Blame it on Shonda and Elizabeth… We all know that I love Ms. Gilbert for the brilliance that is Eat Pray Love. That book helped me come alive after years of just floating. It spoke to me and many others in ways that no other book had done, and I am forever grateful that she presented her truth in such a way that it seemed natural to look inside myself to see what I had in there. My copy of EPL has so many notes and highlights that just a glance will give anyone an insight to who I am.

Shonda Rhimes, well, she’s new for me. I was never a fan of Grey’s Anatomy, mainly because of the unfortunate presence of Ms. Heigl, so there’s a great deal of Shondaland that I have not seen. I am a fan of Scandal, but I never really focused on who was writing those amazing storylines. It was the actors that presented them that thrilled me. That is, until, I listened to the audiobook version of The Year of Yes, which I first found incredibly annoying until I realized that the person reading the book — Shonda — sounded exactly like me, and her thinking was so much like mine that there was simply no way that she wouldn’t have some knowledge that I needed.

The fact is, both of these books and authors resonated in my life because they stepped from behind their curtains to share the truths of their respective journeys of self-discovery, and I am a person who craves to get to the bottom of the truth of who I am and how I can be the best version of myself. What I’ve learned is that there is no “best version” of me without the honest look at what my life looks like, and how that makes me feel. I will not stop trying to be the best version of Reese, and this is another step forward in that journey.

I love hard. If there is confusion about what that means, read page 65 of EPL. I grew up in a loving home with wonderful people, and that’s the foundation of my life. There was no tragic childhood trauma for me. I was a happy kid with happy circumstances that were expected to lead to an inevitably happy life.

Of late I have been struggling to maintain that so-called happy life. There have been several big, grown-up, adults situations that seriously compromised that so-called happy life, and, without going into great detail, I can say that the wounds are deep, the scars are visible, and the pain does not really go away.  My focus has been to find a way to cope rather to find a way to heal. Until recently, that is.

Life can be deeply challenging to navigate. Just when you get used to things being one way, the wind blows or the car spins or the dog bites or the computer freezes, and then everything has to change. And sure, I’ve read Who Moved My Cheese countless times, and I know that change is inevitable, but sometimes, I just want to go back to way I was, the way I felt in my perfectly uneventful happy life.  Of course, I was under the age of 10, so things were much different. Still, it is change that inspires us all to grow, and so I’m working on finding my way to healing, not just coping.

And this process is not easy, so I have enlisted the help of a “healer”. Okay, she’s a therapist, but I call her the healer because she listens which makes me listen, and I see myself moving beyond the coping stage.  I look forward to the healing and the growth.

Today was a good day.

 

 

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What if I choose myself? What if I choose to do the things that I know are right for me? What if I stop sabotaging myself? What if I stop letting myself down? Just what if…

It’s spring. The sun and my toes are out, the air is fresh, and I’m feeling pretty good today. My world is filled with possibilities and hope, and I feel like it’s time for me to start blooming. It’s time for me to choose me.

Whenever  I start writing on this blog, I am so very hopeful that I will make writing a priority in my life again. I used to love to write. Scratch that — I used to make time to write. I used to speak of my muse, and I used to take fingers to keys and let my mind go crazy. I used to exhale onto the page, and I could feel the physical relief once my thoughts were expressed. I used to pursue my passion…

But then…

I used to go to the gym for hours a day on my way home from work. I used to ride the recumbent bike for 45 minutes, then take a 45 minute step class.  I used to take kickboxing classes where the sweat would pour off my body, and then go home and make a healthy dinner.  I used to have a coordination and stamina that made me feel alive. I used to put the effort into getting stronger…

But then…

There was a time when I visited a naturopath to find healthy ways to improve my health. I used to spend days at a yoga retreat in Massachusetts, walking barefoot in the grass. I used to eat only natural foods, and I stayed away from gluten. I used to drink water and all kinds of tea and organic goodness. I used to care deeply about protecting my body from toxins…

But then… but then… but then I stopped. I stopped exercising and I stopped thinking about how different foods affected my body and health, and I stopped writing. I know when it started, but I am still not certain — or ready to admit — why I stopped choosing Reese. What I do know is that I am so terribly sorry I did.

It’s easy to blame this whole demise of caring for myself on my womanhood. It’s so easy to say that marriage and motherhood took my eyes away from me.  It’s unbelievably easy to blame my husband’s kidney failure and the challenges of my four stepchildren, and everything that goes along with being the second wife and the stepmother for my choice to nurture others before myself. It’s easy to blame the hormones and the madness of womaning for all the ills of my life.

It’s easy to say that the long, daily commute to work and the long work days have taken a toll on my free time. It’s easy to say going out to lunch every single day makes it acceptable to make bad choices. It’s so easy to come up with excuses. Why isn’t it just as easy to choose what’s best for myself?

I have definitely made some bad personal choices in my life. I have chosen bad friends, bad foods, bad churches, and a host of bad mates, and suffered the many and varied consequences of each bad decision. And I am so very tired of wallowing in puddles of mistakes.

I am a self-help junkie. I love the inspirational quotes, motivational weight loss transformations, any book written by Elizabeth Gilbert, recommended by Oprah, or mentioned by Glennon Doyle Melton.  I love watching people pursue their passions, and I’m interested in books and articles about how artists of all kinds have followed their dreams. There’s a reason I’m drawn to stories of growth and transformation.  My heart craves growth. My mind desires renewal. It’s simply time to choose goodness for myself.

So… today, I count as my day 1 to finding out what happens when I choose me. In the recent months, I’ve taken baby steps towards bettering my physical, mental and emotional health, but today I’m committing to choose me, and I’m committing to make time for me, and I’m committing to do those things that benefit my health. And to keep me on track, I’m coming back to my happy place  ( no, not the mall…). I’m coming back to writing.

Today is a good day.

You know when a bunch of women in an office or church seem to announce that they are pregnant, and someone says, “Must be in the water”, and you’re like, “Please don’t let that water come near me.” Well, recently, every time I turn around, I hear about some woman getting blindsided by her husband with divorce papers. Each story is more disturbing than the next.

“We were laughing and joking last night. And today, I get served papers.”

“I know we had a bad argument 2 weeks ago, but I thought things were fine. Who knew he’d be the one to open the door for the police and take my daughters.”

Each story I hear is more heartbreaking than the next, and all I can do is wonder:

“Did they really not know what he was capable of?”

and

“How far am I from getting blindsided myself?”

The sad truth is you really never know. There is a level of complacency that settles in after you’ve been married for a while… and “awhile” is different for every single person. Eventually that complacency leads to neglect and then regret. We’ve all heard of the 7 year itch, but for some people, that itch starts before the first anniversary. Still others make it beyond the 20 year mark, and as soon as the kids are out of the nest, someone starts leaning on the ledge getting ready to fly.

Perception is another real problem. It seems like these women who have been blindsided weren’t picking up on the signs that their men were posting all over the place. Maybe from the inside of the marriage, his actions or statements didn’t seem aggressive, but everyone outside could see that things were more than a little off. I heard of one guy moving 3 states away, and because he visited every month for 3 years, his wife assumed that they would remain married indefinitely. Sure, who among us doesn’t crave an empty house once in a while, but wouldn’t we all get suspicious when our mate moves to another state?

Perception is a funny thing. There are times when I’m in conversation with the person to whom I’m related by marriage, and I am baffled how his perception of a statement or a situation is so vastly different than mine. Here we are — two relatively intelligent people with 3 degrees and many life experiences between us — and we can look at the same television program and take away two opposing messages. We don’t come to the same logical conclusions, even though we would both insist that we are using logic. And I know that we are not the only couple in the world like this.

Let me be clear… I am not trying to build the case for blindsiding my husband or for him to blindside me. I know that if asked, we would both agree that we love each other, and want to be together. But didn’t all those other couples say the same thing? I suppose there are people who walk down the aisle thinking that they don’t want to be with the other person, but those folks shouldn’t be surprised when things don’t work out.

I have a godson who married the wrong person. They don’t even seem to like each other, and every step of the planning process was like climbing Everest, and every single one of us at the wedding knew we were watching a relationship destined for nothing but misery. I was, perhaps, the most vocal in my disapproval, and even though I was wedding coordinator, tears poured down my cheeks as I directed the bridezilla down the aisle to my child. When the officiant asked “Is there anyone here who knows a reason why these two shouldn’t get married, please speak now or forever hold your peace”, all eyes turned to me. But I remained silent, and like everyone else, wondered why they were doing this. At least neither of them will be blindsided when this union ends. They know what they walked into.

But these women I’ve heard about recently, they simply did not know who they married. One said she didn’t even know this man, in reference to her husband. I guess evil is easy to conceal. Or perhaps the desire to be married trumped the desire to be happy since so many women were taught that they were one in the same. Thank God my mother didn’t do that. My parents made it clear in my childhood that they would never push their children into marriage. Even though they have a beautiful marriage, they have seen a great deal of unhappily married people, and they never wanted that for their children. They always said, “Make sure you marry the right person.” That’s great advice, but it’s still ambiguous. Right for what? Right for the bank account? Right on paper? Right for the 20s? Right how?

Over 15 years ago, I was dating a man (let’s call him JD) that I just knew I wanted to marry. Despite being a different race and religion than me, I believed in my heart that we were meant to be together because we clicked so well so quickly. We had what I believed to be an intense, once in a lifetime love for one another, and that no matter what paths we traveled, whether separately or together, we would find our way back to each other eventually. We went through several small breakups, but managed to somehow reconnect and rekindle our romance. Then one morning, after kissing each other goodbye for the day, something in JD switched, and within 4 hours, completely out of the blue, he ended our relationship, saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I was completely blindsided, and I knew that it was not like one of our previous breakups. I knew it was over and there was nothing I could do. It took me 2 years to finally accept in my heart that JD really was not the right one I was meant to be with.

I remember the pain of being blindsided. I remember sitting on the couch for 3 days, not eating, not sleeping, just crying and wondering what I had done wrong. JD was not my husband, though. He hadn’t put a ring on my finger, and he hadn’t stood in front of God and country to pledge his love for me. We hadn’t tied our money together and we didn’t have children, so even though I know what it feels like to be blindsided, I cannot imagine what these women I’ve learned about today are enduring. I cannot imagine the betrayal, the theft, the lies, the madness to which their husbands are subjecting them. These women have to prepare to fight for their finances, fight to see their own children, the homes they created, and more simply because the men they married have chosen to subject their families to unbelievable turmoil in an effort to get rid of their wives, and they have chosen to end their marriages like cowards. And make no mistake, they are not cowards because they no longer wish to be married. They are cowards because they smiled in the faces of the wives, and they went about their business as though nothing was wrong only to have a process server be the first person to let their wives know they were about to lose everything.

I hope these women can move beyond their hurt and disillusionment, and stand up and fight. I hope the cowards don’t win. And truth be told, I hope that I never have to endure what they are enduring.

Maya Angelou died yesterday. I didn’t know her personally, but I feel like she’s been a part of my life for a long time. Her influence and inspiration in my life started when I was child, and even though I have drifted away from what I learned from her — for whatever reason, her name reminds me that what my life has become is not all that my life is supposed to be.

When I was young, my mother used to assign me book reports during the summer. She was an English teacher in her former life, and she always encouraged learning. I have always been an avid reader, and an aspiring writer, so I enjoyed these summertime reports. My mother gave me Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings one summer, and I was captured by the writing. Despite attending a private school, the highly conservative and moderately racist nature of the organization did not promote non-white writers during my education, although I think that changed during the months of February when I was in high school. Needless to say, it was nice to read a book written by a person who looked like me. But more than that, so much more than seeing another brown girl was reading about a passion I had inside of myself. With nearly every word, Maya Angelou was the real life embodiment of the freeing of the caged bird. She pressed everyone blessed enough to listen to her that we are the keepers of the keys to our own cages.

I enjoy writing. I love words, and I have so very much inside to say, but I have let life — my life, my troubles, my minutia put me back into a cage. I have stretched my wings occasionally in facebook posts, minimally in emails, and frequently in lunchtime discussions, but even though the door is open, I have sat on my perch silent for too long. I want to sing again. I want to give myself the freedom to speak and the time to do it well.

Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I have many stories inside of me. I will admit that some of my stories are not flattering, and could be seen as hurtful to some, and I have censored myself because some truths aren’t pretty. But I am reminded that the unpleasant truth still deserves to be heard.

Get ready for some singing.

Juicing is still a part of my every day life. Since my last post (God only knows when), I have had several starts and stops. Right now, I’m on day 1 of my latest Reboot (eating fruits, veggies and nuts only), and I have some hope that I have a better grip on what’s at stake now. What’s at stake for me is my life.

Being overweight is a punchline for many people, but for those of us in the world of chunk, being overweight is a struggle. There are so many downsides to being overly large, and for those who want a detailed list, here are a few:

1. Clothes cost more money. Now, it does make sense that the more fabric you use to make it, the more money you spend to buy it. But it seems to me that if we use that logic, shouldn’t a size 10 cost more than a size 2? Well, that’s not the case at all. It’s only after one reaches a manufacturer/society-determined size that they are punished with paying extra cash.
2. The selection of clothing diminishes significantly. When I go to the mall for clothes, I have 4 or 5 stores from which to choose in a sea of retail shops. What’s worse, all big girl clothes can easily fit into one of 3 categories — Old Lady, Clown Chic, and Fat Hooker. If not for the fact that I have gotten into makeup and skin care, trips to my happy place would be pointless.
3. No more sleeves. This sort of goes with #2 above, but it’s important enough to deserve a special mention. Plus size tops rarely offer a full sleeve. For some reason, nearly all of our shirt options are 3/4 length sleeves, regardless of the season or the type of top. Now, maybe the designers are trying to tell us something, but this fat girl gets cold! What’s a girl got to do to get a full sleeve? Oh, wait — she has to lose weight.
4. Zoo animals effect. Regardless of whether or not they know you, people feel free to point and stare. They judge your worth based on the size of your stomach. If people are truly honest with themselves, they would admit that when they see a fatty, they assume the person is lazy, possibly dirty.

I really hate having this same conversation over and over again. It’s truly frustrating to be the cause of the problem, too. I was in Wegmans recently, and as usual, I ended up talking to some random stranger in line. During the course of stacking her groceries on the belt, she mentioned that she had lost 130 pounds. (I’m like the CIA in store… I can find out anything!) When I asked her for “the secret”, she said that nothing worked until she fixed herself. That’s deep, and truth be told, I have some fixing to do in my world.

I have to stop sabotaging myself, and to start committing to my well-being. I need to stop taking rest breaks, because what I’m really breaking from is the better version of myself. It’s time for me to meet the Reese that isn’t a quitter. It’s time for me to no longer be swayed by the smell of junk food. It’s time to choose my life and living over everything else. It’s time for me to stop looking in awe at those who’ve succeeded and to start being the success that I know I am.

It’s been about a week since I restarted my juicing reboot. The good news is that I’m down about 12 pounds (I’m counting what I lost before I started blogging about it). The bad news is that I had to take a break when I caught a bad cold and just “needed” the comfort of bagels and crackers — bad, bad carbs. After about 2 days of horrible carb loading, it occurred to me that the whole point of juicing real fruits and veggies was to heal my body, so I have quickly returned to juicing.

The truth about juicing real fruits and veggies — produce in its natural state — is that once the body gets a taste of the good stuff, it craves the good stuff. My body can do so much more with the proper nutrients than it could ever hope to do with refined sugar, preservatives, and whatever else the monstrous food companies decide to allow in their factories and, subsequently, into my food. I’m happy report that just 1 day after returning to juicing, I’ve noticed my congestion has drastically diminished. I’ll take the ability to breathe over a sugar high any day!

So, I’ve been experimenting with produce combinations, and lately I’m enjoying the orange drinks best. Here’s a recipe you might want to try:

3 carrots, 1 peeled lemon, 1 peeled grapefruit, and 1 red bell pepper. Juice and serve cold. 

I do try to drink more green juices than red or orange juices, so the next time I make this recipe, I’ll probably add a couple kale leaves or green cabbage. I also bought some wheat grass to include in my drinks. My brother tells me that wheat grass is disgusting, but we’ll see. I know that wheat grass is excellent for the body, and that is, after all, what this whole endeavor is all about — getting my body to a healthy place.

Today I feel healthy, despite being on the tail end of a nasty cold. This morning I put on black pants that, when I bought them in November, were too tight — my thighs were bursting at the seams. I’m happy to report that not only do the pants now fit, but I even need a belt with them. That’s progress for me, and I look forward to much more of that.

So many years, so many pounds… but I’m back. I’m back to write about the roads I’m travelling in this life. I’m back to write about what’s been going on. I’m back… to write.

In the far too many years since my last post, much about my life has changed. I married my true love, and gained 4 stepchildren and quite a bit of weight, and while each of those things are topics I could write about endlessly, for now, I’ll stick with the latter.

I have struggled with my weight since I was in college, and I’ve had varying degrees of success with my attempts at weight loss. Right before my wedding, I lost 25 pounds on the most restrictive diet I’d ever done,  only to gain it all back within a year of the honeymoon. Now, as I am almost the heaviest I’ve ever been, I’m willing to try almost anything to get to that elusive state known as healthy.

Recently, I was strongly encouraged to watch “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”, a documentary about Joe Cross– a once fat, sick and unhealthy man who traveled across the country doing a 60-day juice fast, and tried to educate others (specifically Phil) along the way about the benefits of juicing.   This documentary is a must-see. The idea of juicing is very appealing, that is, until you realize the amount of work involved with juicing, and how drastically different meals and mealtime become. Still, watching Joe and Phil transform their bodies and their lives gave me the impetus to believe I could do it myself.

Juicing is not for the faint of heart or will or pocketbook, and I strongly suggest that folks do as much research as possible before starting a juice only regimen. Me, well, I prepared along the way (not recommended). The first thing I did was buy the juicer. There are many juicers on the market, but because I wanted to be just like Joe and his protegé Phil, I bought what they used — the Breville Juice Fountain Plus. What I like about my juicer is that it is a) affordable, b) easy to assemble and disassemble, c) thorough, and d) the juicer that Joe and Phil used.

My initial plan was to buy the juicer, test out a few recipes for a week or two, then go on a 30-day juice fast. What actually happened was that once the juicer was in my hands, I immediately wanted to begin the juice fast, so I did. I went to the organic market and Wegman’s, and, using Joe’s recipes, bought enough food for 3 days. That may not seem like a lot of food, but 3 days worth of produce filled my refrigerator. Because I’m an organization freak, I bagged the produce for each juice separately  — there were 15 different juices in the first 3 days. I don’t recommend using 15 different juices at a time, but it did afford me the opportunity to try out a lot of different juices to see which ones, and which ingredients I liked and didn’t like.

I managed to juice consistently for 6 days, and lose about 8 pounds in the process. Then, due to poor planning, I stopped during a short trip. Here’s what I learned from my first juice fast.

1. Find 2-4 juice recipes that you can use consistently during your fast. It makes it easier on the wallet because you can buy in bulk, and easier for juicing because you can juice several servings at one time. I use Joe’s Mean Green and the Carrot Apple Ginger juices every day.

2. Fresh juice does not last for days, so plan to juice at least once a day. I juice every evening for the next day. I juice 1-2 servings for breakfast and mid-morning, and then I juice 2-3 servings for my remaining meals. Mean green is delish!

3. Plan to shop every 3-4 days. Produce has a limited shelf life, so buy enough to make it to 3-4 days.

4. Get new containers for your juices. We all have bottles and containers for days, but you want a reliable, LEAK-PROOF bottle designated just for your juices. The smell of spilled celery juice in the car is not appealing.

5. Clean that juicer as soon as you are finished. My juicer is easy to clean, but I can just imagine that letting the discarded fibrous produce sit would create a challenging mess to clean up.

6. Throw the produce remnants in an outdoor trash can or compost heap. I made the mistake of using the kitchen trash can once… but only once.

7. Don’t give up on a recipe without testing with different ingredients. I made one juice that required 1/2 of a red onion — never again. Now I use red cabbage instead with that juice.

8. Always follow soft produce with hard produce. Kale is a great ingredient, but you’ll get more out of the kale if you follow it with an apple.

9. Organic is best… more expensive, but it makes a difference.

10. Enjoy the juicing for as long as you can. Believe it or not, the juice tastes amazing!

Today I’m starting a 21-day juice fast. I’ll be charting my progress, to some degree, along with other stuff.  At the end of these 21 days, I hope to lose some weight, and I hope that my body will become acclimated to a plant-based diet. I also hope that I can keep up with charting…