A Year of Change

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything.  This isn’t going to be a funny post, it’s me just needing to get some things out and not cry, turning into a blubbery mess anymore. Hopefully the people who need to see it, will. When I originally started my blog, I had no idea what I’d even write about. One of my friends, Moscato Mom, helped me get it started and I figured I’d just ramble on about traveling, crazy thoughts and maybe one day, I’d have a few readers and get to write about cool products and places like she does. I haven’t made time to focus on it though. I stopped writing, stopped painting, stopped maintaining friendships, stopped doing anything that didn’t have to do with work, teaching and trying to gain back some kind of balance between those things and trying to be the wife and mother my family deserves. I’d lost complete control and I still struggle with it all, but I’m really trying.

The past year has been one of change. Like every year in a person’s life, there have been days of pure joy, mixed with days of stress and sadness. It’s also been a year of self improvement and successes, mixed with feelings of failure. The biggest change has been that Sheldon started going to church with Maddie and I. His Transformation Church Testimony explains how it happened. Life isn’t perfect and we are still taking this all one day at a time, but we’re learning more about each other and ourselves in the process. He began playing drums with the Worship Team on Easter and after the services, we were both baptized. Strangely enough, I was the one who couldn’t decide if I was ready to go through with it that day or not. I didn’t want to do it just because a big group of people were and it seemed like the right thing to do. After we talked to the Pastor I realized that it was like our wedding. Yes, there were other people there, but the fact was that it was happening between the two of us and God. Not them. I then thought of the baptism as the same concept. I needed a fresh start. For me, it was the first page of a new chapter in our life together as well. We celebrated our 20 year anniversary in May. Church and anything to do with church or religion was just not something that had been part of our lives. It was never discussed or talked badly about, it was just a nonexistent aspect of our marriage.  I’d always wanted to be the family that went to church together. the kind I always looked around and saw, with the husband’s arm around his wife. I’d never had that as a kid and I’d wanted it for mine but because he was agnostic, I’d come to terms with the fact that it would never happen a long time ago. I truly just wanted him to be happy and find peace in his heart. Somehow, some way.  I remember the day he finished reading my post about the triathlon. He said that the overall tone came across as me searching for something. I guess I was. I never paid attention to the empty feeling I couldn’t get rid of, so unknowingly, I was needing to find some peace as well.

Even though going back to church was a bigger step for him than it was for me, it has definitely been a learning process. I was raised in a Methodist church, went to a Lutheran grade/middle school, a Catholic high school, and most of my family is Southern Baptist. All I knew growing up were memorized prayers that didn’t mean much because they were said out of habit, Bible stories that sometimes sounded crazy and made no sense, many hypocritical Christians who showed more judgement than love and truthfully, I only went back to church because my daughter asked me to take her. I believed in God. I knew in my heart that someone had to create the world around us and the miracle of life. I just had a hard time understanding how we were right and the rest of the world was wrong. I still don’t know if that’s the truth. Nobody does, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather believe, live a happy life that helps others than not have anything to lean on and trust, feeling sad and empty inside.

 

11091305_432042530290326_7322505090127990660_nPart of what I’ve learned in all of this is that I’ve held on to hurt and anger for far too long and I’ve got to let it go and move on. I feel like I owe an apology to many people because I haven’t truly been able to do this. I thought I was being a great actress and smiling through the pain, but it’s been brought to my attention that I have not. I will be 40 in March and while I don’t feel like that is even possible, I know for a fact that I am way too old for high school drama. I don’t have time or the patience to deal with pettiness. There are too many people in my life going through unimaginable hardships right now, that I just can’t deal with someone being mad over a missed Facebook post. I will be the first to admit, I haven’t been a very good friend to many people lately.  I’ve forgotten birthdays, missed life events and apparently, ignored people whether in person, not commented on said Facebook posts-whatever the case may be. I was also told at times, I come off as cold and stand-offish. I haven’t purposefully done any of that, but truthfully-in a room full of people I’ve felt completely alone and left behind. I had a dream crushed over a year ago and I haven’t been able to get over it, no matter how hard I’ve tried. People who I loved basically told me I didn’t have what it took to be successful and dropped me like a bad habit. It hurt and I’ve built up a wall again. I’ve had hostile feelings that I didn’t even know were there until a recent phone call. I’d let loneliness and jealousy take over and didn’t realize it.

I used to trust people with my whole heart. To the point of being a door mat. Then I had someone take that trust and use it to completely shatter me years ago and I’d never really gotten over it. Some friendships are toxic. Toxic to your health, both mentally and physically, toxic to your marriage and to your family. That one was. I let it consume me for a long time. To the point that it affected every single relationship in my life. I became jealous, suspicious of everyone’s motives and my marriage suffered because of it. I was no longer a happy person. I was angry and hurt all the time, and automatically threw up walls so I wouldn’t get hurt again. I did everything in my power to hold on tight to what I had and I ended up pushing people I loved farther and farther away. I finally let myself trust again and allowed a group of friends see a very personal side of me that few ever have besides my husband. When those friendships faded away, I somehow felt that same betrayal, so I guess subconsciously I was acting out on these hurt feelings. Through all of this, I now know that it has all happened for a reason. If my dream had come true at the time, I wouldn’t have met some of the people I’ve met and my classes wouldn’t be serving a bigger purpose than I’d ever thought possible.

Life is short. I’ve had this reality check many times over the past couple months. One minute life is going great and the next, a doctor is giving you or a loved one just a few months to live. Treasure the people in your lives. The phone works both ways. Don’t let pride, being stubborn, differences of opinion, silly arguments over politics that nobody has control over or ridiculous Facebook posts make you lose a friendship or relationship with a loved one. Apologize and mend the fences before you don’t get a chance to.

If you are reading this and you are one of the people I’ve offended or hurt somehow,  I am truly sorry and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me someday.

Click here to help the Livingston Family

 

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Life Truly Begins Outside Your Comfort Zone

out-of-your-comfort-zoneHello, my name is Elise. It has been seven months since my last confes…..blog post.  I have started and stopped writing so many times, but never really knew what I wanted to say. I guess I’m just going to start typing and hopefully it will make sense in the end. My life has changed in many ways, since April. It has been crazy, wonderful, stressful, messy and amazing.  My son graduated from high school, daughter got her permit and chose to be baptized, stepson took the oath to join the Air Force, my husband and I both trained for and completed the Santa Rosa Island Triathlon, this list goes on and on. At the time of my last post, my goal was too be more organized, thanks to a book I was reading.  I’ve, of course, lost that book, my closet is a mess again and I’m still completely scatterbrained and disorganized, so I guess not ALL things have changed.

I’m no longer a stay at home mom and wife.  I got so tired of hearing,  “When are you going to go get a real job?”  (not my husband) I decided to go back to work and contribute to the household. I got lucky and am working in the billing department for a local hospital. It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before and I love it. I can put my headphones in, turn on music and focus on nothing but my task for the day. For a few hours, my brain is not going in ten different directions and it calms me somehow. When I’m not at work, I am constantly busy. Sometimes it feels like I’m running on empty and I know I need to fix that.

Aside from my job, I’m now teaching nine Zumba® and REFIT® classes each week.  It helps keep my anxiety at bay but I must admit, there are days when I don’t want to get out of bed and the very last thing I want to do is stand up in front of a room full of women with a smile on my face.  It never fails that as soon as I turn on the music and I see their just-happy-to-be-there attitudes, all of my stress and frustrations disappear. For one hour, all is right with the world. Our class t-shirts say, “Leave your stress at the door, sweat it out on the dance floor.” That is exactly what we do. It is more than just an exercise class. It affects my body, mind and spirit in a way I’d never thought possible. It is hard to explain to someone who has never taken one.  It is a room full of pure joy and it’s intoxicating.

I never thought that I’d have a positive impact on anyone but my children. I didn’t finish college and it is something that still haunts me to this day. My husband is a brilliant man. He’s been in the Air Force and now has an incredible career that he is very successful at. Words can’t describe how proud I am of him and all that he has accomplished and overcome to be where he is today. I will never have that kind of career or success though. I’m ok with that now. For a long time it bothered me. Not because of jealousy, but because I was disappointed in myself for not doing anything impressive with my life. I was just kind of existing, but not doing much with it. I have found purpose and my own kind of success now though. In comparison, it may not mean much to some, but it does to me. I will admit, I am a terrible housewife. I don’t like to clean and having a house full of picky eaters who all want something different has taken the joy out of cooking, so I don’t do much of that either. My mind is all over the place and I start five things at once but never finish any of them. I am the epitome of a scatterbrain. Before teaching classes and losing weight, my self confidence had been nonexistent. It has gotten much better. Sometimes I still doubt myself as an instructor, due to problems with my knee. I worry that I am not giving my students the experience they deserve, one that other instructors can. I can’t move as fast as some or do the kinds of moves they do. The voice in my head telling me negative thoughts is hard to ignore sometimes. It is a good feeling when I can tell it to sit down and shut up though. Today I realized that in the past year, because of what I do, fifteen of my students, who are also now friends, decided to become instructors as well. They are going to go out in the world and make a difference in not only their lives, but help others to do the same. Many of them had never even stepped foot in a Zumba® class or they’d tried it and not liked it for various reasons.  Most had never heard of REFIT®  before. Now look at them. We even made a YouTube video with the founders of REFIT® during one of the trainings. (posted below) It’s humbling and absolutely blows my mind that all of this has happened. I am so proud of them, and proud of myself for overcoming a crippling fear of public speaking on February 12, 2013 by standing on a stage in front of 160 people, dancing like a fool. Had I not done that, none of this would’ve come to pass. That’s an empowering thing.

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1780768_265800300247884_1641801291_nOne of my favorite sayings is, “Life begins outside of your comfort zone.” Training for the triathlon made me aware of how true this is. I have never done anything in my adult life, that has given me such fear and feeling of euphoria all at the same time. As a child, I almost drowned in a lake at my family reunion. My uncle saw me struggling from up on a hill, ran down and saved my life. I hadn’t thought about that day in over 10 years, at least. The first time I had to practice swimming in the ocean, I was instantly back in that dark, scary place. I started crying and couldn’t breathe. Luckily, there were coaches out in the water with us, who talked to me until I could calm down. I did this to myself every Sunday, for weeks. I almost quit many times. I’d start to turn around and go back to shore, then I’d see people swimming all around me and talk myself out of it. If they were fine, I could suck it up and be fine too. The day of the big race, I really didn’t know if I could go through with it. 600 yard open water swim, 18 mile bike and 5K run were the requirements and it was a huge pill to swallow. All I wanted to do was get to the run (jog for me). Right before the whistle was blown, I heard someone say, “Dear God, please keep us all safe.” I don’t know where it came from, I may have just said it to myself. A wave of calmness came over me and I suddenly knew I’d be ok. For the first time all summer, my breathing was fine, I swam with ease and I didn’t feel an ounce of panic anymore. When I came out of the water, I had friends cheering my name. It was amazing. In that moment, all I could think was, “I DID IT.” I didn’t place, I didn’t beat any record, I didn’t have a great time. It didn’t matter. I did it. It was completely mind over matter.

I’ve rambled on enough for now, but I want close with this: I recommend that everyone do something out of their box. Step way out of your comfort zone. Take a leap of faith in yourself. Do something nobody expects you to do or something nobody thinks you CAN do. Prove them wrong. Prove yourself wrong. You’re worth it. 10646649_349002831927630_2685829665281450830_n

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Confessions of a Scatterbrain

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I’m writing this blog as confessional and hoping it will hold me accountable to change. I’ve had Who Moved my Sanity up and running for a few months now, so I figured it was time to explain where the name comes from. It’s pretty simple, really. I lose and misplace everything and it’s caused me to lose my sanity and my husband’s on more than one occasion. I wish there was a more exciting explanation, but that’s about it. He is a very Type A, go-getter, OCD man and I am the complete opposite. Can you tell whose side of the closet is whose?photo 4 (5) photo 3 (8)

 

 

 

 

 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a completely disorganized, scatterbrain. Sheldon says my favorite phrase is, “Well, it should be…..” because anything I touch usually gets put somewhere, never to be found again. My friends call me Dory, because I forget things within five minutes after being told to me. I often joke about it and try to laugh it off, but the truth is, it’s exhausting, stressful, embarrassing and gives me severe anxiety on a daily basis. I’ve hurt people I love unintentionally by making them think what they’ve said or asked of me has been forgotten and deemed unimportant.  My mind is never calm. At any given moment, I’m thinking or worrying about ten different things at once and never  finish or accomplish any of them.  I’m sure I have ADD, but according to the doctor, only children are diagnosed, so I basically have to just deal with it. Gingko Biloba doesn’t help at all. Believe me, I’ve tried it. I want to be organized, I really do. I try making lists, then I forget what I’m supposed to put on those lists, and if by some miracle I actually do remember to write them down, I forget to check the list, or of course- I lose it.

I am a Zumba® Fitness and REFIT® Revolution Instructor. It has been the most amazing experience of my life, besides getting married and having children. It is the only time I truly relax and let go of my self inflicted stress. For the first time in my life, I also  feel like what I do is important and makes a positive impact on other people instead of frustrating them. I hardly make any money at all, but there is a greater purpose in what I do. I have had people tell me they are actually enjoying exercise, they can workout with both their moms and daughters and have fun, no matter what physical abilities they have. People have lost weight, gone off diabetic, blood pressure and depression medication, children are no longer being made fun of for not keeping up in PE, but instead are now winning races because they’ve been improving their cardio, attending my classes. The testimonials are incredible and humbling. It has been so rewarding, but has also been a bit overwhelming at times. I can’t turn my brain off and I’ve let it all consume me. I am always going over choreography in my head, watching DVDs, trying to learn new routines, planning fundraisers, answering questions, worrying about forgetting what I’ve learned, scared I’ll freeze on stage and look like a fool, making sure I get the house cleaned in between classes, figuring out what to make and have ready for dinner before I have to teach my evening classes and basically just trying to find balance between family and teaching. Sometimes, I want to throw my iPhone away and go back to my old, reliable Razor. Life before the Facebook and the internet was so peaceful.

I’m currently reading, “52 Weeks to an Organized Life” and I’m really hoping it helps. It’s April and I’m still working on what should’ve been done the first week in January, but that’s beside the point. Baby steps, I suppose. I cleaned up my side of the closet and for the first time ever, I made a to-do list and stuck to it, completing everything I had put on it. This is what happens when an ADD person actually focuses on cleaning out something. A tornado hits, or so it appears.photo 2 (8)

I am calling myself out now and will continue to update my progress on change. I am asking for help and tips from any of my readers and I’m making a public apology to anyone who I’ve upset or hurt by forgetting a birthday, not returning calls, emails or texts, errands I should’ve done, appointments I’ve failed to show up to, or basically just been in my crazy world and have left you on the sidelines. It wasn’t intentional and I hope you can forgive me. “I’m a change in the making.”

Beignets, Bourbon Street and the Beauty of New Orleans

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I’ve been itching to get out of Pensacola and do something different before the kids’ Spring Break was over, so today we took an impromptu road trip to New Orleans. Translation: Get everyone up at the crack of dawn to drive three hours for breakfast with their visiting grandparents. They were super excited. <insert sarcasm>

Since we moved to this area almost three years ago, this made our fourth trip over there. There is just something about the city that always makes me excited to return and I’m not sure what it is. It is full of rich history, unbelievable food, music on every street corner, tons of tiny shops tucked away in ancient buildings, charming beauty, joyfulness, sadness and the entire city looks like it needs a good pressure wash while bringing out the total germaphobe in me that normally isn’t there. Anyone who has visited before, will agree that there is a distinct….aroma. It’s similar to the streets of New York. Not very pleasant, but definitely distinct. It’s hard to explain, but seems to be a mixture of the delicious food from all of the local restaurants, flowers from the balconies above, garbage in the alleys, urine from the drunk tourists on Bourbon Street and the soap/bleach mixture that is used to clean it all up in the mornings.

photo 2 (6)Mardi Gras was in full force about two weeks ago and everywhere we looked today, there were remnants of the crazy parties that went on. Most of my adult life, I have wanted to be there on Fat Tuesday to experience it in person. Now that I’ve been there on a normal weekend and have seen the insanity that goes on, I’m good with just seeing the aftermath. I’m not sure if that makes me just sound old or smart, but whatever. My kids didn’t find it quite as interesting as I did to look up in all of the trees and see them covered in beads, feather boas hanging from the phone lines or see more strands of beads laying on the roof of a VooDoo store. I thought it was cool. Those who know me know that I’m easily amused though.

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The highlight of every New Orleans trip, for me, has always been the food. Each time, I try something new. Today, I tried Bananas Foster French Toast with Praline Pecans. There really are no adjectives to describe it, however-if there is a Heaven and breakfast is  served, I’m willing to bet this is on the menu. WOW. Unfortunately, the restaurant we ate at had horrible service, was terribly overpriced and everyone was upset because their food all came out stone cold. I quietly enjoyed every bite of the deliciousness on my plate.

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My daughter is a very picky eater. If it’s not chicken, macaroni, mashed potatoes or 98% sugar, chances are, she won’t eat it. She’d had her heart set on the famous beignets from Cafe DuMonde, so after I’d made a nice long, yet calm complaint to the manager and scored a free lunch, we made our way over towards Jackson Square. For those who don’t know what a beignet is, it’s basically a piece of fried dough, covered in a mountain of powdered sugar. I really haven’t understood the obsession with them. They taste like a fluffy doughnut, and I personally prefer a warm Krispy Kreme over them, but it’s a tradition to eat one when in NOLA, so we do. Today, the line was ridiculous, and none of us were feeling overly patient, so we decided to go against our usual plan and try the competitor down the block. The New Orleans Beignets and Coffee. I know there will be hundreds of locals ready to stone me, but I actually liked their beignets better than Cafe DuMonde. (The horror!) These were more thin, croissant-like pastries, covered in sugar. This will be my new must have.

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The rest of our day was spent walking around the French Quarter, listening to jazz bands playing for the crowds, looking at memorabilia in the new Hard Rock Cafe (FYI-Frank Sinatra had surprisingly tiny feet) walking down Bourbon Street and wandering into either a bed and breakfast or possibly someone’s house to use the restroom. We weren’t really sure after being there about five minutes so we hurried to leave before we got busted.  I also found it funny that the Voodoo shoppes all had signs outside saying, “Warning! Absolutely NO pictures allowed!” Really? What were they going to do if I took one? Curse me?

I tried convincing the kids to walk with me and look at the historical cemetery, but they weren’t having it. They thought it was too sad and morbid, and maybe it is to some people, but I just think it’s cool that these beautiful mausoleums carved with nothing but hammers and chisels hundreds of years ago have lasted this long, even through Katrina. I think that’s one of the things I find so interesting about the city. The buildings are so old, they look dirty and worn but still beautiful. The architecture is amazing. They’ve been through so much and they’re all still standing strong. Some have visible water lines from the storm, some even have trees and grass growing out of the rooftops, but they’re still there. Even with the funky smell, New Orleans is fascinating to me and I’m already wanting to go back, even if nothing happened at every building in 1897.

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The One about the Pensacola Double Bridge and Disney Princess Half Marathon

 As I sit here tonight, some of my friends are preparing to participate in a half marathon tomorrow morning. I’m sure they are nervous, excited and wondering if they have it in them to complete all 13 miles. I’ll be there at the finish line, cheering them across.  Last weekend, some other friends pushed themselves farther than they’d ever gone and completed the Double Bridge 15K, here in Pensacola. I was screaming and yelling as each one came around that last corner, with tears in my eyes. Tears of pride, because I’ve grown close to them and I know their stories of both successes and failures. Tears of joy to see the happiness and accomplishment on their faces. Tears of sadness, because I miss that feeling so very badly.

A few years ago, I was a runner. A very slow runner, but a runner nonetheless. I had found an article about the Disney Princess Half Marathon and decided one day, that I was going to do it. I trained and found that even though I wasn’t great at it and certainly wasn’t fast, I absolutely loved it. My brain is always running a mile a minute, in 50 different directions and I can’t ever seem to slow it down. Running was my time to be on my own, think about things that needed focus or not even think at all and just zone out with my headphones. The 5Ks I did in preparation were so much fun. You can not explain the atmosphere of a race until you experience it. Everyone is so happy and excited. There’s always that one person you automatically race in your head and try to beat to the finish line. I have an entire collection of race tshirts on a shelf, that I’ll probably never wear again, but that’s ok. I earned them. 

As preparation for the Princess Half, I decided to try the Double Bridge and prove to myself that I could run 9 miles nonstop and not get picked up by the bus. That race was the hardest thing I’d ever done physically, besides giving birth to my children. At mile 8, after I was already exhausted, we all came to the second bridge that looked as big as the Sunshine Skyway at that point. I felt like I was in slow motion and running through jell-o, trying to get across. Sheldon had run the 5K and finished already, so when I came down off the bridge, ready to turn the final corner, he was there waiting, with a bottle of water. He gave it to me, grabbed my hand and we ran across the finish line together. I will never forget that moment, as long as I live. I had a goal and I completed it. The only time I’d ever done that before was because of a bet. Sheldon and his friend told me I didn’t have it in me to complete 90 days of P90X because I’d never stuck with anything in the past. It was harsh, but they were right. It was 11:45pm sometimes, but I pushed play and did it, proving them both wrong in the end. By completing the Double Bridge, I had nobody to prove anything to but myself, and it felt great when I finally did. 

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Two weeks after the Double Bridge, I was at the start line of the Disney Princess Half Marathon. I was so scared, I thought I might throw up my energy bar. The gun went off, fireworks exploded and 20,000 people of all shapes and sizes, took off. It was the most amazing feeling I’d ever had. At mile 6, I came around the corner and was on Main Street, in the Magic Kingdom. I looked ahead, saw Cinderella’s Castle and immediately started crying. All of the memories I held of that place came rushing at me at once. Memories of my childhood, of my teen years, of my children growing up, Christmases spent there after my parents split, Christmases spent after we’d been in Alaska and finally came home, all of it. There I was, in that moment, running a half marathon right through the castle. It was hard to believe.

I reached mile 10 and my body hit a wall. I didn’t think I could take another step. I didn’t WANT to take another step. When completing an extreme physical challenge, the hardest part isn’t physical at all. It is truly getting past the mental blocks of wanting to quit, feelings of past failures, thinking they’ll happen again and wanting to say, “I can’t.” Something clicked as I was walking and I realized that I didn’t train for all of this time, just to walk to the finish line. My goal when I started was to run as much of it as I could, complete it and not be last. I sucked it up, and ran through EPCOT, out of the gate, grabbed Sheldon’s hand and we completed a 13.1 mile race together. I cried so hard. I mean-ugly cried and it was beautiful. 

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Right before the races, I’d started having pain behind my knee that wouldn’t go away. It got worse as the months went on and physical therapy, cortisone shots, rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, nothing helped. It still stayed swollen as a grapefruit. My doctor decided to go in and do exploratory surgery. He told me it would just be a scope and clean things up since nothing had shown up in the MRI. When I woke up, I was told I’d never run again. My cartilage was so worn away, my knee cap had rubbed away part of the thigh bone. I was absolutely devastated. I cried every day for over a week. A year and a half later, I still cry when I think about it too much. Walking, swimming and teaching dance fitness classes are all I’m allowed to do for the rest of my life. Watching 80 year old men run to that finish line last week just about killed me. I usually try to think positive, but all I could think was, “How can he be able to run 9 miles and I can’t even do 1? Not fair.” 

There’s always going to be someone who has it a lot worse than I do. That’s what keeps me in check and what I have to remember. Some people can’t walk, let alone run. That’s what brings me out of my pity party. I teach classes now and that makes me happy. It brought me out of a very dark place a year ago. I’ve seen people go from never stepping foot in a group fitness class, to getting licensed to teach because of me. People who have never liked to exercise in their lives now go through withdrawal if they can’t sweat for a day and a half. It is amazing and I am so grateful because that is what keeps me going. I’ve never had the chance to make a positive impact on the world. I don’t have a degree, I don’t have a high paying, important job, my kids are almost grown and it gives me purpose again.

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Thank you to anyone reading this, who has been part of this journey and has helped me recover. Congratulations to everyone who has set out to accomplish a goal and not given up. I am so proud of you and honored to be along for the ride.

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Frozen in Florida: Pensacola Ice Storm 2014

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Full on panic mixed with the excitement of a Kindergartner is what happens when the residents of Pensacola, Florida are told there is snow in the forecast for the first time in over twenty years. For a solid week, every conversation, every post on Facebook, every tweet on Twitter included making a snowman, snow angels or upcoming plans to pelt someone with a snowball. After growing up in the Fort Lauderdale area,  then being transplanted to Fairbanks, Alaska with the Air Force, I’ve seen all the snow I’d ever want or need to see. I do have to admit though, watching everyone else’s excitement had me hoping to see at least a  few flurries. I really didn’t believe it was going to come to pass. This area of Florida is famous for weather predictions changing by the hour. The day before the storm hit, we were notified that school would be cancelled and the kids would have two snow days off. Snow days. In Florida. Unreal. Shelves began to empty fast. Gas station lines increased like a category 4 hurricane was on its way and we were doomed. For the record, hurricane parties are way more entertaining than frozen tundra parties but I digress…

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We waited…and waited….Rain finally started and soon after that came  the sleet. Lots of sleet. I sat watching out the window, wondering when the snow would fall. It was certainly cold enough. There’s not much this beach bum likes less than being both cold AND wet. All day long, ice hit my windows. Icicles began to form, but no snow. Reports that bridges were iced over and being shut down came in. A train carrying acid derailed, 17 cars were involved in a pile up. Ice and snow= disaster in the South. People have a difficult time driving in the rain as it is. Ice just makes it unbearable. Wind picked up and at 2am, it finally started to snow. Huge, beautiful snowflakes came down fast. In ten minutes, it was over. Sleet again.

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photo 2 When we opened the front door this morning, it was amazing. I’ve lived in Alaska and Maryland and have never witnessed anything quite like it. Everything in sight was completely encased in a layer of ice. Leaves, cars, shoes, grills, tables, chairs, mailboxes, street signs, everything. I looked down the street and giggled when I saw all of my neighbors trying to walk on the slick road, kind of like me attempting  to wear heels with the grace of a newborn calf. It was so cold, that within 5 minutes, everyone was back inside. So much for a snow day. We just don’t do this kind of weather. Take it back, snowbirds! Another deep freeze is expected tonight and school has been cancelled again. Temperatures are expected to be back to normal, in the 70s the day after tomorrow. That’s more like it. Pass the sunscreen and flip flops.

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Is it summer yet?

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Meatloaf Cupcakes: A Picky Eater’s Favorite

542074_10200261882531245_721452987_nMy children and husband are my life and I love them with all of my heart, however- they have got to be the pickiest eaters on the planet.  They are picky about different things too, so what two of them like, the other won’t eat and vice versa. It makes my cooking very difficult sometimes. No matter what I make, someone is eating a sandwich, heating up a baked potato or chowing down on some ramen. This recipe happens to be a fluke thing I threw together and it’s a hit with all of them. Thank you, Grey’s Anatomy. While watching an episode of Callie’s and Arizona’s ramblings, one of them mentioned something about Meatloaf Cupcakes. It was meant as a joke, but the rest of the episode I sat thinking about how I could make them and came up with these little family favorite gems.

I’m sure if I did a search on Pinterest, five hundred recipes, better tasting and better looking than mine would pop up, but once I log in to the Black Hole that is Pinterest, I blink and three hours have gone by, so I try not to. I’ll just stick with these.  I come from a long line of beautiful, southern women who “throw in a pinch of this and a dash of that, about a cup or so of flour” and so on.

When my son first walked in the kitchen and asked what I was making, his reaction was, “GROSS! That’s disgusting!” He devoured six of them about thirty minutes later.

Ingredients for “cake”:

  • Muffin Tin (regular size)
  • 2lb. Lean Ground Beef (browned/seasoned to taste)
  • Half Yellow Onion, chopped fine (I buy the ones in bags)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Clove minced or tsp minced garlic
  • 1 1/2-2 C Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
  • 1 pkg. McCormick Brown Gravy Mix

Mix all ingredients together. This gets messy, but you need to use your hands to blend it all well. Scoop into muffin tin and flatten. Bake at 350 for approx 35-45 min. Drain grease, if needed, about halfway through.

Ingredients for “frosting”

  • Idaho or Red Potatoes (peeled and diced) Whichever you prefer for mashed potatoes Approx. 5-7 Idaho, 10-12 Red depends on the size and how many people you’re feeding.
  • Tblsp Butter
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Milk

Boil potatoes until they are ready to mash, then drain. Using hand mixer or Kitchen Aid mixer, blend with butter, S & P. Start adding milk little by little until they are a smooth, but not runny consistency. Increase speed and whip until they look like frosting. Spoon into a ziploc bag and seal. Snip off one corner of the bag, then pipe “frosting” on as desired.

Drizzle on some brown gravy for “caramel topping” and dust with paprika for the “sprinkles”. Have fun with it and enjoy!

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A Tourist’s Day In Roatan Honduras

I absolutely love to travel. I didn’t realize how much until March of 2013, when I received possibly the greatest birthday present of my life. Due to work schedule issues, my in laws couldn’t go on the 7 day cruise they’d paid for and had found out two weeks before it was set to sail. Thanks to a technicality, we were able to transfer the reservations and celebrate my 37th birthday in Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. It was a very eye-opening experience that I won’t ever forget.

Out of all of the ports, Roatan was by far, our favorite. We had no itinerary, no excursion booked and no idea what we were in for once we got there. I know it’s terrible, but the only vision I had in my head was that it would be just like an episode of 21 Jump Street I’d seen when I was a teenager. Drug lords with machine guns everywhere. I knew that’s not how it would really be if a cruise line brought tourists there, but it’s truly all I could picture.
Arriving in Port of Roatan
I was, of course, completely wrong. We woke up to crystal blue water, beautiful, green scenery and one of the songs that I played in my Z classes. That had to be a sign it was going to be a good day. We got off of the ship and immediately saw a vendor sign that said Coke products were sold there. Being from Atlanta, my husband refuses to drink Pepsi, which is all that is served on the ship. He practically ran to the counter and was amused that his beloved Diet Coke, is called Coke Light in Central America. After buying three to drink throughout the day, we walked to the gate, separating the cruise port from town. My husband is lovingly referred to as Sheldon, by people who know him personally. He has the same OCD, anti-social habits and tendencies as a certain character from a very popular sitcom. Shocking to me, he immediately started talking to some man standing by a bunch of taxis. After a few minutes, they started walking and talking. I quickly followed, waving like a lunatic, trying to get his attention. ¨Where are we going? Who is that?¨ He came back to tell me that his name was Michael and he was a tour guide who was going to take us shopping. Some stranger was going to walk two Americans around an island in Central America. Cue panic attack. At that very moment, I just knew our fate was that we were going to die in a foreign country and nobody would ever find out how. Though I love my dad, he’s no angry Liam Neeson. It did not help that the week before, I’d heard a story on the radio about two people getting kidnapped by a taxi driver in Jamaica. Of course, that’s the scenario I had playing out in my head. Soon, they turned down a small alley. ¨This is it,¨ I thought. Wrong again. He brought us exactly where he said would-his sister’s gift shop, called ¨Yaba Ding Ding.¨ No, I’m not making that up. The name of the shop refers to what the islanders call ancient Mayan pottery and artifacts. I wish there was a way I could fit that term into everyday language because it just makes me smile.
Coke Light
After some souvenir shopping, we walked around the town until we came to the one school on the island. I started to take a picture from across the street and he asked if we wanted to go inside and see it. ¨Are you sure we’re allowed to do that?” He laughed and couldn’t believe it wasn’t a normal thing in America, to just walk in a school and take pictures. We walked through the door and instantly felt like celebrities. The children were all in the their classrooms, but because there were no windows or doors, they saw us and were all laughing, waving and shouting, ¨Hi!¨ One of the teachers welcomed us into a room and the children immediately posed for a picture. I couldn’t believe the difference in cultures at that moment. It gave me a whole range of mixed emotions. Knowing that these children hardly had anything and were so happy. No fear of strangers or need to have it. Thinking that here in America, our children have everything they want or need and there are metal detectors in the doorways. We have to show driver’s licenses just to pick our kids up from school because people are sick and crazy. As we walked out of the building, I had tears in my eyes. We decided that someday, we’d love to come back on a mission trip and bring supplies to those kids. We will. I am sure of it.
599297_10200824750922603_1107650458_n School in Roatan
After walking around the town some more, Michael asked if we wanted to see his house. I thought he was joking. Before we really even had a chance to respond, he started walking down another alley. Once again, my freaked out, ignorant, too much tv and movie watching  brain was sent into overdrive. I just knew someone was going to jump out of a corner, blindfold us and take us into some dark corner of the island. Wrong again. He brought us to a small hut at the end of the alley, almost on a pier leading out to the water. No glass windows, no wooden doors. He smiled as he pulled back the blanket covering the doorway and said, “You are welcome to my home.” We leaned in to look around. A couch, bed, dresser, small antenna tv and a portable stove were all that furnished this tiny house. He was so proud of his home and the beautiful view that he and his wife enjoyed. I’ve never felt more humbled in my entire life. Tears came to my eyes, once again. Americans have more than they know what to do with and it’s still not enough. He was honored to show us what very little he had and we were the ones who left feeling honored.
View from Michael's House
Sheldon and I tend to eat at the same handful of restaurants and order the same meals at each one. We decided before we left, that we would make the most of the trip and try some new things. Purposefully go out of our comfort zone. Our next stop made us want to rethink that decision. Michael had proved to me that he wasn’t out to take advantage of naive tourists or lead us into a trap of any kind, so I decided to stop worrying and enjoy the rest of our tour. We told him we were getting hungry, so he told us he knew the perfect place. We walked into a small restaurant, that was basically a shack, owned by his aunt. He told us we would be trying the locals’ favorite meal on the island and promised that we would enjoy it so much, we’d ask for more. A few minutes later, his aunt brought us our plate. It smelled really good and looked like shredded chicken with yellow rice. He smiled and said, “This is “Island Chicken.” It’s iguana.” Yes, You read that correctly-iguana. Overgrown lizard. My stomach turned and thought I was going to lose my buffet breakfast from earlier that morning.We both looked at each other and knew if we thought about it too much, we’d lose our nerve. We took a big breath and tasted it. It wasn’t bad. Really did taste like chicken. The thought of what we were eating was just too much for Sheldon, so after one bite, he was finished. I ate about three more until I bit into a piece of tough skin. That was it, I was done too. We knew there would be plenty to eat when we got back on the ship, so we politely asked for more Coke Light to wash it down and moved on, without asking for more.
Iguana
Michael brought us back to the gate and we said our goodbyes. He was truly a kind and happy man and so glad my crazy husband let down his walls long enough to speak to him. Had that not happened, we’d have walked in and out of a few shops, searched for the only wifi available on the island and not had half the experience we did. We didn’t want to end our day yet, so we made a deal with a scooter rental vendor and hopped on one. We spent the rest of the day riding around the rest of the island we hadn’t seen yet. Just as we’d started the day, we had no idea where were going. All we knew was that we were on an island, so we hoped eventually, we’d end up back at the port on time and before we ran out of gas.
Sheldon drove while I rode on the back, enjoying the scenery. We came to a group of what looked like farm houses and I naively said, “Wow. What is that smell? Someone must be barbecuing.”  He laughed and said, “Not unless someone is barbecuing pot and a lot of it.”  Obviously there are some things I have not experienced in my 37 years on Earth.
mountain
We continued our ride up into the mountains and I tried to take every moment in, thinking of how lucky we were to be there. So many people in my family have never left the state of Florida, let alone the country, yet there we were, riding a scooter down the side of a mountain in Honduras. It was truly hard to believe. Every picture I’d seen of the Caribbean seemed to have been taken there. Children walking with baskets of fruit on their heads, stunning blue water that was so clear, it didn’t look real. Each person we saw had a bright, beautiful smile on his or her face. Not a care in the world. All of the houses were brightly colored shades of pinks, blues, greens and oranges, palm and banana trees everywhere I looked. So many, it was like a jungle. I felt no fear, no more worries about “what ifs.” Pure joy and happiness. We decided we’d better turn around so we wouldn’t miss the boat, but turned down a side road that looked like it led to a town. To our surprise, we’d driven around the entire island and ended up right down the street from where we’d been walking earlier. We turned in our scooter and sadly, got back on the ship. No plans, no itinerary, yet one of the best days of our lives.