One Hundred Pounds Gained and Loss

25 Sep

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One hundred pounds.

It’s a ton of weight.  Maybe not an actual ton, but you get the idea. I’m finally come to the point in my weight loss journey journey towards healthy living where I stepped onto the scale at my gym and watch the number slip down to 282—100 pounds lower than the highest weight I can remember.

What a loss.  What a gain.

A hundred pounds ago, I could only shop at Catherine’s and had to order more “trendy” clothes out of a catalog because I was never, ever going to wear non-boot cut jeans.  Or flowery old lady tops.  I remember shopping at Boscov’s with my mom knowing nothing would fit me, but watching her try on Alfred Dunner tops while I sat in a dressing room chair wondering why fashion designers assumed fat people only wanted to wear ugly clothes.  Was it just because we looked ugly that we should dress ugly as well?

I fought back tears every time I went to the doctor and watched the scale creep past 350 into the 370’s.  After that I closed my eyes when they weighed me.  One time I ventured a peek and saw 382 on the scale.  I was mortified and wondered if I would be dead by 35.  In fact, I was sure I would be dead by 35.

I gradually lost little bits of weight as I accepted certain foods were not conducive to being diabetic, but I remained steadily at the larger range of the plus-sized world until one February I talked to a friend and told her I couldn’t take it anymore.  I couldn’t live like this anymore. She gave me the encouragement I needed to make a change. I greatly revised my eating habits and bought a stationary recumbent bike peddling my way to weight loss.  I did well.  I even made it to 296 pounds.

My friends lauded my achievement.  I felt beautiful for the first time in forever.  It was glorious to bask in the glow of what I did…and what God did in me.  It all changed as I fell into a deep depression two years age.  The weight crept back.  Turmoil within my family caused even more stress.  When my mom died, I gave up entirely, though I still couldn’t bring myself to eat certain foods because I had learned how they affected my body.  Yet I was back to flirting with the 320’s.  I felt hopeless to stop it because life didn’t seem to matter anymore.

A friend took me to a local gym and we signed me up for membership, not for weight loss, but because I had so much anger following my mom’s death.  I needed a reason to get out of the house besides seeing my therapist once a week.  I also desperately needed a way to channel my grief and rage.

Eventually, after also going to physical therapy I found my way to the gym’s pool since a foot injury kept me off the gym floor/machines.  Truthfully, I join the gum for the pool, but found it impractical,.  Who wants to wear a bathing suit, take a shower, and run around with wet hair?  I mean, I was struggling to get out the door as it was and all this extra stuff wasn’t helping.  Since my foot was injured and I had no other options, I tried to the pool. I discovered I loved it. 

In June, when I went to the doctor for my regular four month check-up, she discovered my pancreas was having some issues and did a medication adjustment.  Thinking about my mom’s death only months before and panicking about future health issues, I decided to take back my life or I would surely lose it to obesity-related disease.

I decided, after so many years of wishing God would just take me, that I would fight to find purpose and meaning.  I would fight for my life—physically, emotionally, spiritually.

On June 15, the fight began again.  My starting weight on that day according to my fitness app was 315 pounds.  As of yesterday, it was 282.  

I dropped 33 pounds through diet changes, exercise, and perseverance.  Oh, and A LOT of prayer.  I remember starting aqua aerobics praying, “God, please get me thought this exercise.” Or going onto the gym floor to use the machines. I was easily the fattest person in the room.  I would plead, “God, help me keep it together.”  Sometimes I still think about my mom and want to tell her I’m at my lowest adult weight I can remember and I fog up my swim goggles with hot tears because she’s gone.

People have asked me, “What’s your secret?  What plan did you use?”  There’s no secret.  There was no official plan.  I just record my calories in an app, exercise to make sure I’m creating a calorie deficit, and watch my carbs.  I try to cram as many veggies and fruits into my body as I can and use fruits to replace my cravings for something sweet.

Once a week, I eat ice cream or fries or whatever.  I don’t deprive myself of the foods I love; I’ve just changed how often I eat them.  I also make sure to eat proteins and healthy fats, like cashews and avocados.

I imagine I’ll always fight the battle of the bulge, especially as my body becomes more accustomed to weight loss and exercise.  The experts say the less weight one has to lose, the harder one has to work to burn the same amount of calories.  

And I’ll constantly be afraid of going back to my higher weights.  I don’t want to get rid of my bigger clothes, because what if I gain the weight back?  Yet I want to hold onto the security of being safe at any size.

This is the kicker with losing weight—which is both a loss and a gain—is that people seem happier with me.  I feel more normal and accepted in society.  I’m no longer one of *those* fat people, even though I technically am.  I think I take up more space than I do and yet I take up more space that I want to.  

I may have lost 100 pounds and gained a lot of confidence, but the stigma of being fat, won’t go away. 

I am still fat; I’m just 100 pounds less fat that I was before.

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9-11-01: Because We Did It Together

11 Sep

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2001 changed me.  

In spring, I almost lost my sight to a rare medical condition and then I almost lost my life from a blood clot in the artery in my brain.  I learned about the fragility of life.

We are not safe; we are mortal.  At any time our expiration date could come.  I no longer felt like an invincible 21-year-old who could do anything.  What followed—anxiety, panic attacks, and PTSD—still plague me.

On September 11, 2001, I learned my world was not safe and America was not invincible.

On that day, I did it all.  I watched the second plane crash into the second tower.  I saw the towers fall down with a mixed group of students and professors in the communications lab at college.  I prayed with my atheist college professor and attended a prayer service on campus and at my local church.  

Here in Allentown, Pennsylvania—smashed between New York City and Philadelphia—we felt the shattering of the world.  Places familiar to us on school field trips or one-day jaunts into the “city” to catch a Broadway musical became scenes of horror and death.

I vividly remember seeing news footage of thousands of now useless business papers floating in the air among the ash.  

And just after that, the anthrax letters began to come and I wondered if it was the end of the world.

But, no, it was just the end of the safe world I had lived in until that day, really until that year.  The contaminated air of cynicism and “the way the world really is” ripped a hole into my bubble of idealism.  My sense of safely and idealism was the air I breathed.

I didn’t know I was suffocating until years later.  I didn’t realize everything 2001 took from me.  However, I see how it showed me who I am and who I want to be.  It helped define me as a woman with compassion, love, and someone who would minister to the hurt of others.

Not only was it a defining moment for me, but also our nation.

We lost lives that day and we became patriotic for a few months.  And now look at us—remembering where we were that day but forgetting WHO WE ARE AS PEOPLE.

Despite all the things we lost on September 11, 2001, we gained a sense of humanity, exchanging smiles, and stories.  We had all been part of something TOGETHER and that’s how we survived as a COMMUNITY mourning in shock, in fear, but also in LOVE.

Yes, life changed for many Americans in 2001, but let us remember the lessons of the past, not just the people we lost, but the TOGETHERNESS we gained.  From loss and grief, there is always GAIN and we must NEVER lose sight of that as a nation or we will crumble from within.

There’s No One to be Proud of Me Anymore

7 Sep

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Since my mother’s death, I’ve felt creatively blocked.  I thought it was grief or depression, but as time went on, I became more and more frustrated.  Maybe writing isn’t my calling, I thought.  I mean, who ever heard of a wordless writer?  

It came on suddenly—this realization that there was no one to be proud of me anymore, at least not in the way my mother would glow at my achievements.  I said it out loud but never connected it to my success as a writer.  Any future achievements won’t have her nodding head of approval.

I recently went to a writer’s conference where I sat in lectures with feelings of anxiety welling up inside of me.  How am I supposed to establish a platform, a core message, and write an ebook by October when I don’t know who I am anymore?  And even if I did do all that, who would read it?

See, my mom read every blog post and edited every college and grad school paper.  She kept every college newspaper I published and even make a scrapbook of my childhood awards (because that good citizenship award from third grade is a keeper.). She was at every school concert or play, cheered me on when I sang solos at church, and showed up even when it was embarrassing.  I was definitely her celebrated child.

Before she died, I desperately wanted my mom to tell me that she was proud of me.  Instead she told me she told me she loved me over and over again.  “But, Mom, are you proud of me?” It was an urgent question to which I desperately needed an answer.  She told me I did the best with what life handed me and that she was sorry life handed me so much.  

I never got to hear those words.  And I never will hear them from her again, at least on this side of life.

It all rushed back to me one day as I was sitting on a wooden bench in my gym’s locker room. Openly sobbing in a wet bathing suit I realized there was no one who would be proud of me.  No one who would really celebrate my achievements the way my mom once did.

As Credence Clearwater Revival’s  “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” played on the speaker overhead, God voice cut through the music straight to my battered heart: I will be proud of you.  I will always be proud of you.

It seemed sacrilegious to equate God with pride because pride always comes before the fall.  But it’s not a haughty type of proud, more like pleased with me, delighted in me, celebrating with me.  Yes, God is the God who would celebrate me, His Beloved daughter. (Zephaniah 3:17)

And suddenly, I became unchained.  God, who is always faithful, delighted in every little thing I did.  Not only did He also see every concert, every award, every solo, He saw every time I held the door in His name or returned a shopping cart or just started loudly praising Him in song as I drove along Route 309.The very God who created me to do and create and be was watching and reveling in my acts of worship.  Suddenly, very normal kindness seems like very holy business.

It doesn’t mean it won’t ache when I publish a book my mom won’t read or become a YouTube celebrity without her watching (haha!).  Losing a mom is a mother load of loss, one I’m still processing in these months since her physical death.

But I can move forward as I accept the reality that I don’t just create to make my mother proud, but to communicate God’s love, truth and beauty to a world that desperately needs all three.  Instead of earthly praise, I’m looking for something far, far better.

My Mom Died

6 Sep

One of the biggest events to ever happen in most people’s life happened to me last November–my mother died.  I’ve written my grief out in small ways on Facebook, but until now, it has felt too personal to put out there into the world.

Yet I know I must in order to heal, I must write.  And I hope possibly my next series of blog posts will connect to others who have lost moms or dads or loved ones.  I’m not sure what’s going to come out, but I hope it’s real and raw, a fitting tribute to my mom, an honest look at grief, and most of all, brings glory to God, who has held me together and because of Him, I have the hope of seeing my mom again.

Please pray for me as I continue to grieve, rejoice and cry in remembering, but most of all, grow closer to Jesus, the Man of Sorrows.

Thank you for your love and prayers!

Prevent Suicide by Looking Up

8 Jun

Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 9.58.33 AMThis is the second high profile celebrity suicide this week. I keep reading comments on social media such as, “You never know how a person is truly struggling.”

Having been one of those struggling people, who dared myself to swallow a handful of pills, fought the impulse to drive myself into a pole, or to  just end it all with the slit of a wrist, I can tell you this. And I really want to emphasize this point.

Yes. Yes, you can know how a person is struggling. You can sometimes see the brokenness in body language or erratic behavior.

The problem is that we as a society can’t look up from our phones long enough to see the tears rolling down the cheeks of the lady we passed in the grocery store. I’ve cried openly many times in public spaces. Not once has someone asked me if I was ok or how they could help.

Not once.

Do you want to know if someone’s heart is breaking? Or if life seems unbearable? Stop and ask. When a friend or family member seems off, ask that person to lunch or dinner or just text or make a phone call.  Don’t assume “someone else” can or will do it.

Most of the time, I don’t need advice on how to pray harder; I just need to know someone cares. I need someone to love me HARD (especially because the person who loved me hardest for most of my life–my mother–is gone.)

If I’m going to be fully honest, and why not? I AM struggling right now. I’m trying to find purpose. I fiercely miss my mom. I’m not sure how to set up my office and I want to be healthy but I’m always hungry. I hate being in physical therapy and I’m frustrated my foot is still messed up five years after I broke it. I miss going to church, but trying to visit one turns me into a physical and emotional mess.

Coupled with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and whatever else is on my charts, it’s A LOT.

And it’s not just a you-need-to-trust-God thing. I DO trust God, even when I struggle to understand Him. In humans, He created us to NEED each other.

Do you see? We NEED each other. One of the gifts God has given us is our need for Him, but also our need for community.

Look up, look out, look at your Facebook friends list, talk to your neighbors, CONNECT—you just might save a life, even your own.

For more information on suicide prevention, check out Project Semicolon or The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Reaching Across the Great Divide

31 May

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Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about our heated political AND Church environment. While those of us who are followers of Christ should allow our faith to inform the full spectrum of our lives, we must accept that our individual walks don’t always lead us to the same places or conclusions. It’s part of the reason there are so many denominations, isn’t it?

For example, I don’t agree with baby baptism because I believe in believer’s baptism, which means that after a person chooses to acknowledge and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior erasing our sinful record because of His perfect sacrifice (and Resurrection), a person becomes publicly baptized to celebrate this holy moment. I wholeheartedly support child dedication.

There are people who will disagree with me on baptism, the beliefs of the Christian faith, and many other important issues. But I’m ok with that. I am working out my faith and living it out as I see best, though I often do so imperfectly.

As with all things, there are many who disagree with my political leanings. I used to be a good evangelical Republican and proudly pro-life. The only question I’d ask of candidates was this—is he/she against abortion?

Yes, I was a single issue voter.

I am still proudly pro-life, but I’ve expanded that view to include the lives of the unborn (not just in the womb, but beyond that), the lives of their mothers, the immigrant children who would die or be trafficked or forced to live in inhuman conditions we can only imagine in our nightmares. I care about the lives of the poor and hungry, the sick and disabled, those facing injustice and hatred due to sexuality and skin color and all those social divides. Life, in all its shape, color, width and breadth matters to me.

Let’s not forget the life of our dear planet, entrusted to us by the very God who created it. Yes, I care about the trees and the honeybees, and the dogs who don’t have homes. I care about our oceans and ozone layer and the huge amount of waste with bury in the deep wounds we dig into that earth.

To me, that’s what pro-life really means—a fight for life for all.  Not just life, but a better life for all with full bellies, adequate healthcare, shelter—a life that is filled with the basic tenets to actually live. I believe in life and that it should reflect and bring glory to God.

Just because my fight for life may be different than yours, it doesn’t make me wrong. I’ve been accused of deserting my faith in God for my criticism of Trump. I haven’t gone as far as to personally indict his ardent supporters of deserting their faith—selling out to elect a morally corrupt man heralded as the “Christian” choice for America. There is always the option to vote for a third party candidate. Yes, you all had a decision and we are all living it. Despite that, most of you are trying to live our your faith as best you can, too.

All these words to communicate this simple message: I am done with my faith being questioned because I don’t agree with you and your politics. Maybe I quietly contemplate your heart and pray it will be changed, too. I will continue to stand up to Trump and his policies, Twitter bullying, and the other things he does to make our nation look foolish and hurt its people. When you read the Bible, you can see what foolish leaders with control did to devastate the nation of Israel. The faithful praying remnant can do great things—don’t assume the person praying on the liberal or conservative side is an enemy, just a friend who doesn’t get it yet.

And be love. That’s what the world really needs to heal its gaping, infected wounds—the light and love of God to saturate all of us so we can find healing.

Kickstart My Beloved Heart?

10 Apr

I’ve been a very, very, very bad blogger.

See, I started blogging in 2001-ish when it wasn’t a *THING* yet (check the archives!) but now it’s something everyone and her mother is doing.  No, really, have you seen how many mom blogs are out there? (And, honestly, good for you, moms!  You definitely need each other!)

But here I am–17 or 18 years later–wondering what is there left to say that hasn’t been sad?  Or as King Solomon so wisely said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

Is my time here at SheisBeloved.com simply up?  Do I move on to FabFindsinPA.com and YouTube?

While this blog has gone through different servers, names, and purposes, it’s full of roughly 18 years of writing.  In a way, it’s my very public portfolio and there’s something about it that just can’t quit this silly blog.

But writers write to be read, so I’m wondering if you’re out there, what do you want to read?   Personal stories, gym stories, God stories, book or music or movie reviews, photo essays, love advice (ha!), or what…?

I’ve put it all out there and I just wonder if anyone’s listening or reading….which doesn’t mean at all that I should stop writing, but readers are nice, too.

If you’d be so lovely as to leave a comment on what you’d like to read, let me know.  This is going to look really sad if there are no comments.

Do fat lives matter?

19 Feb

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In a candid discussion on my Facebook wall about Black Panther, I was wondering something….why is it still ok to make fun of fat people?

There’s an assumption fat people deserve it, can change it, and that how we look is “less than.”

Especially for women.

We champion gay rights, black lives matter, and the transgender community but still mock fat people.

Don’t think it’s as serious as that?

Fat people may suffer from serious medical issues not because they’re fat but as a side effect of the condition or medication side effects.

As a fat person, I’ve considered suicide many times because of my fatness and have engaged in self-injury.

People like to constantly remind me I’m fat and try to regulate (control) my lifestyle. Oh, I haven’t forgotten I’m fat. I live it every day.

It’s ok for men to NOT date me because “men like women based on their physical appearance.” And I “have such a pretty face.” Uhhh, thanks?!

I’m not trying to trample all over other groups fighting for equality, respect, and meaning. We ALL deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. We should celebrate our difference, not let them divide us.

I’m just saying—stop with the fat jokes, the caricatures of the fat people who stuff their faces with an entire cake or provide the comic relief, and guys, I think you’re missing out on a pretty awesome person who kills it at karaoke and game nights!

Plus, I’ve been told by children that my fat makes me super cuddly. But the way they said it wasn’t offensive at all. It was like the kids got it; we’re all different.

That is, until someone teaches them otherwise.

I stand with them.

21 Sep

When I registered to vote, I was so proud to mark myself as a member of the Republican Party.

I was proud to carry my voter’s registration card in my wallet and I was proud to vote for George W. Bush. Both times.

When I renewed my driver’s license, I decided to change my party to “Independent.” I wasn’t liberal enough for the Democrats and certainly didn’t feel comfortable in bed with the GOP, who was/is constantly railing against the “entitlements” I NEED to live.

Now I’m probably more a Democrat than anything, but I tend to favor more centrist politicians. All things in balance, all sides talking, and doing teamwork. You know, like we learned doing all those group projects in school.

Here I am again feeling like a woman with no political party, but siding with those “evil” progressives who “kill babies” and want to take God out of America. The ones who want to let immigrants inundate our country and want the impoverished to have food and healthcare. You know, those evil liberals.

Now Jesus kept Himself out of politics siding neither within the zealots or the Pharisees or Saducees. His answer was love and He had friend in both low and high places and all those in-between. But if we’re honest, Jesus was a homeless vagabond and tended to attract the same type of people.

Both sides claim to be following Jesus…and honestly, since Jesus was apolitical, it’s hard to drag Him into the argument. Now the Bible as a whole, that’s a different story.

There are many times the Bible talks about caring for the poor and the widows, standing up for the abused and mistreated, and to give everything back to God–how we do so is the tricky part.

While I’ve seen churches provide much needed services to those in need, I’ve seen its individual members turn a blind eye. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of good people I’ve met in churches who have blessed me in times of need. It’s the other ones, who share nasty Facebook posts about the poor or private message me to ask if I still believe in God because I don’t speak highly of the president, that I call out.

Those people are the ones who have hurt and disappointed me–the ones who equate being a Republican with being a follower of God.

They’re the ones who bother me the most, probably because I used to be one.

Applying for welfare, getting food stamps, and eventually Medicaid broke my pride and I knew I could not be that kind of person anymore. I knew God changed me.

I could never be a Republican again, at least not *that* kind.

I looked at my tattered voter registration card the other day and wondered what party would stand up for me. I thought deep and hard about my love for God and others.

I also thought about the phone calls and emails and letters that went answered and unanswered from my elected leaders.

I thought about the party that made a monster President of the United States and the evangelicals (like Franklin Graham) who lauded him as God’s choice for America and of those who publicly opposed him (Ann VosKamp and Max Lucado, among others.)

I want to be a part of something new, something real, something that can’t be typed onto a voter registration card. I want to see God move in America and change hearts and minds. The problem is my prayer is to change the hearts and minds of everyone. Not one side, not the other, but both.

Until that party exists, I will remain a centrist because two parties is not enough. But if I must take sides, at least in the healthcare debate, I choose the poor, the oppressed, and the widows and orphans.

I not only stand with them, but among them as well.

And I stand in direct opposition to the Republican Party and the Christian I used to be.

I Am a Face of Medicaid

22 Jun

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I am one of the millions of Americans on Medicaid.

No, it’s not because I didn’t work hard enough. In fact, I have a Master’s degree.

No, it’s not because I don’t want to work; I want to do that more than anything.

It’s because I unexpectedly became ill in my early 20’s.  

No one plans to get sick.

I don’t have enough money to afford health care so I am grateful for the life-giving medication provided to me by Medicaid.  I am thankful that I live in a country that takes care of the poor, of the widows, and of the orphans, like the Bible tells us to.

I am a face of Medicaid, but I don’t often publicly share that I am recipient because of the shame I feel, particularly from my conservative Christian friends and family.

I don’t like to admit that I need this help. I hate that I’m sick. I’m trying to live the best life possible in spite of my illness. Or maybe I’m living the best life possible because of my illness. Those who know me know that I am kind, compassionate, and giving. They know I have struggles. Yet they also know that I am railing against my body to achieve maximum health so I don’t have to tax the system. The last thing I ever wanted to be was a burden.

In fact, if you know me, you know I’m more than just a woman on medical assistance.  I enjoy music, superheroes (especially the very patriotic Captain America), absolutely love animals, and I am pretty good at karaoke. I mentor teenagers, blog openly about my life, and have a best friend named Sarah.  I don’t have a favorite color because there are too many to choose from and my pipe dream is to drive through the desert, see the Grand Canyon, and go to Yellowstone National Park.

What little girl grows up and hopes to be on medical assistance?  I sure didn’t. It’s hard to be intelligent, to see what you could’ve been, and to fight against all odds to change it.  Still, I dream and refuse to stop. My dreams have become small, manageable, and sometimes a little hopeless, but I still dream.

Even though I don’t want to be, I am one of the millions of faces of Medicaid. And my story is one out of millions. And now I’m terrified that my Republican senator (Pat Toomey) will look me in the face and tell me I’m not worth it. Actually, he refuses to look me in the face or hold any town hall meetings. 

If the Senate passes this health care bill, which they wrote in secret, they’re telling millions of Americans that their lives don’t matter. They are sentencing millions of Americans to a slow, painful death and in many cases bankruptcy or other financial ruin.

This is not my America. We help others. We love beyond our ability. We are founded on principles of dignity and justice. Yet a bunch of rich (mostly white men) politicians are deciding our fate.

And in doing so they turn their backs to the millions who are counting on them for help.

I never asked for these illnesses or dreamed this is what my life would become. I am so grateful that I have medical coverage that saves my life. Thank you to all the taxpayers who make my life possible because I’m trying to make the world a better place for all of us to live.

I am a face of Medicaid. Will you look me in the face and tell me I deserve to die?

 

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