Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Triathlon Diaries: Colonial Beach Olympic Aquabike

Obviously I need to work on my race update reports...I post them way after the fact...what can I learn if I can't even remember how the race went? However, this one happened in July, so it's a little more fresh in my mind that Challenge Williamsburg was. Let's see how it goes:

Aaron and I met at the shop to load our bikes and stuff up at 3am, leaving at 3:30am to drive the hour and a half to Colonial Beach, VA, a tiny town on the beach where hotels are a rare thing but they have gorgeous sunrises. Taking what I learned from Williamsburg, I took a lot of food with me and ate five scrambled eggs at 3:30am. On the drive, I proceeded to eat two LaraBars, some pretzels and three peaches; much better than the 200 calories I consumed at Williamsburg.

Learning Lessons/Things Improved On:

#1 Good Food: Probably not enough, but it was a significant improvement over my last race, and I didn't see any of it again. #success

#2 Warm-Up: Spent a great 20 minutes in the water warming up. I was the last wave and had a lot of time to prep and just float around to get my muscles ready.

#3 Need Anti-Fog: My open water goggles are great, however fog very easily. I spent some quality time doing breaststroke kick as I cleared out my goggles, not one, not two, but three times. Imagine how fast my swim would've been if I hadn't of had to stop to clear them out.

#4 Kept on Swimming: Listened to my training partner and kept on swimming until I couldn't swim anymore, then stood up and ran to transition.

#5 Bike Course Loops: Are awful because you catch up to everyone who is on their first lap when you are on your second lap and it becomes a passing frenzy.

#6 Long Bike Course: The bike was supposed to be a 40K, we had an additional 3 or so miles tacked on. Not cool, mate, not cool.

#7 Shoes: I neglected to bring shoes (other than cycling shoes) into transition for when I finished my race. I then proceeded to cheer on the run course for Aaron shoeless...in the mud.

Final Thoughts:
Even with the long bike course, I managed to ride 3.5 minutes faster than my ride in Williamsburg, probably due to all the food. I averaged 21.4mph on the bike.
Swim: 23:39
T1: 1:29
Bike: 1:12:59
Overall: 1:38:05 First

Compare my results to the top woman finisher in the triathlon:
Swim: 24:26
T1: 1:22
Bike: 1:10.34
I wasn't far off at all. Goals and work-ons for next year!

The Key of Wanting to Travel (and Train)

After my tip to New Zealand and Australia, my eyes had been opened to so much. I had done things I'd ever done, I'd seen things I'd never seen, I ate food I'd never eaten before, I showered the least times I'd ever showered in a three month time span and I was in the best shape of my life (thanks to all those mountains)! For all those reasons and more, I wanted (still do!) to travel the world and take everything in. Before, I wanted to go as the tourist, and now, I want to go as the adrenaline junkie, culture seeker and foodie. What can you learn about how people live if all you do is go to the over popularized tourist attractions? What food can you enjoy if all you go to are American chains and American dive bars (yes, there are such thing in Australia)? When in a country with mountains and a beach, how can you get the adrenaline, the raw nature, the inshape(ness) from that which mountains provide if laying on a beach all day? That's the reason, after I graduated college, I wanted to travel.

But seriously? How realistic is it for a fresh out of college individual to go and travel (with their own money)? Probably not tremendously likely. So, as I start to make more money, all I want to do is travel more and more.

I think I have found the key: triathlons. Triathlons can take you anywhere in the world--yes, expensive, but all travelling is. I could handle staying at a hostel the night before a race, and I could certainly handle the training and racing in a gorgeous and new environment. You could stay longer than the race or proceed somewhere else. You'd be able to see the world in a different way. And hey, I have already made it to Raleigh, NC and New Hampshire (my road trip to the North East).

All I have to do now is find a job that would allow me that time off....maybe I should keep thinking about this whole travel thing....Good Luck!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Triathlon Diaries: Challenge Williamsburg Oly Aquabike

Better two months late, than never, right? Opposed to writing about the whole weekend (I probably don't remember it all), I am going to focus on what I learned from my first Olympic aquabike of the season. This was going to be my first Olympic Triathlon ever, until I got injured. Yay!

Here goes:
After a long battle the night before of "What's the wifi password," boops (NormaTech Boots), HeadsUp, and trying to find a bedtime melody we both agreed on, I finally went to sleep, only to be woken up a few hours later by my bed mates alarm...then a couple hours later by mine. But I felt great...if only that feeling would've lasted...

Lessons Learned:

#1 Nutrition
   -Race morning I took in 200 calories. No, I did not forget to add a 0 to that. With nerves and being so early in the morning, my stomach refused to take in anymore.
   -When I got out of the water, I ate one LaraBar, which then proceeded to throw up during the bike because I had too much water slouching around in my belly.

#2 Drink More
   -More water = less cramps

#3 Warm-Up the Right Way
   -I'm a swimmer first, which means I need a good 20-30 minute warm up in the water. I had about 15 minutes. I felt good, until about half way through the swim course when I no longer felt good.

#4 Listen to your wise training partner
   - When he tells you to swim until you can't swim anymore, then stand up. I didn't do that. I stood up too soon and had to fight off water past my knees until I got to the beach

Other than these four, I did well. First woman out of the water, and averaged 20.4mph on the bike. I was first overall aquabiker, got a wicked sunburn and tan line and had a lot of fun cheering my friends on. I learned and corrected for my next triathlon...Colonial Beach.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why I Chose Triathlon

A few months ago I posted "Why Swim" listing the reasons why I have and continue to put my body through intense training and hours of waking up before the crack of dawn to jump in a cold pool, why I don't shave my legs for months on end...the list goes on. (That's why I wrote it). So what made a swimmer like myself make the change and enter the world of triathlon?

Lately, I've been getting asked why I chose triathlon. Do people not think the progression of swimmer to triathlete is an appropriate jump, or at my age I should be focusing on other things? I'll tell you my reasons, and maybe you'll consider a life of awesomeness.

I think that everyone begins triathlon because of one person or one challenge. I began for both reasons. My sister, Julie Patterson, was THE person who brought me to the sport. After years of sneaking into transitions as her 'coach', making matching coach and athlete t-shirts, and watching her succeed, I think I was ready for it. My first 6 sprints were because of her, then came college and a busy collegiate swimming career, so my triathlons stopped. Then came the challenge....

Coming from a swimming background, I know what commitment and dedication is. I know what it's like to look at a workout and have your heart crushed, but through the thought of getting better, you put those feelings aside and you put your head down and swim. I know my body and I know my psyche. My body craves the workouts, the repetition and the constant conditioning to get your body to a point where you'll be able to hold up in a competition. In simpler terms, my body craves a challenge. My mind craves that competition. Although my mind craves it, it also doubts it. It doubts the ability of my body to overcome the competition and do well with the challenge. (I'm working on that!) So being able to know this about myself, I was able to find a sport that offers both things; competition and a challenge. Triathlon certainly offers both:

What a better way to challenge your body by throwing in two additional sports to swimming? My workout plans typically consist of 15-17 hours of workouts, on top of my 40 hour a week work week. Not only is it a challenge for your body, it's a challenge to stay on top of things. Are you a multi-tasker or planner? You could be if you want to try triathlon. It's a busy life, it challenges you in more ways than one. But along with the challenge comes the sacrifices you must take in order to achieve your goals. What are you willing to give up within your week to fit in that 5 hour long ride? Are you willing to give up something for that 5 hour long ride? Back to commitment and dedication. I've given up a lot for the sports that I love. For triathlon, sacrifices are certainly another challenge.

What better race offers a competition where hundreds of people are on the course with you?
The triathlon community provides one of the best I have seen in my years. If you are hurting on the bike or run, people will motivate you, cheer you on and urge you to keep going. However, with that community still comes a great competition. People will swim on top of you to get better positioning in the water. People will race you, people will push you and people will challenge you, giving you the best competition you can get. Because you know what? There are a lot crazier people out there in the triathlon world than you, and they want to be the best.

If you're not in it for the competition, though, that's okay, too. Triathlon is home to the competitive and the just for funners, the young, the old, the experiences and the novice Every race has something to offer an athlete.

Breakdown of my race:
The swim is easy for me. I have a special connection with the water. The water just makes me feel so alive and at home, it's easy to move through and fly by people. The part I struggle with is knowing people are on my feet. Not okay in the pool, so that mentality transfers to open water. People touch my feet, I kick them off my feet. I see people out of the corner of my eye, I dart ahead of them. I want to be my own swimmer...I should probably learn how to effectively draft, though.

The bike has certainly grown on me and its to the level that the water is, now. Being on a bike, staring only slightly ahead at the road, or wheel, in front of you, feeling the wind move past you is a wonderful experience, because you know your legs keep you moving. Your legs are hammering the pedals beneath you...speechless. Nothing better than completing a 50-100 mile ride and just feeling so accomplished.

Now, my run. Never in my life had I said, "I like running," until I couldn't do it anymore. My run was getting really good and I was confident I could do well in the triathlons, until I over pushed and got myself injured. It's a hard road back and it takes a lot of mental toughness, which is fading fast on me. I want to run. I want to train bricks, because I want to be the great athlete my coach knows I can be. But my coach believes in me, and I am on the right path to an injury free athletic life, so keep pushing, keep doing the right things and I will be getting back to running soon. (Fingers crossed)

Why I chose triathlon:
With the right dedication and commitment, the want for a challenge and the competition, triathlon chose me, I did not choose it.

The Importance of Community Dinners

Imagine working a long day. You're tired, you're probably grumpy and you're hungry. By the time you get home, changed out of work clothes, you're checked your mail and make it to the kitchen, you find 1) frozen meat and fresh vegetables that would take you 30 minutes to an hour to make something with or 2) eggs, fruit and cereal. You opt for option number 2, the quick and easy route. However, you continue to choose option two until you realize it's not longer healthy for you--eating the same bland meal (and by now you're probably out of fruit). Not to mention the fact you have only talked with your roommates or your dog briefly before everyone scrambles to their next thing for the evening, leaving you to seclude yourself to eat dinner in  front of the TV or computer or with your phone out. This is not the ideal community dinner.

Growing up, even now when I go home, dinner was a time to turn technology off, sit down at the table with each other and chat about how our days went and what was going on in the world. It allowed us to take breaks from eating, opposed to stuffing our faces quickly so we could do whatever needed to be done that night. It was a community environment that allowed us to eat good and healthy food. (My mom even made us switch off who cooked dinners every so often).

This being said, I am so blessed and thrilled to have people in my life who see the importance of eating healthy (or just really want free food). Whether be once or twice a week, I am able to make or eat a delicious home cooked meal and have that community feel. It started with just three and now has grown to five or six people. We are all athletes who understand the importance of good food, but even though we are all busy with work, school and training, somehow make time to share dinners together.

So do you have community dinners? If you don't, I challenge you to strive to do so. Share your recipes or a funny story from dinner. Enjoy the food and the people, for every gathering is a blessing.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Triathlon Diaries: Timberman 70.3

Four months ago is when I realized all my triathlon friends were signed up to compete in Gilford, NH at Timberman 70.3. Of course I didn't want to be left out of the New England fun, so I put in a request to take off that weekend from work--I got denied. I got denied not because I don't have the hours, I got denied because another co-worker was going to be on vacation.

One month goes by, we are actively involved in the summer season and my friend reminds me of Timberman. He let me know they were offering a sprint triathlon the day before and for the first time ever, an aquabike. I had to compete. Before, I wanted to cheer, dance and motivate my friends and family, but the aquabike provided an excellent opportunity for injured me to race. So, I put in request #2 at work. Denied.

Two weeks later, request #3, denied.

Three weeks later, request #4. My boss could tell I was disappointed, she apologized before she denied it.

A few weeks go by and I talk to the big boss about it, and she gives me a few tips of what I can say to potentially get the weekend off. I e-mail my boss four paragraphs of pleading and bargaining. A week later when she came back from vacation, I was approved.

I was going to New Hampshire. I told Dan and he told me I had to ask my coach before I signed up. I think he thought it was a bad idea. I e-mailed my coach and received exactly what I needed to hear to motivate me in competing in a half ironman aquabike. I signed up for the race about 12 days out. Last minute planning, eh? That's how I roll in the triathlon world. I spoke with a friend from my past about staying with him on my drive up, I didn't want to drive all 10-15 hours by myself. He was cool with it.

All my friends left for NH on Thursday, while I stayed behind and finished work and coaching. I got a text from my lodging, saying he didn't want me to stay anymore-I went into a panic attack at work because I didn't know how I would survive driving for that long by myself...and in the dark.

Friends are what got me though the drive. I couldn't have survived without them. Thank you to Rachel, Claire, Elizabeth, my mom, Julie, Beth, Aaron and Dan for keeping me company through the east coast traffic, accidents and many many states. I'd never been to Delaware (spent a total of 13 minutes in it), Connecticut or New Hampshire.

Packet Pick Up
I was stoked to be able to get a little Ironman 70.3 black backpack that I saw so many of when helping Dan move (he's a real Ironman). If I'm gonna pay that much money, I better be getting a sweet backpack and t-shirt. So I take my bib number to the backpack station and a volunteer begins filling it with goodies. Until, volunteer #2 looks closer and says, and I quote, "Oh, she's not an athlete, she doesn't get one of those." And hands me a green grocery bag tote bag, with a white DriFit Aquabike t-shirt. Excuse me, what did you just say? I was pissed. Apparently those who swim 1.2 miles and ride 56 miles aren't considered an athlete. Well 17 year old volunteer #2, I'd like to see you beat me, and we could see who isn't the athlete. Just because I can't run, doesn't mean I'm not an athlete. It's not that I don't want to, I do, I just physically can't. Don't ever tell me I'm not an athlete, and give me the damn black backpack. Thanks Dan (or Aaron) for giving me your backpack to make me feel like an athlete.

The Race
Yes, I did skip all of yesterday, but I bet most of you don't care about my day before the race--just getting ready, loving the NormaTec Recovery Boots, salt loading, practicing open water swimming with my wetsuit...for the first time. I'm skipping it.

We got to transition at 5am (so we could get parking) and set up transition area, talked with other athletes, stood in the never ending porta potty lines and took a nap in the car. At 6:40a I said bye and good luck to the boys and went on my way to the beach. It is a battle just getting the wetsuit up, so I needed a good amount of time to put it on and get a warm-up swim in.

Competitors, families and sherpas were flocking the beach--it was a lot of people! Typically that would make me nervous, but I felt good. I felt like I was ready to go out and win this thing. My wave was lining up and I fought my way to the front...being a swimmer, I knew I had to get away from people. Triathletes don't mind (I think) when people touch their feet when swimming. Being a swimmer...I hate it. That just motivates me more to swim faster and get whomever is on my feet, off my feet.

I've never had anyone to draft off of. Does this hurt me in the long run, absolutely, but I'm not going to slow down just so I can grab someone's feet and ride them. I'm going to swim my own race. I'm used to seeing the colors of the rainbow in caps in front of me when swimming, none the same as the one I wear...however there was one person with a bright green cap swimming right next to me. I tried drafting, they weren't having it. They tried drafting, I wasn't having it. So, we swam side by side, swimming over the colors of the rainbow in front of us. I was convinced they were a man. Typical man stroke and usually I'm the first woman by at least 15 seconds out of the water. Imagine my surprise when I got out of the water to see that it was a woman (we talked afterwards and she thought I was a man, too). I got out of the water at 27:40.The swim hurt. I tweaked my shoulder putting my wetsuit on and that pain continued with me for the extent of the swim, but I pushed through and did what I could. I can definitely see room for improvement in that category.

Shout out to the wetsuit strippers...y'all are amazing!

Run to transition was a little slower than I'd like. I was running behind a really slow lady and she wouldn't let me pass, so I slowly ran to Zeke. Clipped on helmet and put on sunglasses and off I went. The first ten miles on the bike went real quick, I was movin', until that mountain we had to climb at mile ten. I felt better seeing everyone else struggling to get up it, but just being in my easiest gear possible was not fun. People were cheering from their house about 3/4 of the way up, screaming "you're almost at the top..." I was not amused. That may be true, but I still have 1/4 of this mountain still to climb. All I was thinking was that there better be an epic downhill at the bottom of this...I was only slightly disappointed. For the next 22 miles or so, I played tag with another Endorphin Athlete. We would chat and cheer every time we passed each other. He took the down hills, I conquered the uphills. Although unsure of who he was, he kept me going and motivated me to dominate those hills.

It was the turn around where I started feeling it. I had nutrition and water with me, but I was in desperate need of salt, so I started licking my lips hoping that the salt in my sweat would provide. Either that did, or God did, but I felt a little better. Because of the nature of the out and back, I began seeing hundreds of racers going the opposite direction from me. I was definitely enjoying the time of not being around people, but that also became very hard mentally. I saw lots of people, but no one was around me. Was I going faster than everyone or was everyone in front of me just killing it? My speed proceeded to go down, but I kept hammering my legs and passed a handful more people. I was hurting a lot around mile 40, so I prayed. When I don't have anyone to talk to, I either talk to myself or I talk to God, and in that situation, He provided. The first time was when I looked up from aero and saw Danny Royce on his hot pink bike. The familiarity of that racer gave me a little kick in the butt and I was able to climb more easily up a hill. A few miles later the hurt set in more and I prayed. I looked up and gave a little smirk and wave to Dan when I saw him pass me going the other direction on GrAce 2.0 and he shouted my name and something else, but I heard my name so it lit a fire under my ass and off I went.

I trained well for this, but I needed to train more in hill work. I was proud of bike but definitely see room for improvement. Working on the hills and being more comfortable in aero going down hills opposed to holding onto my brakes in fear of falling off and dying (legitimate fear). 

I got first overall woman in aquabike and third overall athlete in aquabike...who's not the athlete now?

The Aftermath
When all was said and done and I was back in Richmond, I got sick and my legs hurt...so bad. Even with the pain, my eyes are set on next season when I hope that I am healthy enough to run....It's a great sport.

Defining You

As my blog has eluded, I have made mistakes in my past. I have been challenged, tested and have been treated awfully by people whom I thought cared for me. This is a deep look into how I am challenged with the labels that have been brought up in my life, how people and situations have altered the way I view myself. I'm being honest and truthful with all my readers in hope that someone out there feels the same way, because that's why I write the things I do.

On my way up to New Hampshire, I spoke with one of my best friends, whom I hadn't spoken to in months. She knows me. She knows me well--well enough to see that I am lying to myself about something and that I have built up walls around certain aspects of my life, and that I have chosen to live my life a certain way based on those walls. What a wise woman she is. Not only was I blown away that she was able to grasp that from our two hour long conversation, but being able to grasp that after not speaking to each other in months. A wise, wise woman you are Mrs. Kraft. She told me that I had to be honest with myself, so I am.

She told me I must look at how I define myself because she feels I'm still including my past in my definitions of who I am as a person. I am more of a woman than the shell I used to be. I am more than just a woman who has been used and abused by a man. I learned what a nasty man does to get his way and how he can make even the strongest of women feel degraded and worthless. I learned what fear for your life felt like and the uncertainty of feeling safe even when surrounded by people who genuinely care about you and your well being.

So is this the key element from my past that now shapes who I am as a woman? Unfortunately, yes. It has been almost two years and I still can't move past the label of a victim. It's not even that label--it's the thought that I am no longer good enough for anyone. No longer good enough to love. No longer good enough to be loved. No longer pure enough to be pure. Until I met someone, but like everything else--that didn't last. He gave me hope that I can be enough to someone (even though my heart aches everyday for him).

So I go through stages where I am not enough and my heart yearns for someone amazing. It's a lonely world when you think of yourself that way, however, I'm working hard on not letting it define me. What I've been through in life has taught me very valuable things and I am able to learn and grow because of it. In the meantime, though, I keep myself busy.

I put my stresses and uncertainties into training and I train hard to erase them. I train hard because I am an athlete. I am also a daughter, a sister and a woman in Christ.

How do you then define yourself aside from the things in your past? Let it go (yes, Frozen). But how do you let it go when it's such a big part of what makes you, you? You grow and use those learning experiences to shape you as a better person. You use those experiences to redefine yourself as someone better. Yes, things may have happened to me, but I am becoming a stronger woman with firm beliefs because of it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Emory Rose

*This is a fiction short story that I wrote a few years ago.

Emory Rose

With a heart of gold and a contagious smile, my childhood best friend continued to be the best and most kind person I knew in my life. Although she had one of the preppiest names around, Emory Rose Collins, she hung with us, the nobodies, but everyone in high school and college loved her--the nerds, the jocks, and the populars. Emory Rose was my best friend, my hero and my savior; she taught me how to live and love to the fullest even when life is filled with tragedy. Emory Rose Collins was a hero and this is her story. 

Emory Rose was born and raised by a loving mother and father, Rachelle and Mitch, and was the oldest of three, two girls and a boy. I met Emory at age three at preschool and I’m told we became best friends, however, we did have many disputes over whose baby doll was whose or who go the pink cup versus the purple cup. By age seven we were in second grade, in different classrooms with different teachers, but we walked to and from school together. Emory’s mom, Rachelle, became very sick and in that year, she had to quit her job and start treatment. The day after Emory’s ninth birthday, Rachelle passed, leaving Mitch alone with a nine, five and two year old. Although my family and the rest of the neighborhood provided meals and child care, it was obvious Mitch struggled a lot. However, by the time Emory turned eleven, she had become the new ‘mom’ figure in the Collins home--she learned how to cook, clean and do dishes, and helped as much as possible. By age fourteen, tragedy found itself back into the Collins home, when Junior died by a car. The one time he didn’t look both ways when crossing the street when riding his bike—he was dead on arrival. 

Although the two deaths in Emory’s life caused heartache and heartbreak, Emory stayed amazingly calm, cool and collected. She never showed anger, sadness, or frustration in public, but she did let it out on the tennis courts. Where was I during all of this, you ask? By her side every step of the way, attending cotillion classes and culinary classes with her. 

I’m sorry if it seems like I’m flying through her life, but this is just the background on her before the real acts of kindness and heroism begin. 

It was senior year of high school, an early spring day when I looked in my mailbox and saw a large envelope from Pensacola University, the only college Emory Rose and I applied to. I ran through the backyards of my neighbors until I got to the Collin’s house. We both opened our large envelopes together, and squealed and jumped for joy when we read that we had both gotten in--myself on an academic scholarship for chemistry and Emory on a tennis scholarship. 

This is where the real story begins--college. We both remained very busy and active in clubs and sports through freshman year--Emory and I being avid participants in the volunteer club--helping, talking and mentoring patients at the nearby hospital. It was after about ten weeks when I realized that Emory was taking notes on all the patients who needed something, whether be for survival or for bettering of their lives. Bethany was a woman we met, a mother of four, but after hitting an IED in Afghanistan, she lost her eye sight, and a year and  a half later, she gave birth to twin girls who she couldn’t see. All Bethany wanted was to see her baby girls grow up. An eleven year old boy, Carson, in liver failure. Carson was on his way to join his family in Heaven due to this genetic disease. Not being high enough on the transplant list, he only had a few months to live. 
Lewis, a sixty-eight year old man with an artificial heart, desperately needing an actual heart. Lewis’s daughter was getting married in sixth months and Lewis wanted to walk her down the aisle without tubes and pumps coming out of his chest. 
Katherine, a twenty-year old student, suffers from dramatic second hand smoke in her lungs. Her family smoked so much around her that her lungs are that of a seventy year old who had smoked two packs a day for fifty years.  Katherine wanted to be able to run, jump and laugh without having to gasp for air. 
There were many others ,but Emory didn’t make it seem as important as the first four. 

The summer going into sophomore year, I knew something wasn’t right with Emory. She was tired all the time and had massive migraines frequently, and on top of that, she had nose bleeds and swollen lymph-nodes. I asked her about it multiple times, figuring she had lymphoma--what he mother died from, but consistently denied me access into that side of her life. It was the first time she had shut me out of her life and I didn’t life it. However, she did tell me that after tennis season ended, she would be un-enrolling from college to go and travel the world and she wanted me to join her. I didn't know what to do; yes, traveling the world had been my dream since I was little, but leaving school behind, I wasn’t sure, so I told her I would think about it.  

One rainy day, she called me up and asked if I could accompany her to her meeting with her tennis coaches--I agreed, but was apprehensive about what may happen. “Coach, this is my best friend, Aria, she came along because there is something I have to tell both of you,” Emory said, and signing to me. 
“It’s nice to meet you,” I spoke while signing. 
“Likewise. What can I do for you, Emory?” Coach Alberston asked. 
“I have received some troubling news in the past month. I have found our that I have lymphoma and a brain tumor. I have cancer,” she confessed. “I don’t need you to feel bad or pity me, but I just wanted to let you know. I will try my hardest at every single practice and match but know I will have to skip a few trainings and practices due to treatment and time to rest. Please don’t dock my talents to a lower ranking because of this, just let me continue to earn my spot on the team. I don’t want to tell anyone, so please keep this between us.” 
“I am very sorry to hear that, but I know that you are a fighter so you will fight this and you will be fine on the team. I wish you the best.” 

From this meeting we headed to the hospital for her first chemo appointment and for the next week, I cleared her drain of hair. She was totally bald, and it just got harder from there. Emory began struggling with tennis and her focus due to her brain tumor. She would stay home from class one day every ten days due to migraines. However, she fought through and never complained about it. 

It was one week before the end of tennis season when I agreed to go travel Europe with her. So we both un-enrolled from school, my parents totally disagreeing with my decision, but I had to, I needed to, I wanted to. So, one week after, we found ourselves in Edinburg, then Dublin, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Prague, Frankfurt, Brussels, Parish, Zurich, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Barcelona and ended in Madrid. After three months, we had seen more of the world than either of us had ever seen. However, without treatment for that span, it was clear that Emory was dying. 

Two weeks after getting back to the States, and being admitted into the hospital, drug and treatment free, my best friend, the world traveler, the bravest person I have ever known, died. I sat by her bed and held her hand as she took her final breath and then shut off her monitor from beeping. The doctors rushed in and took her into surgery to begin their harvest of her organs. 

Thanks to Emory Rose Collins, Bethany was able to see her gorgeous ginger twin girls, Carson was able to go back to school as a happy elementary student, Lewis able to walk down the aisle with his gorgeous daughter, the bride, and Katherine was able to breathe her first full, clean breath of air since very early in her life. A woman named Tiffany received a right hand, a very difficult procedure, and seven others received life saving organs from Emory. 

Not only did Emory Rose save these twelve people’s lives, she gave hope and inspiration to others in her situation. She gave bravery and courage to those struggling with the thought that their life will end soon, she gave a gift of good news and random acts of kindness. Emory was the most humble, genuine and brave person I have ever had the pleasure meeting. Not only did she do all this, she made my life better, everyday by being a part of it. 

At age four, I got meningitis, which caused me to be deaf. I enrolled in signing classes, as did my whole family and at age six, my family, myself and Emory new how to sign. In third grade, Emory led a class to anyone in our school who wanted to learn how to sign. The class continued into middle school, high school and college. By the time we left for Europe, we had guessed that over five hundred people had learned to sign, at least enough to have a small conversation with me. I was the only deaf student at any of my schools, so having a friend take that big of an interest in me and my needs deserves a spot in my life forever. 

Emory Rose Collins changed lives, and to this day, at age thirty-five, a brain surgeon operating on ‘inoperable’ tumors, I still share her story wherever I go. 

Monday, June 8, 2015


I think everyone has a superstition that they either share or refuse to share to others for the fact of being called crazy. I've accepted the label of being crazy, after all, I'm a swimmer, thus I'll tell you about my superstition.

It's not that I think walking under ladders will bring you bad luck (I just avoid them because I'm scared it will come crashing down on me).
It's not that I don't believe in opening up an umbrella indoors (I just don't do it because it doesn't rain indoors).
I don't believe that Friday, the 13th is an unlucky day (I just have lived lucky or very uneventful days on Friday, the 13th).
I don't believe that a rabbit's foot will bring you good luck (I think the concept of them is gross).

So, I've told you what I don't like..so what are my superstitions? Mine, as a lot of peoples are, happen in a sports setting.

Enter the arena of competition swimming. Swimmers are crazy, and I can say that because I am one. We go months on end not shaving our legs, wearing swim suits that are clearly too small for us, we wake up in the darkest and coldest times of the morning to jump into a cold pool and stare at a black line for thousands of yards. The craziness has been built up for many years, which only means that the superstitions associated with the craziness must be pretty good.

Superstition #1: Since I was in 9th grade, I had specific songs for every race. Songs I would listen to before I stepped up on that block. Songs that spoke to me, that motivated me and songs that calmed my greatest fears down. I had to listen to that song associated with that event, or else I wouldn't do well. So the songs, you ask? Of course, anything for my readers:

50 Free: Are You Ready- Three Days Grace
100 Free: Can't Be Touched - Roy Jones
200 Free: Till I Collapse - Eminem
Relays: I'mma Shine - YoungBloodZ

Everything else: Whatever I felt like...but if I didn't listen to one of those songs before my race...I would panic and wouldn't swim as well. Or that's what I believe.

Superstition #2: I believe that I have to say the same prayer before every race. I've been saying this prayer since 9th grade. Nothing about it has changed. I have been superstitious to tell people about my prayer but I'll share it with y'all because I haven't competed in a long time.
Dear Lord,
(Large Inhale) Please be with me as I swim this race. I pray that You give me the courage, bravery and strength to swim this race to the best of my ability, in a way that honors Your name and is the best for my team. Please calm my nerves and allow me to do the best that I can. I pray this in your name. Amen.

Superstition #3: Taper Season. To most swimmers, this is our grace period. After months of training as hard as we can, we finally get a break, finally get a chance to sleep and rest. We finally enter taper. Everyone's taper is different. Some, feel like a million bucks...I am not one of those. If I don't feel  like "poo in the pool" then my taper won't work. Coaches have told me it will regardless of what I feel like. But, being superstitious, I believe that I will not swim well if I don't feel like crap the few weeks before the race.

So, there is an introduction to my superstitions. I think they are all reasonable, after all, I've lived with them for a long time, but my coaches, my teammates and outsiders would probably disagree. But why stop a good thing? Because they're superstitions after all...

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tell Me About Yourself...in 3 Minutes

A few weeks ago I had brunch with a really good, long time friend. He challenged me to tell him about myself in 3 minutes. I began typing this post to do just that, but then a guy I want to know more, suggested that I tell everything about myself in 3 minutes, typing. Well, this is my chance to shine. 3 minutes typing as fast as I can to tell you all about myself.

3, 2, 1....

My name is Margaret, I am turing 24 in three weeks. I am from columbus, Ohio, went to school in Grand Rapids, Michigan and now live in Richmond. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend and most importantly a child of God. I am a swimmer first, triathlete second. I got my degree in social work and work in recreation. I smile always and believe that you can be the happiness in someones day if you smile at them because after all, a smile goes a mile. I think you should live life the way you choose, not how anyone else dictates. You should learn from your mistakes and grow, developing yourself into a better you. I believe everyone should travel and see the world, see the world as God created it. Enjoy cultures and music and experiences because you only live life once. Challenge yourself mentally and physically and grow from all experiences. I believe I would be nothing without my family and friends and most importably my faith. I live a life depicted by my faith, my values, my morals and.....

Times up!

That was pretty good!

Well, thank you for those who prompted this post, as it helped me decompress some things I have been struggling with. If anyone else has an idea, let me know! I'm down for another typing challenge or blogging challenge!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

First Kiss & First Love

Love: First Kiss & First Love

When searching blog topics to write about, this popped up. It's a story that not many know about, as I didn't share my first kiss with a lot of people. But I think it's a great story, and my 16-year old self would be proud of this...it could be awkward, though. My first kiss/first love reads my blog. I hope I describe it in a way that is respectful to how you saw it, too.

I was a sophomore in high school when I first heard that accent. I was hooked. It wasn’t until the second or third day on our USVI spring break science trip when I realized my 16-year old self had a HUGE crush on you. I flirted but didn’t expect anything from it, as nothing had ever happened in the past when I flirted with other guys. It was different with you and I know you felt it, too.

It was easy to open up and be 100% me with you. I wasn’t ashamed to cry around you. I wasn’t scared to share my life because I knew you respected me. On the last night of the trip, we were sitting on the beach and you asked me, “When a guy likes a girl, is it appropriate for him to kiss her?”

The only thing that went through my mind was, Oh shit. I’d never been kissed before. I began getting really nervous and felt the butterflies fluttering around in my stomach. There was no need to be nervous. You were a gentleman and we enjoyed our time on the beach together…sorry, guys, you’re just going to have to imagine my first kiss(es) with your imagination.

It wasn’t all rainbows and teddy bears after that. Once we got back to the States, you wanted to be friends and my 16 year old self was crushed, but I couldn’t say no to a friendship because of this connection that you and I shared. We’re on the same “wave length” as you call it.

Our friendship continued into my sophomore year of college and it was the best thing I’d ever really had. You were my everything. You knew me better than I knew myself. You knew what bothered me, and how to get me out of a funk, you knew what to say to motivate me in swim meets and how to calm me down from a bad swim, you made me laugh and smile and you made me want to be a better human. For all those reasons and more, I fell in love with you, but you didn’t.

It was at this point in time my life that life got real messy. I cried myself to sleep, I felt rejected and wounded because I wasn’t loved back. I spiraled downhill quickly and found myself in counseling for a multitude of reasons. What I figured out is that the relationship we had was bad for me growing up as a woman of Christ. I had relied so heavily on you, that I stopped going to God when I had problems. I made my first love my rock when Christ is supposed to be my rock.

That summer was the worst and when junior year came around, my friends and counselor agreed it was best for me to disconnect everything from you. I shut you out entirely. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed some more after I had no more tears. My best friend, gone.

Looking back I can say that it was certainly for the best. It taught me that I can’t depend so heavily on a man, that communication is SO important in relationships, that although a man doesn’t love you, doesn’t mean that no one else will. Our friendship and my love for him was spectacular and they helped me grow up to the woman I am now.

I had the pleasure a few weeks ago to go out to lunch with him when I was in Chicago, and although we hadn’t talked or seen each other in nearly three years…that wave length was still there. My love for him is gone, but what remains are the memories and a deep care for this wonderful man. I know that wherever we are in life, we will always have someone who understands each other down to the core…even if we have differing views and values.

Eight years ago we shared a passionate kiss and here we are now, figuring out this friend thing all over again. So thank you, for providing me with amazing memories AND really crappy ones, because without it, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Handwritten Letters

Why Write Handwritten Letters?

I feel that nowadays people rarely pick up a pen and paper to communicated with one another. Our society is so focused on the efficiency, getting something fast and using technology to succeed that. I’m saddened by this because there are so many reasons letters are meaningful than the bing of an e-mail or vibrate of a text.

Writing for me is sort of a therapy, a way, my best way, to express feelings…there is no better feel than a pen and paper and some classical music to purge myself to. Whether be a blog (yes, I write them on paper, first), a poem, short story, novel or letter, writing is an amazing things for me. It’s a way I can show the world or an individual what I’m going through in life.

In college, I was so excited when I looked in my mailbox and saw a handwritten letter…it meant so much more to me than an e-mail. Here are some of the reasons why:

They create lasting memories
The moments you commit to paper are more likely to stay with you than an email or text. Not only stay in your memory -- you will have the physical copy. A box of letters—a box of memories.

They show how much people care
A simple day receiving a smile from a stranger, or a text saying “thinking of you” can change your mood for the day. Imagine the power behind opening a sealed and stamped letter, that has travelled across state lines to someone special. I would imagine a beaming smile at the senders thoughtfulness will say it all.

Letters make you feel good
Just like writing is therapy for me – expressive writing has been linked to reduced stress, a better mood and an overall sense of well-being. I don’t know what else to say to convince you. Sharing your genuine thoughts with another person can  be quite a morale booster; not to mention the butterflies you may feel when the mailman drives away with it.

Letters make every word count
Postcards are short…they pack meaning and really force the reader to ponder the message. Unlike a quick text, handwritten letters pack a personal side of the meaning and you cannot allow that to go to waste.

Letters require your undivided attention
When I write, I zone out everything that happens around me. I shut down except what I want to say and let my hand take over. I purge. To write thoughtfully and honestly, we must focus on the present moment and zone out the craziness of life. It’s quite nice. The same thing goes for reading .When I receive a letter, I escape the craziness, sit down and shut out my surroundings to fully take in the emotion relayed in the letter.

They honor tradition
There is something sacred, even romantic, and old fashioned about communicating in the way generations before us did. Computers and smart phones may prove more efficient, but they can never take the place of sentimental history.

Long after letters are written and sent, letters and postcards remain to be read and appreciated. I kept all my letters from grade school all the way up to sophomore year of college. I read them all, and cried over most of them. All the letters made me remember the details I forgot, or chose to forget, about my life up until that point.

They allowed me to evaluate life and how far my friends and I have come in life. Whether we’re still friends, whether we’re long past love, whether be burnt ourselves out through friendship, my letters taught me a lot.  I threw them all away as I closed that chapter of life and have begun collecting more letters. I hope to inspire more people to write handwritten letters, making themselves vulnerable, taking the time to unplug and let out all your emotions, craziness and life lessons so that someone can enjoy them in a whole new way.

I challenge you to write more letters. I challenge you to take time out of your busy day and just write. Let it out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why Swim?

Swimming is far more than just a sport for me. Swimming is a way of life. Swimming is a part of me, something I live for, something I breathe for, something I am.

For a lot of us, swimming is beyond being just a sport. The time invested in the pool, the blood and sweat that has poured out of us through endless dry land and weight sets. The injury, the overuse, the pain of wanting it so bad, are all things we’re accustomed to. It’s bigger than just being a hobby or a way to stay in shape. Swimming is a part of our identity, part of our lives, part of what makes us, us.

I frequently get asked if I am a volleyball or basketball player due to my height, I just shake my head. My days of those sports are long over. They look at me again and see the shoulders that I try to cover up, “I’m a swimmer,” I proudly say. They always stop, cock their heads and ask, “But, why?”

*I will state that I refer to tennis a few times in this blog. I want to make it known that I am not bashing the sport, as I have once played. Tennis is a great sport and I believe that their athletes are very well trained and do great things.

There are endless number of reasons why I swim. Here are a few:

Swimmers are a little crazy…Takes a crazy person to know one
Swimmers are not your typical conformist who signed up for typical sports like tennis, soccer, baseball. Swimmers accept the lifestyle of having to wake up in the cold, dark of night (while normal people are asleep) and jump into a cold pool and swim laps. Lady swimmers accept the lifestyle of not shaving their legs for months on end, so when you finally get the chance to, you feel so fast, sorry boyfriends! Swimmers accept the lifestyle of always being hungry, cramming food into our mouths regardless of those people who point and stare and make fun of how much we eat, or how loudly our stomach growls. Swimmers accept the sore and achy muscles because we know what we are doing in and out of the water is improving us. Swimmers aren’t in it for the glory and the fans (who enjoys watching swim meets other than swimmers?). So-why do we do it? I still don’t know. I thought this was the point of the blog. You should keep reading. I must say that through all the acceptances we have made in our lives for this sport, it requires the crazy mind of thinking outside the box. For the tennis players of the world, if they think outside the box, they will lose every match. They have to learn how to hit the ball into the little box on the court. Swimmers, however, entrust a passion, a crazy passion to jump eagerly at a new opportunity because that’s how we accept our life.

A good workout clears my mind.
I cannot count the number of times where coaches have dropped an earth shattering practice on me, something I had never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be surviving, let alone complete. But then what happens? We are trained as swimmers, to put good effort in and get results. You not only finish the set, but you leave the pool feeling renewed and accomplished. Whether be one of these “earth shattering” practices or just a recovery Wednesday set, 9 times out of 10, you’ll come out with a breath of fresh air, a renewed and clear mind.

It’s where I go to mediate
Going off of my last reason, no matter what is going on outside of the pool, for that hour or two, you can disconnect from everything. Whether it’s work or school stress, conflict or drama within relationships, swimming gives you the opportunity to shut it out. No cell phone, no social media, no nothing. Just you, the water and the black line.

Goal Setter
In many sports the goal is based on beating the other team. You have no control over how the other player performs. Your team may have given it the best they had, but the other team just out played them, outscored them, the other team won. Swimmers sets goals that are detailed, under their own control and down to the exact detail, whether be how you are going to train or your goal time to the hundredth of a second. In the 200 freestyle, I touched that wall seventh out of eight swimmers, but I had the world’s biggest smile. You want to know why? It wasn’t because I got seventh, it was because I had blown my very specific goal out of the water. Sure, there are swimmers who are faster than me, but having the opportunity to swim next to them in the championship heat and break my goal time by four seconds is simply spectacular. That’s a winning moment for me. Because of this goal setting, swimmers are able to plan and detail orient their lives in other capacities outside of the pool. What I have learned in swimming has created a platform of me being able to set goals for life or work. I don’t think you will be able to find a more goal-oriented person than a swimmer.

No hand-eye coordination
An Olympic swimmer became great by outworking thousands of other kids in the pool and hundreds of other collegiate swimmers. A great tennis player had to work hard, but being naturally gifted for having hand-eye coordination is a very important aspect of the sport. In swimming, more than any other sport, sheer will, determination and motivation outweigh skill. The determination of a swimmer who can log 10,000+ painful yards in one day alone is unmatched. I swim because, yes, I have tried the other sports, the sports requiring hand eye coordination, and you want to know something? I was okay. I wasn’t spectacular, but my will and determination to get into the pool morning after morning to practice a sport that requires significantly less hand-eye coordination, is the sport that I owe my life to.

There is a chance to be extraordinary
I’m sure if I would ask twenty people, everyone would have a different definition of what it means to be extraordinary. For some, being able to swim a 400IM without stopping or having a heart attack is pretty extraordinary, for others, a chance to swim collegiately, internationally, or stand on that podium at the world stage of the Olympics. Everyone has different ways of looking at “what it means to be extraordinary.” I swim because it creates an opportunity for me to challenge myself, to fight through the pain, sweat, tears and discomfort and emerge a stronger, tougher, more confident swimmer.  

And that is why I’m extraordinary. And that's why I'm a swimmer. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Things Happy People Do Differently

Happy People...Find Balance in Their Lives 
Those who are happy have something in common-- they're content with life and don't over think, or stress over, things. Unhappy people do just that - they over think everything and stress over everything causing a lot of pain and unhappiness. This simply means that happy people live balanced lives. They know how to control the busy and the stress without it impacting their happiness. Happy people can focus more on what or who is important to them - family, friends, career, health, religion, hobbies, etc.

Happy People...Express Gratitude 
When you appreciate what you have, you seem to see the world in another light, and be happy. If you aren't thankful for what you already have, you will have a hard time being happy. In Sonja Lyubomirsky's The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life you Want, she refers to the gratitude as "a kind of meta-strategy for achieving happiness."
"Gratitude is many things to many people," she says. "It is wonder; it is appreciation; it is looking on the bright side of a setback; it is fathoming abundance; it is thanking someone in your life; it is thanking God; it is 'counting blessings.' It is savoring; it is not tang things for granted; it is coping; it is present-oriented."  I think Lyubomirsky perfectly described happy people. If gratitude is all of that, that gratitude is happiness.

Happy People...Practice Acts of Kindness
Happy people abide by the rule "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." Happy people embody that and through that rule comes acts of kindness to the fullest. Whether be random acts or just opening yourself up to be a kinder person in life...happy people are kind. Many studies have shown that people who participate in random acts of kindness are profoundly more happy than those who don't. The reason? I think that by having a person interact with another, already boots the happy. Happy people treat others with respect, they are sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others and they show compassion. If this is how you live life, than that is how you will be treated in life.

Happy People...Take Responsibility for their Actions 
This past Monday, it was super sunny outside, which made it increasingly hard to sit in my office filled with windows. 4pm rolled around and I was was bummed I had another hour to work and not be in the sun. So I left and went for a run. It was the best part of my day. The next day, I came into work an hour early to make up for the fact and told my boss. I was straight up with her. I told her I
left to go running. I took responsibility for my action of leaving work early to go do something drastically less important than the work I was doing. I had to tell her, because I'm a happy person and I want her to trust me. Happy people aren't perfect, and we know that. When happy people mess up, they admit it. They recognize their faults and try to improve on them. Unhappy people tend to hold it in or blame others for their faults.

Happy People...Live in the Present
I have had many challenges in life. I had had my heart shattered to pieces and during that time, I obviously wasn't happy. I kept thinking of scenarios, what could I have done differently in this situation to not have this happen? What is I see him again? I was so focused on the past and the future, that I missed the fact I was an emotional wreck in the present. I was an unhappy person, living in everything but the present. Like me back then, unhappy people tend to dwell on the past and worry about the future. Happy people live in the moment and are grateful for the time that they have now. Happy people's philosophy is: "There is a reason it is called 'the present.' Because life is a gift."

Happy People...Savor the Joys of Life
Lyybomirsky states that, "Yet the ability to savor the positive experiences in your life is not of the most important ingredients of happiness." When I went abroad, I had this mantra of saying yes to everything, because in reality, you you only live life once. How many chances am I going to get in life to take months off and go travel and explore the world? I hope many, but that may not happen, so I wanted to savor every moment of every day. I did things that I typically wouldn't do, such as skydiving and bungy jumping. Although I was the most scared I have ever been in my life when I was bunny jumping, I new I had to savor that moment. Savor the fear and the feeling of falling, because that is a joy in my life. The fact I had the opportunity to go abroad and try all these new things created me a strong, happy, woman. So, savor the joys, savor the small things in life, they'll make you happy! 

Happy People...Take Care of Their Body 
Happy people take care of their mind and body and not just by exercise. Happy people actually act like happy people. Happy people smile, are engaged and bring the optimal level of joy to every situation. Healthy people take care of their minds in tough situations by seeking the good that might come from challenging times. According to Lyubomirsky, there is a growing body of science suggesting that religious people are happier, healthier, and recover more quickly from trauma than nonreligious people.

Unhappy people, are you sold yet?

I am 100% confident there are more things that happy people do differently in life...these are just the ones I am comfortable sharing because they are things that I, a happy person, have in everyday life. My question is why are there so many unhappy people in life? Life is a wonderful thing, it's a gift and you should live it. Bad things happen, that's a part of life and growing up, but your quality of life can change dramatically based on how you respond to the bad.

My challenge for you becomes: how do you want to live this gift of life? Do you want to dwell on the past and the bad, or do you want to seek the joy, kindness and compassion of the present that comes with the life of a happy person?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Nobody likes rejection. It sucks. Whether personally or professionally, it can make you feel worthless and make you question yourself or what you have to offer a school or job. It can make you compare yourself to others and wonder what the others had that you didn't. At one time, or many, we have felt the bitch slap of rejection. After all, rejection is part of life. I think the amazing part of rejection is how that individual responds. For me, it's been a learning process, but I am confident to say that today I am in the phase of accepting rejection by seeing it as something good. As I look back on all the instances I have been rejected, I can see myself coping with any of the following:

Rejection Doesn't Have to Be Scary 
Receiving hundreds of rejection letters from social work agencies, non-profits and other jobs I may have applied for was frustrating. I had the experience, I had the degree, but why weren't these people hiring me? I can see now that I was being re-directed, towards something better, in life. I accepted a position that allows me to share my love of swimming and active lifestyle with kids of all ages. Sure, it may not be what my degree is in, but for time being, it's what I love. So, maybe receiving all those rejections was a good thing.

You Can't Be Everything to People, And That's Okay!
Don't chase people in life. Work hard and be you. Live a life that makes you happy, not trying to conform into what makes someone else happy. The right people who belong in your life will come find you and stay. You do you. This is something I continue to work on. Life's a mess, but you learn a lot through the messiness. If someone doesn't appreciate the way you talk or how much you talk, your compassion and caring for all people, then sucks for them, they just let a great person go. Rejection doesn't mean you aren't good enough; it means the other person failed to see what you have to offer.

Build Up Tolerance
After receiving the first, I don't know, say thirty job rejections, I was over it. The more you put yourself out there and be vulnerable to others and receive feedback and criticism, the more you'll build up that tolerance. You'll get to a point, that I did in jobs, where it doesn't hurt when another e-mail comes in and rejects you. Oprah Winfrey said, "I don't want anyone who doesn't want me."

Sometimes We Need a Reminder That We're Human
And sometimes being human sucks. Humans all fear rejection, want attention, crave affection, and dreams of perfection. We're human. We have flaws but those flaws are what makes us, us. Rejection sometimes bumps us out of something that we thought was great and humbles us to see that, yes, we are still human.

It Allows You to (Finally) Stop Obsessing 
In relationships, the question of what are we? Was that a date? Are we a thing? Will he call? Should I call? Does he think I'm annoying? Should I have said or done something differently? We can drive ourselves insane trying to figure out what the other person is feeling of thinking about us. Getting an honest "I'm not into you" or "You're smothering me" is a great way to stop the obsessing. Now we can move on. For me, it's like a big, THANK YOU. It's one less thing I can obsess over.

Your Creative Juices Start Flowing - It Makes a Good Story
I was rejected today...Guess what I did. I wrote a blog post about rejection. The best time, for me, to feel my creative juices running through me is after something bad happens. Today, rejection. And it's not bad, it's God's way of telling me He has a different door. Rejection allows you to open up your mind to emotions and feelings that you may not have had access to while content. Give yourself a chance to grieve, then allow yourself to have amazing rejection-inspired creativity.

I leave you with this:
"Trust that when the answer is no, there's a better yes down the road." 

Stereotype Breaking Dog

So, Roxy, my roommates dog has surely shown a whole lot of different behaviors lately. 

At first, I claimed she was a stalker dog. She walked around the house silently and sat and stared at me while I completed everyday tasks. 

Second, I concluded she was a lazy bum because she sits and sleeps all day. When you let her out in the backyard, she sits and stares (stalker tendencies). 

Thirdly, she wants to be a human. By the way she cuddles on the couch with pillows and the TV remote, and howls like she's trying to have a conversation, she seems like a human. 

Today, my first and second opinions on her were shot down, when I came bursting through the front door, hands full, she proceeded to sprint out of the house and down the snow covered street. I dropped my things and sprinted after her. Four houses down, I caught up with her, grabbed her by her collar and walked her back to our house...until her collar slipped off of her and she went sprinting down the street again. I caught her, more quickly this time, and carried her back to the house. Maybe she just really wanted some bonding time with the snow. Maybe she was howling "Let it Go-The cold never bothered me anyways." 

Whatever the reason, I know Roxy is a track star! Way to break stereotypes, Roxy!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Remember that time....Celiac Disease

Remember that time….when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease?

I am enlisting a new series to my blog, to try and keep me motivated and honest about how much I say I am going to post. I am calling it, “Remember that time….” The only thing is, not many people remember that time. It’s me sharing my thoughts about how ridiculous and traumatizing that event may be. In this case, remember that time….when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease?

In fourth grade, I remember driving to the lake house in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. I had just eaten some ice cream and we were going up and down the rolling hills of Ohio to get there. I did not feel well. I opened up the window and threw up all of the side of the car. My grandma self-diagnosed me as Lactose Intolerant. I have been since then. Not too sad about it, there’s a one a day pill for it.

In seventh grade I found out that I was allergic to citric acid as a preservative. I was very unhappy with that verdict. It meant that I could no longer eat fried food, eat processed food, or go out to eat at restaurants. It meant that I could no longer drink PowerAde, Gatorade, Fruit20 or any other sports drink that athletes drink while competing. It was a big problem, I cried a lot but then my view changed and I thought I could change my eating habits and become a healthier person. It’s a preservative, so why not eat all homemade, homegrown, organic healthy options. It was great.

In my freshman year of college, I found out that I was allergic to sodium nitrite and nitrates. If you know anything about these, you will know that I can no longer eat bacon or packaged lunch meat. Not entirely true. I can eat the above, but the cost is about double, nearly triple, the cost of its unhealthier counterpart. Big deal? Not so much. I’ll eat healthier lunch options, I thought.

Six months after my twenty-first birthday, I found out that I was allergic to sulphites, a naturally occurring preservative in preserved fruit and wine. Well, I thought, there goes my chance to find a wine that I like! I wasn’t too disheartened by the allergy, just meant I couldn’t drink wine and some overly priced packaged and preserved fruit.

Sometime when I was a junior in college, I found out that I was allergic to some kinds of aged cheese. That’s all I know. I know I eat cheese and I don’t get sick. As long as I stay away from weird, smelly, moldy cheese, I think I’m okay. No sadness for that one.

So you can see, my life has been crazy. Reading labels, convincing myself that I am doing this because I’m healthy, and I was! I joked around with my sister that by the time I was thirty, I would be allergic to every preservative, forcing me to eat totally organic, unprocessed food. No problem with that, except a social worker doesn’t make enough money for that, so thus the jokes about me marrying an engineer, who could support my weird eating habits came in.

I had never thought about what allergy might come next….but it did. For four months I was so sick. I was tired, my skin itched and itched and I would scratch until skin came off, I had night sweats, I couldn’t sleep at night, my body ached all the time. It may sound ridiculous, but I thought I had cancer. I went to the doctor and they ran every lab test they could think of. Everything was negative. Great that I don’t have cancer, but why did I still feel like shit? So, I went to the allergist. All of my allergies to this point have been self diagnosed. So I knew something had to be wrong. I stated my symptoms, got the back pricked and was negative. He drew blood. Two weeks later, sitting in our lodge at Snowbird Resort in Utah, I recruit my pharmacist sister to decode my results. She laughs and says I have celiac’s disease. I won’t accept the answer until I hear from the doctor. 

Four days later I receive the phone call. I’m devastated. How am I supposed to eat no grains with six other preservative allergies. I still can’t tell you the answer.
Within one week of my diagnosis, I lost 8 pounds. Eight pounds that I didn’t have to lose. Four of those have come back, it’s been three weeks. It helps having a best friend with celiac and her mother who works at Trader Joes, but this isn’t a lifestyle I can support. I’m hungry all the time and don’t have an answer on what to eat. I’m a busy woman, don’t have too much time to make GF meals. But I need to sit down and learn. I need to be healthy, take this disease by its reigns and stop it before 1) I kill myself or 2) I lose a lot of weight. If you didn’t know…Celiac disease kills your insides, so when I eat gluten I’m killing myself. That’s not the way I am meant to go.

I’m learning and this weekend I am going to bake my first ever GF creation…banana bread.

So, remember that time….when I was diagnosed with Celiac disease? It’s a great one…