Happy Birth Month

I spend most of my days (Monday through Friday) asking people to verify their birth dates to either give them test results, complete their appointment intake, discuss treatment options, or talk about anything confidential. Birthdays are bitter-sweet for many people. It’s a day to mark when our earthly journey began and to celebrate the lives we have lived so far along with the life we have yet to live. As you get older, birthdays sometimes become lackluster and lose their appeal. Many people decide not to celebrate them at all. I have always been a birthday enthusiast and celebrate the whole month of September as my “birth month”, but as I have gotten older (my last birthday in particular), I found it difficult to get excited about the day’s arrival.

When you are a kid, birthdays mean gifts, parties, and attention. When you reach the age of ten, you are finally “in the double digits”. Being a twelve year old means being a preteen. Thirteen is the beginning of teenage years. At sixteen you can get your driving permit. Being eighteen years old means that you are “officially an adult” and being twenty-one makes you legally able to drink and go to clubs (not that that has ever been my choice location to inhabit). But after that, birthdays kind of lose their meaning to some people. I have seen women worry about their 30th birthday approaching…and then their 40th. Working with women who are older than me means that I have heard all about “the change” that is menopause and any mid-life crisis that may arise. We focus so much on youth and beauty that sometimes it can be overwhelming to have your birthday as a reminder that your youth is slipping away.

Whenever I tell someone about my over-the-top celebration of my birthday, they are shocked and ask why. Let me tell you why…Because every year that I get to celebrate my birthday is another year that I made it out of this crazy whirlwind alive. It’s another year of love, laughter, happiness, tears, sadness, anger, frustration, heartbreak, excitement, growth, and so much more that I have accomplished. It’s another year of meeting new people, learning new things, and spending time with the people that I hold dearest to my heart. Sure, I am getting older, but why is that a bad thing? Some people aren’t lucky enough to ever make it to my age. I know that I almost didn’t. I could have been stuck as my sixteen or twenty-year-old self in the memories of those I have met, but instead I get to celebrate the life that I am so incredibly fortunate to live. I get to kiss my husband goodbye every morning, be frustrated and then in awe of my Mia puppy, pay bills for a house I call a home, and do my best to help the people around me. No, the sun doesn’t shine brightly every day, and yes, there may be rain clouds that curtain my perspective at times, but I am so grateful to be able to have those bad days because that means that I know what good days feel like too.

So this is my plea to you…please celebrate your birthday. Hell, celebrate your birth month, because life is too short to care about being older and too precious to not appreciate the little things. You have made it another year here on this planet and that’s worth celebrating.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

One Last Breath

I have been thinking about death a lot in the past few weeks. How does it feel to have death’s door opening for you? What happens after death? Why do we, as the loved ones of death’s tenants, grieve the way that we do? There is so much that is unknown about death to the average layman. I have been thinking about my death too. I don’t want that day to approach anytime soon, but when it is my time to pass, what are my wishes? It may never be the “perfect” time to have these conversations, but I do think that now is as good of a time as any.

As I wrote previously, my step-grandmother passed away on December Thirty-First. Just last week we said our goodbyes at the viewing and funeral. But death doesn’t give anyone reprieve. Today, January Thirteenth, my great-grandmother took her final breath and drifted into the unknown.

I feel sad, but I feel okay. Death was a drawn-out process for her – like I said with my step-grandma, Dementia is a brutal disease that strips away a person’s identity. I have so many great memories with my grandma. She is the grandparent that I spent the most time with as a child. My great-grandparents have lived on the same property as my dad for over twenty years. Every Sunday was a family dinner at their house. Every holiday was spent together. Half of my summers were spent with my great-grandma for years. The world has lost a great teacher/wife/grandmother/friend/mother… and she has finally found peace.

Everyone’s death is treated differently depending on religion, culture, the departed one’s wishes, family beliefs… In English class last semester, we read quite a bit about not only the process of preparing a body after death, but also about how differently death can be celebrated.

That got me thinking…why, in my experience, do we wear all black? Why is it such a solemn occasion? This is where my ideas stemmed from about how I want my death (and life) to be celebrated. Death and grieving is already such a sad and painful experience without the services. I want my funeral to be a celebration of my life here on Earth. I want my loved ones to know that, regardless of how long my journey has been (will be), it has been magnificent. I don’t want everyone dressed in black – I want them to wear what makes them feel beautiful regardless of color or pattern. I want them to share the stories that remind them of the kind of person I was (am). I want them to laugh and I want them to be together. There will be no somber music or preaching. I want this to be a time that they can reminisce on the happy moments that we shared instead of mourning my death. I want them to know that I appreciate and love them all dearly and that I am okay.

Life is such a beautiful thing and deserves to be celebrated.

I love you and miss you, grandma. I am glad you found peace.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Toxic Members

I want you to think about all of the people you have met in your lifetime. Some will only be in your life for a moment, some will linger, and others will stay and make a lasting impact. What affects who stays and who leaves? There’s a number of variables that could affect this. Now let’s think about toxic people specifically. By this, I mean the people who negatively affect your life more than their positive influence. This could be a friend, family member, or significant other. When I think about this, two specific people come into my mind.

The one individual was a childhood friend. I wrote about her previously; she was an only child. We became friends when I was about four years old and we grew up together. I moved out of the state when we were mid-way through elementary school. We would see each other about once a year because it was difficult to get together when neither of us drove. In high school she started hanging out with the wrong crowd and partying regularly. It didn’t really bother me because it didn’t involve me, but I worried about her. Her grades were dropping and she was getting into fights at school. When I finally got my license (I was almost eighteen), I went to visit her. We planned to have a girls’ night and catch up, but when I got there she had friends over and told me that we were going to a party. She knew I had never been to a party before and that I wasn’t comfortable with it, but she wasn’t considering what I wanted at that point. I didn’t know any of her friends and it was just an uncomfortable situation in general. I spent the next few hours talking to her parents while the girls got ready and then we went out. I found the designated driver drinking right off the bat, so I confiscated her keys and designated myself as driver (thank god the car wasn’t manual because I would have been useless). So I spent the next five hours being the only sober person among about a hundred strangers in the woods while keeping tabs on all of the girls that we brought. There were fireworks, drugs, fights, vomiting,… and I was not happy to find myself in this predicament (although I was glad to be there because there wouldn’t have been a sober driver if I wasn’t). I had to play babysitter when we got home. We didn’t hang out again for a while. I tried to reconnect several times in the upcoming years, but she always had an excuse. The only time she invited me to hang out with her was when she was going to a bar with her friends, but my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I weren’t comfortable with attending – she was pregnant and would probably be drinking and that’s a hard no for me. When I invited her to hang out next, she said financially she couldn’t go for lunch. I said don’t worry about it, it’s my treat. She continued to have excuses and at that point I finally had enough. We had an argument and that was the end of our friendship. Honestly, it was such a freeing feeling. I no longer had to worry about being dragged into something I wasn’t comfortable with. I was holding onto the relationship because of how long we were friends. We had history, but that only goes so far. We didn’t even know each other well anymore, but she was a piece of my past that I didn’t want to let go of. She would only call me when she needed something, would make rude comments to me at times, and never had my best interests in mind. That’s not a friendship. It wasn’t healthy and it was nice to finely close that door.

I still wish her happiness and health. I hope that life is treating her well and that she figures out what she wants in life, but I am glad that I won’t have to be there for the journey. I thought that made me a bad person for a while. I thought I was being selfish, but then I realized that the relationship was toxic. And it’s okay to release the toxic people from your life.

I’m not saying to give up on all relationships and to push everyone away. Trust me, I have friendships that have needed work, but we both worked at it and put aside our differences. It wasn’t a one-way street with them. We both admitted faults and worked through them. Balance is key. And balance was something that I would never achieve with my childhood friend.

Love yourself enough to know when you need to let go and set toxic people free.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Personal Fitness

Let me premise this by saying that I am not an exercise expert by any means. I am, however, someone who realizes the importance of being active. I have tried countless exercise plans and always find difficulty with following them. I will start off loving the regimen, but then will dread it a few days in. I will tell myself that “I don’t feel like it” and then I will end up not doing any exercise at all. So, recently, I learned that I need to just listen to my body and do what feels good to me that day. If you find yourself in an exercising slump, keep on reading.

  • Use your surroundings: One of my favorite new exercises only needs a staircase.  I put one foot up on the second step and my hands on the stairs where comfortable. Then I switch my feet (right on stairs and left on floor – left on stairs and right on floor). I will do this as fast as I can for as long as I can. It’s kind of like mountain-climbers, stair-climbers, and jogging all-in-one. Also, we have a metal bar in an open doorway (I’m not entirely sure what the intended purpose is, but it’s super sturdy) that I will attempt pull-ups on and do abdominal exercises with. You could also do “chair steps” by placing a sturdy chair against a wall and stepping up and then back down continually. There are so many opportunities for exercising while using your surroundings!
  • Cater to your time: When figuring out what you will do for exercise, you first will need to figure out how much time you have. If you only have ten minutes, you might not want to commit yourself to running three miles. You don’t need a ton of time to get active. Little bits of exercise at a time adds up if you are persistent. Even if you just have enough time to do fifty sit-ups now and a mile on the treadmill later, it is better than nothing!
  • Every little bit helps: Don’t have an “all or nothing” mentality. That’s something that I have learned to overcome. I always felt that if I couldn’t do a complete exercise routine, then what’s that point? A few months ago, before I started having some health issues, I was practicing handstands every day. That alone helped with my ab definition and that’s when I realized that the little things really do help. No matter how fun they may be.
  • Take it easy: Don’t be so hard on yourself! It’s been really difficult for me to start exercising again. I used to run at least three miles a day and use weight machines regularly. That was about four years ago. Now, running one mile is a maximum for me. Ten pound weights are comfortable. At first, I was mad at myself. I thought, “how could I let myself go” so badly? I hated the idea of exercising because I couldn’t accomplish what I used to. But then I realized that it was a process before too. I started off with one mile and worked my way up. I eventually cut my mile time down by over four minutes. But it was all a process. And it will be process to get back to where I was. So I am taking a deep breath and giving myself grace because life is a learning process and it’s not always up-hill.
  • Listen to your body: Some days I feel like doing ab workouts and walking/hiking outside. Sometimes I feel like running and/or jump roping. Other times, I feel like just relaxing and letting my body rest and that’s okay. I’ve learned a lot about my body over the past year. When I am frustrated or angry, I feel the urge to run. It’s almost like a craving. It’s my way of releasing tension and being able to relax. Find your release and figure out how your body communicates with you.
  • Love yourself through the process: Don’t wait until you hit your goal to love your body. Because once you hit that goal, there will always be another one. Learn to love yourself and your body now. “Flaws” and all. Your body is beautiful and this process is about feeling your best. This is your first step.

 

Exercise and fitness isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Find what works for you and what your body needs.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Settling for the Best Life

Today I want to talk to you about not settling for what already is and working toward living your best life. This can start small such as your kitchen cabinets or can be a larger issue like not having the time or money to do what you love.

I recently decided that it was time to reorganize our kitchen. I always dreaded cooking in our kitchen because it was difficult to find the things that I needed. We had most of our spices in a plastic bin in the cupboards over our sink. Some were on a spinning spice rack on a shelf under our kitchen island. The rest were in jars in our dining room where we kept our wine glasses. I hated having to dig through three different places when cooking to find what we needed. So instead of accepting that this is just how things have to be, I decided to move everything around. We ended up moving our canned goods and putting all of our spices in the stacked cupboards on the wall. Having all of our spices visible and in one place helps us to decrease our time searching and increase our time enjoying our food and time together. This is something little that has decreased my stress in a big way.

I have the unfortunate habit of biting off more than I can chew. I love to be busy and, at times, my commitments have overwhelmed my schedule. When I was in nursing school I was not only doing school full-time, but also had a part-time job as a home health aide, part-time over night job as a private aide for a person at a senior living facility, and worked as a photographer part time in my own business. We were making ends meet, traveling, but I never had scheduled time to rest. I ended up leaving my over night job so I could focus on school more and sleep from time-to-time. It meant less income for our household, but we made it work and with the extra sleep I was much less stressed. Ultimately it was the best decision for my relationship, education, and health. Life is all about balance.

Money is something that stresses a lot of people out. My husband is currently in college full time working toward a degree, so we are down to one income at the moment. I have done a ton of research on budgeting and money management which has helped us to not only build our Emergency fund to over two grand, but also decrease debt which in turn helped our credit scores. If money is something that you worry about, it’s okay. There is so much you can do to positively influence this part of your life while still having fun. I am going to be posting tomorrow about budgeting specifically.

Pinpoint what is affecting your happiness and stress levels. Do what is within your control to positively influence and whatever is out of your control, try not to dwell on.

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that can make a huge difference in your comfort and happiness.

You are worth the effort.

Love Always,

Elizabeth