it so important to do them the night before? They don’t take much time to make. I could have and should have waited. Before heading out, I was talking with Karen on the phone and told her my dilemma…so she offered to make them for me-even though she doesn’t like to cook. She likes to bake. I was so thankful at that very moment! I had dogs under my feet every where I turned, my feet hurt from standing all day, and I felt alone in this endeavor. Asking for help was out of the question. It’s always a disaster when I allow anyone in my kitchen to help. Christmas Day, when everyone gathered, I realized that I forgot to make the dinner rolls, I didn’t make the homemade cranberry sauce, and my sister-in-law brought green bean casserole instead of stuffing. All of my children’s friends were cancelling at the last minute. I had all this food! Food for about 30 people. It seemed to be a disaster. So I put on my happy face so we could enjoyed dinner. The goose, however, tasted like beef. I really wasn’t that bad. My brother-in-law just arrived home from Japan the day before, my sons were home, my sister-in-law and nieces were there. My friend, Karen and her boys came over! It could not have been any merrier for me. It was truly about spending time with family and friends.

NEW TRADITION. This year, I decided to start a new tradition. We would incorporate games right after dinner. Instead of sitting around a tv and watching movies or staring endlessly at each other, we would play games in which there would be prizes. The first game was a wrapped gift. I bought two gifts and included gift cards in them. I wrapped them and wrapped them. Apparently not good enough because neither one made it around the table a full turn. So the objective was for the person holding the gift to put on a Santa hat and oven mitts and try to unwrap the gift before the person next to them could roll doubles with two dice. Once doubles were rolled the gift and dice moved to the next person to repeat the process. Then we played Bingo. Once someone called “bingo” they could still continue to play but were not eligible for a prize. Each player received a gift for winning. This year was a gift card to a Taco Bell or Starbucks and small Visa card. Each gift was round $30 each. There was just enough gifts for each person to receive one. I believe everyone enjoyed the inauguration of the new tradition. Now, I have to decide what gifts will be for next year. Suggestions, please!

THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON. Once, I reset my mind and took all the pressure off myself to make everything perfect, everything was just that…PERFECT! I was able to witness the smile and glistening of my husband’s eyes when he realized a TV was being delivered for his game room. It was the only gift I could come up with that he would never expect. I watched the excitement of my nieces as they opened their gifts, especially since they thought I was going to make them wait until Christmas Day! Both my sister-in-laws seemed to love their gifts as well. My brother-in-laws were equally pleased. But it’s not about the gifts that made it so special. I enjoyed time spent with family and friends. I am fortunate to have loved ones around that wants to join us in celebrating such a wonderful time of year. To me, there is nothing more special that sharing moments with family and friends!

I hope you had yourself a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

November – An Unromantic Love Affair

November has always been a special month for me. Maybe because the weather is starting to get crispy as we settle into the holiday season. Maybe it’s the anticipation of Thanksgiving. It could be that it is a time of celebration and reflection.  

My mother married my step-dad on November 1. Their marriage lasted for 30 years before he passed away. This unity was an example of supreme perseverance, extreme sacrifice, and in-depth love. As a young teenager, I watched their love grow and blossom in ways I would never understand. I witnessed their success and their failures. I admit, there were times, I did not understand why my mother would stay with such a strong-armed individual. Don’t get me wrong! I loved my step-dad and will forever miss him but he wasn’t always kind. Then again, none of us are. He was human and had his faults like all we do. He was harshly judged for his personality but it was just that personality that helped me grow into the strong, independent woman I am today. It was their love for each other that inspired me. I watched my mother stand by the love of her life when most women would have bailed. I watched her endure moments of his discontentment and the anger he held within. Sometimes, his battles with regret where stronger than his love for those around him. No, he never physically harmed my mother. There were other moments, the ones I like to remember the most, where his eyes sparkled when he looked at her. Those days, you could see and feel the love he had for her. He enjoyed picking on her; especially when she wasn’t in the mood. He would try to make her laugh when so was down on her luck. Their marriage showed me that no bond between two people is ever perfect. It’s hard work and comes with much sacrifice. Their loved showed me that you can never give up on one another just because times are tough. That is what I choose to remember! 

Love can sneak up on you when you are not looking for it. It grasps a hold of your heart like a vice grip holding two pieces of metal together. The grip is sometimes impossible to loosen. God has a way of putting two people together that is unique and often not understood. He puts two people together that are so opposite from one another that the world deems them not fit for each other. God has his purpose! Or so it seemed 25 years ago when he united my husband and I in marriage. That is when the insanity truly began… 

Our love affair started before we even knew it ourselves. I was a young, naïve girl just new to the military. He was a well-educated young man, also, new to the military. We had our whole worlds ahead of us. How did it begin, you ask? We will get to that shortly… 

It all began in January or February 1993; my memory escapes me on dates. I’ve never really been good with them. Anyways, we first met at a bar on base in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. It was my first night at this bar. I was the tag-along with roommates that frequently visited this bar. I had not been stationed on the island long. In fact, I reported to the island on Christmas Day, 1992. I had not made any true friends up to this point. I was a rather shy individual. I kept to myself mostly. I was just trying to find my way in an unfamiliar world. In fact, my roommates didn’t even like me when I was first assigned to the room. One hated me for reasons I will never know. She would threaten to beat me up, talked bad about me at her command, and was a truly nasty person. It was very adult-like of her; more bully-like! And to think, I thought I had graduated high school! Looking back, it could have been her hormones from her pregnancy. Maybe it was jealousy. But I was nobody to be jealous of so that was never a consideration. Maybe she was just discontent with her own life and needed to take it out on someone she deemed of a lesser being to her. Who knows?! I was just glad when she left the island. It took her to leave before my second roommate would acknowledge me or have anything to do with me. 

Ironically, we became really good friends. She was highly energetic, loved to laugh, and just wanted to have fun.  She invited me to the “Crossroads” which was the base country bar. I walk in with a few other friends and followed them to this round table. At the table sat a few guys. My southern nature took me around to each individual, introduced myself, and gave them each a hug. That’s what we do in the south…at least when I was growing up there. A hug was the same as a hand shake and meant just as much as your word. Without it you didn’t have much. Besides, the only thing we could afford was a hug; wasn’t much left for anything more than that.   

To be completely honest, I don’t remember much more from this night. I wasn’t drunk or anything; just never had a very good memory. What I do remember is this gentleman giving me a ride back to the barracks along with another guy. I was really impressed with the him. I got in his car and it was in immaculate condition. It wasn’t just his car; it was everything about him. I can’t pinpoint just one thing. There was a depth to him that peaked my curiosity. I wanted to know more about him. To make this story short, we started dating shortly after that…to make it even shorter… 

We dated, I broke up with him on his brother’s birthday, and a few weeks later I asked him to start dating again. There is no real romantic story there. Unless you consider the fact he threw me one hell of a birthday party even though we weren’t dating.  

I knew it was a mistake the moments the words left my mouth, only I couldn’t retract them. Have you ever felt the power of God’s voice before? Let me tell you, it will be with you for the rest of your life. I can still vividly hear his words when I reflect back on that moment. Why did I break up with him? Glad you asked. I was young, naive, never dated or had a boyfriend. I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t know what it meant to be in a relationship. I was sheltered in my youth and I wanted to experience everything life had to offer. I didn’t feel I could do that while in a relationship; whatever a relationship was. 

Next, we started dating again. He informs me he had never “re”dated a girl that had broken up with him. Well, neither had I. A boy, that is. That was easy since I never dated or even had a boyfriend. But for him, I guess there is a first time for everything. I enjoyed hanging out with him. I experienced a lot “first” with him. It was a great time! He was so handsome and generous and smart and considerate. He made my heart flutter. 

One day we were talking and I don’t remember how the conversation came up. I started telling him about a telephone call I had received from a guy on the other island. So the story goes… 

I was sitting watch for a weapons command. My job was to make radio calls to a small island off our coast to ensure everything was secured. This would go on about every hour throughout the night. It was a really boring job. It was one of many boring nights I would sit on watches. The next day, once I had turned over the watch to my relief, I was told I had a telephone call. I answered with curiosity since no one really knew me or knew how to get a hold of me. I couldn’t imagine who it would be. The manly voice on the phone informs me “you have a sexy voice!”. All I could muster to say was “Thank you!” before I hung up the phone. I am smiling and blushing as red as strawberry glistening in the fields on a hot summer day. I didn’t know what to say. I had never had anyone to compliment me like that; certainly not a stranger. As I am telling Wes this story, before I could even get it completely out of my mouth, he said “No way! That was me!”  

I guess you could say, I got the man of my dreams because I thought about that manly voice for some time after that call. I had wondered who he was, what he was doing, what he looked like. I conjured up my own fairy tale about this voice but I kept it all to myself.  

Shortly after, I discovered I was pregnant. That was the scariest moment in my life. I had no idea what I was going to do. I was just learning how to manipulate life on my own; now I had a child to worry about. I was barely making $500 a paycheck. I didn’t know how I was going to support a child on my own. I wasn’t going to let that stop me though. I informed Wes of the pregnancy, half expecting him to bolt out the door as fast as he could. To my surprise, he asked me to marry him. I could not say “yes”! The last thing I want was for him to marry me because he felt obligated. I wanted a man that would marry because he loved me not because he felt he had to. Deep inside, I really wanted to say yes. I just couldn’t. Some time had passed and he asked me again. And I said “no” again. I just wasn’t convinced that it was me he wanted. There were much prettier, smarter, and wiser gals he could be with. I didn’t want to tie him down. Besides, was he asking because it was me wanted? Or was it the child growing inside me that we have yet to meet? I had discussed my situation with a supervisor. From the beginning he kept telling me that I needed “to marry that man”! But what did he know, really?! To my surprise, Wes asked me to marry him for a third time. I said “YES”! I figured if he asked this time there probably wouldn’t be another. If he asked THREE times then he must really want to be with me! I really wanted to marry him, and did from the beginning! I couldn’t say no and risk losing him forever.

For the past 25 years, we have lived a life of insanity. We had two handsome young sons. We were both military; waiving at stop signs as we passed each other going to and from work. Giving quick hugs as one returns from a deployment and the other leaving for one. Managing a “bachelor” life because we were stationed in different states ~ trying to keep it all together and make it work. It was hard but there was no way I was going to let him slip through my fingers a second time. We were meant to be together. He is the love of my life. The one I look forward to seeing at the end of the day. The one I want to talk to about my day. I want to listen to his military stories, talk about his day, share his dreams. He captivates me, intrigues me, motivates me. He is my everything! I pray that God gives us another 25 years together because he is my rock! 

October – Unconventional Challenge

My Bucket List Challenge for October is a little unconventional but it definitely touched on my comfort zone. The month was filled with excitement, new prospects, uncertainty, and celebration. I made the decision to journey down a new path in employment. I left the comforts of my previous employer to take on a mission with a new company. Any one that knows me, knows how extremely difficult this was. I don’t like change! It’s not easy for me to adjust to new environments. Learning new people is an extreme task all on its own. 

This journey to employment change actually started in February. I told only a handful of people. I was even reluctant to tell my husband. What if the deal fell through? I didn’t want to seem like a failure.  Eventually, I had to look at it in a different manner. Not failure but a new opportunity! I had to realize that some change, as scary as it may be, is actually good. In fact, it could be rewarding. The new prospective company had sought me out through LinkedIn where my resume is posted. Obviously, if a company that only knew me through a computer based software saw something in me, I had to start believing in myself. I knew I had to make a change. I wanted to make a change. My old job was slowly killing me; mentally, physically, and emotionally. I was becoming someone that was truly not of my character. I was growing increasingly unhappy, bitter, and even sometimes, downright mean spirited. 

Yet, I was afraid to jump into another “contract” company because let’s face it…no matter what anyone tells you, “the grass is NOT always greener” on the other side of the fence.  I agreed to move forward as if I were going to take this position to give myself time to figure out what “I” wanted. More importantly, what I “NEEDED”! I attended a mandatory course and started the onboarding procedures. May rolls around and I had been skipped over for this hiring phase. I wasn’t upset as I knew there were four people in line for the position and two were unemployed. I’d like to assume it went to those that “needed” the job. I figured it just meant it wasn’t my time to leave my present company. After all, I loved the company I was working for. My supervisors were very supportive. The company has great benefits. The managers are eager to help in any way possible but even they have limits.  While I was allowed to participate in certain company programs, it had to be outside company time, any courses for job development was outside company time, there was no compensation for attending job development education events or courses. Therefore, I stopped doing those extra things that set me apart. Well, honestly, that came after my second payroll reduction. I had taken two huge pay reductions in a matter of six months. I didn’t see any point in paying money out of my own pocket when they weren’t even meeting the area average for the job I was doing. Again, I really loved the company but there were aspects to the job and “other” associates of the job that I could no longer subject myself to. I knew I was capable of so much more than the “associates” gave me credit for. There was room for process improvement but only a select few wanted to improve the process. 

September is in full churn and I was contacted again about accepting a position at a new company. Yes, the one from the previous inquiry. After much discussion with my husband; the going back and forth, the what-ifs, and the maybes, I decided to move forward. I knew there was something more for me. I knew there was a job that would lead me to “employment happiness” and I wasn’t going to find it unless I stepped outside my comfort zone, set aside my loyalty concepts, and jumped with faith two feet forward. While in the midst of accepting a position at this new company, I was interviewed by another very promising company. This really gave me an ego boost…to think there were two companies that wanted to hire me at the same time! Turns out, they were merging together to become one so I don’t know if it really counts. It’s now October, and the day finally comes where I give my notice. You can really tell your worth in the eyes of others when they have to bid on your services. My present company didn’t even try to come close to the mark! They didn’t even try to meet my original starting wage. Worse yet, after explaining all the complications with the position I held, even if I had stayed, nothing would have changed. 

Change is sometimes good! It allows you to open up to better opportunities and self-growth. It challenges you to experience life. After all, life is going to happen so we might as well join in on the fun. I have enjoyed this change. I, at one point, would cry all the way to work and dread getting out of my car because I really could not deal with the mundane environment and the negativity that filled the air on a constant basis. Now, I have to be at work much earlier than I am used to but I get off earlier too. I work with some pretty amazing people; supportive, informative, and charismatic. My car is no longer filled with tears of dread in the morning but an excitement to find out what the new day has ahead. How long will this feeling last? I ask myself that but I am going just to live in the moment. Enjoy the experience while I can and be happy with the change!

End the end, if this position goes away, if the contract is not renewed…I can feel confident that I have the ability to take another promising employment opportunity with another company! I no longer have to the fear of what I would do if I lost my job. I can just enjoy the fact that I have a job and can always find another if necessary!

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” –Confucius

September – Lost Time

I started this particular blog post back in September, yet here I am still trying to etch words for a timeframe I can’t remember. Ever have a moment when time just seems to have been misplaced; vanished without a trace? Have you had moments where you have no recollection of time? That is me, at this very moment, as look back into September and all that it had to offer. Maybe it had nothing to offer at all. Maybe that is why, for a few weeks now, I have not been able to discern September’s happenings.

I have sat with my Bucket List book staring back at me. What did I do to accomplish items in this book? Did I do anything? There is nothing coming to memory. How could an entire month just vanish into mind-space? My mind-space is a black hole where events are stored when they really had no true meaning or impact to my life. But why would I store an entire month in my mind-space? Was it really that uneventful?

I am sure of that! I know it started out with a Saturday Yoga event at MoMac Brewery. Other than that…there is nothing. I remember the yoga session being refreshing. I was having issues with tenderness in my Achilles tendon. The yoga session did wonders to relieve the pain I had. I remember thinking that I need to do this on a regular basis because, literally, my entire body felt more relaxed.

Anyways, maybe if I dig out my calendar it will jar my memory. Let’s see…Nope, only thing listed is Labor Day. What did I do on Labor Day? Did I do anything for Labor Day? Maybe Facebook will tell me. Small chance of that since I rarely interact with it but let’s see. There were things I wanted to do but did I do them?

Well, Facebook revealed that I enjoyed some time with my son, Brandon, while he was home on Leave. My surrogate son, Adam, joined us a few times. We enjoyed having a few brews at our local watering hole, MoMac Brewery. By happenstance, we ran into his old cross country coach, Ryan. I must add that Ryan also coached me through a series of races to include my first 50K Ultra Marathon. Under his guidance, I managed to exceed my personal record (PR) with each race I ran. It was a grueling time, a time of character testing, patience testing, and learning how to get out of my head and just run. It was hours and hours of running each Saturday and Sunday. It became a full time job; only I wasn’t getting paid for it. I questioned my sanity, clearly I was insane! That became obvious when I signed up to run the 50K Ultra Marathon followed by the Surf’n Santa 5 Miler the same day. It was a total of about 37 miles that day. Really, my first clue at insanity should have been when I ran a marathon with pneumonia. I don’t recommend it. However, the first 13.1 miles seems pretty easy. By mile 18 I felt like a brick was sitting on my chest, the coughing increased and my lungs felt on fire. Finally, mile 20 was in view but I was still asking myself if I was going to make the last 6.1 miles. I decided I would run and collapse at the finish line if I had too. I had trained way too hard to quit! Boy that last .2 was the worst because it felt like it was never going to end! Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat! My ultimate goal is to run a 50 miler; the Skydive Ultra in Florida to be exact. I just need to get mentally and physically fit before I attempt such a feat. The only there’s one problem. Every time I think I am ready to hit payment hard and start training, I mentally shut down. I have it a wall at 3 miles. It’s almost as if my body remembers what it went through to train for the 50K Ultra and it’s telling me “NO! I’m not going through this again!” It’s a mental hurdle I have to overcome so how or another. But HOW is the question.

What else did Facebook reveal? It reminded me that I started clearing 25 years of accumulation from my home. It really began because my youngest son refused to keep his room clean. He had joined the military and after boot camp was stationed in his home state, his hometown actually. Therefore, he felt he could come and go as he pleased. I would find his clothes in the middle of the kitchen where he rushed home, changed clothing, and immediately left to meet up with whatever friend was on his calendar that day. After multiple times, with multiple warnings, I decided to take matters into my own hands. While my husband and I informed him that he no longer lived at our home after he joined the military, it didn’t really take affect. I could have had his father go the extreme route but that would not have solved anything. He would have just taken it as another disciplinary attempt from his father. No! It HAD to be ME! He would never expect MOM to draw the line. So, I rented a storage facility, packed up the belongings in his room, and moved them to the storage facility. This was hard for me but it was necessary! I had to get my point across and not rely on others to do it for me. If I had not been the one to draw the line, he would never take me serious. I believe, even now, he thinks it is temporary.

I have learned that I enjoy sharing the house with just my husband and three dogs. I have learned that I can maintain a solid relationship with my children and them not live with me. I actually prefer it. I think I appreciate our time together more. The time is more about us and not constantly nagging about what they did or didn’t do. The 25-year clearance is still not complete as I am taking it one room at a time. Let’s face it! That’s a long time to hoard a bunch of crap that you thought was valuable or at the very least, sentimental, only to realize it was just that…CRAP! The attic is my proof! It will take some time to go through the attic. I may just rent a big metal trash bin and through everything away. Only problem, the attic stairs is broken. I can’t even get up there to get my Christmas decorations.

The last thing, Facebook reminded me was the Neptune Festival. I was in the middle of clearing out the CRAP when Karen asked me to join her and the boys at the festival. I was reluctant, she was insistent! She is one tough cookie and relentless! While we were there, I did not see anything that really stood out to me. Good thing! After all, I am in the middle of a home sweep! The last thing I needed to do was bring in more junk. Besides, I could save that money to spend on renovating my bathrooms. They haven’t changed since the 70s. They look it too! I cleaned them but I never get that satisfying feeling that they are clean. It’s horrible!

We did discover Young Living Essential Oils at the festival though. I had been researching the use of oils lately. Mostly out of curiosity but I really wanted to see if they would work for some of the anxiety issues I have. It all started when I was having a really bad attack at work. One of my coworkers shared a concoction of DoTerra his wife had made up. Ironically, it worked within minutes to give me a calm sensation. Since that day, I had been looking for someone to explain to me how to use them and what each oil was used for. I was looking for more information to prove that it was real and not the next fad. Since it is not FDA approved, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting caught up in another MLM company. And I certainly wasn’t interested in selling it. I was immediately impressed with the young women demonstrating the products. They were extremely knowledgeable. They immediately offered us classes, explained the reasons for each oil, answered all our questions. We each signed up for their starter kit. They contacted me later to ensure I had no other questions. They sent information regarding their upcoming classes. This was exactly what I was looking for. I most impressed with the research the company did to take each oil back to the roots of our ancestors. I am not set to just one company. I want to gain knowledge and educate myself about the various avenues of oils. My big question is, if every company says their oils are 100% pure, then what sets them apart? How do I know they are, in fact, “100% pure”! So my journey continues…

August – Like the wind

I don’t know what happened to August. It was here and then it was gone: like the wind, a flash of lightening, or a sock that always gets lost in the dryer. The point is…it went so fast I did not have time to discover a challenge that peaked my interest enough to write about.

It probably has more to do with my motivation and lack of preparation than anything. August seemed to be a tough month. It was really low for me most days. I have much difficulty sleeping so when it’s time to get up for work I just cover my head and lay there another hour. Ultimately this makes me late for work which means I have to work later to make up the time and then I am getting home later. It just turns into a downward spiral that last for weeks. August was that month for me. Somewhere along the way, I think I lost my way; my purpose; my reason for living. I fell into a mundane schedule that seemed to never end. Events that I normally have fun with no longer seemed interesting. Hanging out with friends became a chore. I did not want to socialize with anyone; not even my husband and children. Honestly, I just wanted to be left alone. Most times, I try to deal with these feelings in silence and go along with events planned. I didn’t even want to find comfort in my dogs and chickens. Which means it was really bad because I love my dogs and my chickens! I often deal with anxiety and depression. It creeps up on me with no warning and no reason. These are the times I try to separate myself from the world, so they don’t have to deal with all the negative feelings that just want to explode out of me.

Because August was a wash for a challenge, I thought I would catch up so some of my past post. In March, I wrote a post “March Madness – Raising Baby Chicks”. This was when I first got them. It was such an amazing and exciting time. I remember they did not much care for being held. But I would pick them up and pet them and give them kisses. Now, we are enjoying Raising Chickens and Having Fresh Eggs (#40). We get three a day because we only have three chickens. I think in my city we are only allowed to have four at one time. I really got concerned at one point because one of the ladies had been limping on her leg for a couple days. Probably because I accidentally stepped on her. Yes, I felt really guilty about that. She seems to be fine, but I really felt bad for her. They love to follow me around the yard, especially if they believe it is feeding time. They have their own special character. Now, when I walk out to the deck they come running up. As I walk down the steps to the yard, they squat down and wait for me to pick them up. I think that is why I am so fascinated with them. I think the dogs have taken to them too. They like to play with them. Neptune likes to catch them and lick them. He’s a strange dog for sure.

So last week, I was at work and as I was leaving the building right in the entry way was a snake. It freaked me out so bad I thought I was going to have a panic attack. My fear of snakes is so real! Now every time I go to work, I am looking around all the doors and inside the corridor before I ever step inside. Then, that same week, Karen posted there was a snake in her chicken coop. That is just what I needed to see. Now, when I go to care for my chickens and retrieve the eggs, I am walking ever so cautiously, slowing opening the doors to peek inside before I reach in to retrieve the eggs. How am I ever going to complete the challenge to Wear a Snake Around My Neck? (#67) How? I am doomed to have a heart attack if I try to attempt this.

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Snake in Karen’s Chicken Coop

Thumbing through my book, I realized I did complete one challenge; Take an Online Course to Better Myself (#272). I took this course through World Instructor Training School; the same organization that I received my personal training certification. The course was “Finding Your Customers: Listen, Define, and Think to Increase Your Social Media Presence“. I must say I was not really impressed with this course. It seemed incomplete. Upon starting the course, I could only see Modules 1 and 3. I had to contact the company to find out if this was in fact an error or if something was left out. They fixed the course and I was on my way to completing it. It was not a challenging course by any means. I felt the information in the book was useful, but the course ended before the book did. I felt as if the course was developed just to sale the book for the author. The course should have taken us more through the steps of setting up a social existence and maybe even had that part of the course work to be completed. Unfortunately, I had to return the book to the library before I could finish reading it. I will definitely check it out again. I just have to pay my late fees first. I am looking for another course that will challenge me to actually learn something; where I have to research and use my brain to think about how the body is supposed to function in certain situations, how to truly start a business on line, how to obtain customers, and study the nutritional aspect of daily dietary intake and chemistry compounds of food. My goal is to become a dietitian but all the colleges in my area dropped the program from their curriculum; at least that’s been the outcome of my research so far. I haven’t given up on it.

Do you have any suggestions on where I find some continuing education opportunities to help me in my fitness industry?

The Wave Crashers Return

Emily and I had our second surfing lesson with VA Surf Sessions. Wes couldn’t join us on this adventure so my friend, Christine, joined us as a new “Wave Crasher”.

Last Sunday, I did not apply any sunscreen to protect against the rays. The backs of my legs were really burnt by the end of the day. To avoid a repeat of that day, I had Christine spray the backs of my legs with 50 spf sunscreen. We were provided a rash guard shirt for the lesson. After filling out the required paperwork, we chose our boards and sat in the sand to listen to the brief.

This weeks lesson consisted of seven participants. I was a little concerned that there were so many people as I was under the impression that there were four surfers to a lesson. Our instructor for this lesson is Charles. He has 13 years surfing experience. He took us through this rather entertaining introduction and repeats surfing terminology similar to last weeks lesson. He was a rather funny guy and very entertaining. He had an assistant, Josh. Josh is 18 years old and only has one year experience. I explained to Charles that my niece was very nervous about surfing. Therefore, I was a little apprehensive when he sent her off with Josh for a little one-on-one experience.


Unlike last weeks lesson, we all sat on the beach while one group went out to surf. We rotated throughout the two-hour lesson. I felt this method did not provide adequate time for getting comfortable with the water or to help Emily get over her fears.

On our second ride out, I passed Emily to Charles so that she could use his expertise to get comfortable and hopefully have an enjoyable ride. As they make their way out, Christine is already on her way with Josh. I, on the other hand, struggled to get past the break. I kept crashing into the shore line. The waves on this particular day was tumultuous or so it seemed. It must have been a comedic sight because the dads along the beach were laughing at my every attempt to get past the break. Finally, I am past the break! That took forever. I decide that this is going to be the wave. Okay, maybe not this one! Well, not that one either. But the next one. Yep, that was it! I finally rode my first wave! It was awesome! Exhilarating! Exciting!

There were two young boys that were part of our group. Tyler, from St. Louis, Missouri and Maxwell from Norfolk, Virginia. The boys were amazing. They took to the waves like experts. I talked extensive with Tyler and he began to tell me all about his four year old niece that surfs really good. Four years Old! I can’t even stand up on the surfboard. I can only imagine that she was his inspiration for learning how to surf. Unfortunately, he tells me there are no waves to surf where he is from. I hope he continues this adventure. It would be an awesome experience to be able to share this sport with his niece as they grow through the years. I wish I would have had a video or more pictures of the two young boys to share with you. It was great to see them try surfing for their first time.

Also apart of our group was Kim and Leslie. One of them came all the way from California to visit the other. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which one. I really enjoyed talking with the two of them. Like myself, they seemed to struggle with the waves. It was obvious they were having fun with their experience. I even surprised them by take a few videos for them to share their experience.

Before I knew it the session was over. I was feeling a little disappointed because I did not get the experience or time on the surf that I was really hoping for. On the other hand, Charles provided some insight that helped me to ride my first wave. It was a nice experience but I really wanted more time.

The next day, I woke up with this horrible rash on the back of my legs. I could only guess it was from the sunscreen. After a few days, I decided to go to medical to have it evaluated. The doctor was stumped and had no clue to what it could be. She prescribed some steroids with hopes it would take care of the issue. Luckily, it did and I did not have to see a dermatologist but it is odd that it was caused by a sunscreen that is suppose to protect you from the elements. I am so thankful to be past that misery!

I feel so fortunate to be able to share this experience with my husband and friends. I feel especial important that my niece wants to join me on this journey. I am so grateful for the time we spend together. After all, she is a teenage and most want to spend their time with friends and doing things that friends want to do. God has truly blessed me!

“There are so many different elements to surfing. Small waves, big waves, long boards, short boards. This makes it a sport you can share with people. It’s not just a solitary thing – it’s become a family thing, too. It’s about exercising and passing something on from father to son, and from mother to daughter.”
~Kelly Slater

Wave Crashers and Surf Rider

July’s adventure was all about water sports. Surfing, to be specific! I think I may have found my new addiction. The best part is, I get to share this adventure with my niece, Emily. I feel like the luckiest aunt in the world.

I have been trying to find ways in which I can connect with my nieces and nephew. They have lived apart from my husband and I almost their whole lives. Yet, I still look for things that we can share together.

For Emily, it is our desire to be adventurous. We both want to learn to surf. We both want to learn to scuba dive. We both want to go tubing and climb mountains and hiking! She is only 13 and is willing to experience all these things with her Aunt Dee.

We took our first surf lesson together with VA Surf Sessions in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I was really calm leading up to the day of our lesson. As the time approached for the lesson to begin, I was getting butterflies in my stomach. I soon realized that Emily, too, had those same butterflies. She was really nervous but excited. I was really excited that she had joined Wes and I on this adventure.

I have always admired the ocean, the waves crashing to shore, the smell of the salt water. I grew up on the Gulf Coast and grew to love the feel of the ocean breeze. Standing there on the Virginia Beach shoreline, known as Croatan, memories flooded my brain. I envisioned myself riding those waves like the surfers do in the movies. I quickly learned, it does not happen like it is portrayed in the movies.

Our instructor was Bryson. He was extremely knowledgeable. He had been surfing since he was 8 years old. He has an opportunity to go to Africa and teach surfing once the season turns cold here. That’s an awesome experience for such a young man. Anyways, he went through all the steps of describing the waves, the rip currents and what to do if you get caught in one, and practicing how to land on the board.

It’s time to hit the waves! We get out pass the breaks and take turns riding the waves. Getting past the breaks was our first challenge. I soon realized that I needed to add more shoulder and arm workouts to my routine. I was amazed at how fast I fatigued just paddling out for the first wave event.

First up is John, an addition to our group. There are typically four people to a group. John does really well but I can’t remember if he rode his first wave. Wes is up to take his turn on the wave. He, too, does really well. After a few attempts he is up and riding like a professional. He is our “Surf Rider”! As much as I admire Wes, he annoys me with his ability to accomplish things so effortlessly. I wonder if his skateboard days has anything to do with his ability to surf so easily.

Emily’s turn! She attempts to stand up but soon falls off the board. She tries again. She is able to get on the board in a squat style attempt but not really able to stand up. I can see fear in her face as she tumbles, like a tumbleweed, to shore with waves crashing down on her. I saw her go under a wave and felt a panic inside me. She surfaces and I see she is okay. I worried that it would scare her away from trying again. We talked a little about how important it is to keep trying; to get over the fear so it doesn’t entrap your being. Even with her fear, she decided to go out and try it again. I was so proud of her for not letting fear take over!

Now, it’s my turn! Bryson pushes me off with the wave and I miss my opportunity. I try again, and again, and again. Each attempt was much the same as the last. I felt frustration creep up inside me but was determined not to let that take over the fun I was having. It is a new experience and I was determined to enjoy it to its fullest! I never really did stand up to ride a wave. The waves seemed moderate but they were difficult to ride. Like Emily, I did more tumbling and crashing into the shore line than actual surfing.

Well, the fact that Emily and I were never able to stand up and catch a wave did not detract from the extremely fun day we had. It was a blast! We laughed off the day with naming ourselves, “Wave Crashers” and headed for lunch at Waffle House and indulged ourselves with my first taste of Sweet Frog ice cream before heading home.

We ended our day of adventures with an agreement that we would get out to try another surfing lesson together!

“Surfing big waves is not an extreme sport to me. I fall off, tumble down, and come up. My heart’s racing because I’m thinking I almost drowned, and I thank God I can breathe again, but I always think, ‘What am I hitting?’ Water.”
Paul Walker