How I Survived My Son’s Freshman Year in College

And just like that….

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9 months have come and gone – and it’s time to move my B out of his freshman dorm. I wish you could see me now, typing and shaking my head in total disbelief! I just don’t know where the time went?

If you followed my journey through his senior year in high school, you know I wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Honestly – I wrote so much I felt like I wasn’t just wearing my heart on my sleeve – but vomiting my every thought and feeling out into the world.  I may have gone to the other extreme this year, by writing very little about B’s freshman year.  But here we are, 9 months later – and I’m happy to announce that I SURVIVED!

If you read no further – I can leave you with the fact that this life changing transition IS survivable.  It’s not an overnight thing.  It’s a long, slow transition.  And while I can’t say I’ve gotten used to B not being home, I think I’ve learned to accept it.  Looking back, there were a few key things that helped me survive this past year…

How I Survived My Son’s Freshman Year in College

 

Establish communication boundaries & expectations

About a week before B left for school I asked him to have a conversation with me about communicating while he was away at school. Then I burst into tears. Not an uncommon reaction for me at that time! I wanted to hear his thoughts on how often he thought he’d like to be in communication with me, and I of course needed to share with him what my expectations were.

I was beyond grateful when he volunteered the idea of talking on the phone once a week, since that completely matched my desire. When it came to texting, he only asked that I not blow him up (aka – text constantly, repeatedly and non stop). That was probably a smart request on his part, since I could have easily worn the skin on my thumb pads from over texting those first few days (weeks and months!).

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I told B that texting him would be a way for me to reach out when I was thinking of him (aka – missing him desperately!), and that it would actually help me move on in the moment, versus dwelling in my sadness.   So we came to the agreement that if my text contained a question, I would expect a response. But if I was just touching base, sharing a thought or letting him know I was thinking of him, he wasn’t required to reply (although he usually did anyway – because he’s just that kind of guy!).

Every family is different. Our plan may not fit you and your family. But I guarantee that having the conversation ahead of time, setting rules, boundaries and expectations that work for your relationship, will ease so much of the transition.

Be patient and listen

The first few weeks (and months) of B’s freshman year I felt like an addict in need of my drug.  Our planned talk day was Monday.  So on Saturdays, I was counting the hours until we spoke again. By the time I heard his deep voice say “Hi Mom”, my need for feeling connected had turned into this unbearable sense of urgency.  I would bombard him with questions, but never really give him enough time to answer fully, before I threw the next question at him.  My excitement (and need) for information caused me to break all the relationship rules I had previously lived by.

The conversations felt awkward at times. Probably because we needed to transition from a face to face relationship to a long distance phone relationship.  Without the visual cues we’ve come to rely on, we have to relearn how to have a conversation by phone.  Moments of silence go unnoticed when you are face to face. But on the phone, those quiet gaps are so loud!

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I’ve learned to be quiet and patient through those gaps. In fact – I’ve discovered that the magic happens on the other side of that silence.  As I stopped talking (duct tape helps), I found that B began to open up and share more, which in turn resulted in the ebb and flow of a real conversation versus the question and answer sessions of those first few calls.

With patience, comes the ability to really listen. When I say “listen”, I don’t mean to use your ears to hear their voice, nor do I mean to simply not talk.  What I mean is, LISTEN to the depth of what they are really saying, the emotions they are feeling and the meaning behind their words.

I didn’t just survive B’s freshman year this way – I think the two of us thrived in our communication skills and our relationship as a whole.

Learn how to parent – an adult child

There was a 48 hour time frame in August between when we arrived in Boulder as a family and when we departed as a 3-some, leaving B to his new life. It was during this time that I first began to experience this phenomena of needing to relearn how to parent…an adult child.  My mothering instincts wanted to take over; to plan, schedule, organize and control all the details of this physical transition. But I pulled back, not wanting to embarrass him.

However, each time I’ve been with B this year, I find myself parenting him like he was a child. I reminded him daily to take his antibiotic when he had strep throat over the holidays. I reviewed his packing list for our ski trip, making sure he had all the necessities. I even found myself sharing details of his shell fish allergy with a waitress, while he sat right next to me. When she left the table, he actually turned to me and said  (with a smile on his face)“I can order for myself Mom”.

Uugghh – stab me in the heart!

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Parenting an adult child is an art, and I feel like I’m coloring outside the lines with chunky crayons. We will always be our children’s parents. But the job of parenting transitions over time. We don’t communicate with a 2 year old the same way we do with a 9 year old.   An 11 year old needs different boundaries and conversations than a 16 year old. While our adult-child grows and develops, so must we, in our parenting. I know I’m right in the middle of this long transition.  I don’t think I will ever stop parenting – but perhaps I need to learn to stop mothering, at least unsolicited mothering.

You might have a fear – but it’s not reality

Fear can be paralyzing!  The more we think about the thing that scares us, the bigger the fear grows and the more power it has.  When B was a toddler, I was afraid he might choke on small toys, so I baby proofed the house. When he was 8, I was afraid he might get hurt riding his bike, so I made him wear a helmet and limited where he could ride. When he was 13, I was afraid he might get mixed up in the wrong crowd and make bad choices, so as his circle of friends grew, I made a point to meet each of them, as well as their parents. When he was 16, I was afraid of all that could go wrong with him being a new driver on the road.  So I set non-negotiable driving rules regarding texting, speeding, curfew and more.

The reality is that I can no longer control the situation in an effort to both protect him and ease my fears. There have been times during these past 9 months when the fear has risen like spit-up in my throat.  I hope and pray that I have done everything possible to raise him to make the right choices in his life. But I was a 19 year old college student once…that did a lot of things that would scare many parents.

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I survived my moments of fear this past year by acknowledging that I HAD my fear, but that it wasn’t a reality – and as simple as it sounds, just accepting that I had absolutely no control in the matter.  That instantly took me to a place of peace.  The most challenging part has been trying not to act on or make decisions from a place of fear.

So here I sit, 9 months later…

His dorm room has been packed and put into storage.  His freshman year has come to a close.  I might have just survived it – but thankfully B thrived in it!  Now, I am just hours from boarding a plane home…without him!

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While I fly back to Virginia, he will be heading to Argentina for 3 weeks of education, adventure and fun!  The fear is choking me.  My head knows how freaking amazing this opportunity is, but the mama bear in me (my heart) wants him to stay here, safe on U.S. soil.  I had to make the choice to not allow my fears to impede him living his most awesome life.

I survived his freshman year of college – I can survive 3 weeks of travel abroad.  It may not be a pretty 3 weeks – but I’m going to take all that I learned this year and put it into practice.

with Gratitude, Joy & Love

Love Letter to My Dad

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Dear Dad,

I’m sitting down to write you a love letter.  I’m sure that sounds strange, but let me explain.  LOVE is my word for this year, it’s the word that will give my life focus and direction for the next 349 days.  I can’t say I chose it, because I didn’t.  It chose me, for a few reasons I understand, and many more that I’m sure I’ll discover as the year unfolds.

So I’m thinking about love, wondering about love, and talking about love.  I’m feeling love, giving love, receiving love.  I’m seeing love, testing love, immersing myself in the meaning of this word love.  In so doing, I’m discovering that it’s everywhere.  I can’t escape it, even if (and when) I want to!

In the grocery store today I saw this most adorable, plush and cuddly stuffed tiger.  He’s got these long dangling arms with velcro on the paws, intended to wrap around your neck and give you a hug.  As much as you LOVE tigers, I’m sure you don’t need one more stuffed feline in your house.  So I walked past him twice,  but just couldn’t resist the urge to pick him up and give him a big squeeze before I added him to my grocery cart!

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The grocery store clerk casually tossed him into the bag with the bread, not realizing that she was being way too rough with my inanimate symbol of you.  He was the first thing I unpacked when I finally carried the last load of groceries in from my car.

This silly little tiger evoked an overwhelming feeling of love for you.  Standing in my pantry unpacking groceries, the thought hit me, do you know how much I love you?

I mean really know!  Not just the “I’m your daughter and I’m supposed to love you” kind of love.  But do you really know, both intellectually and in your heart, the depth of my love for you?

I lost all four of my grandparents suddenly, without an opportunity to say goodbye, without a final hug, without telling them how much I really loved them!

A love letter is not meant to be morbid, but the truth is, regardless of our age, we never know when our final day will be.  The pain of my past, of losing so many that I loved without notice, inspired me to write you this love letter, to tell you NOW, so I know that you know, without question, how much I love you!

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I love you to the moon and back

I love you when I see tigers

I love you as I eat Lay’s potato chips and onion dip…..or a late night bowl of ice cream

I love you when I sit in the same spot on my sofa that you always sit

I love you when I have a hammer in my hand

I love you when I watch the Steelers play

I love you when I think of Grandma

I love you every single time I try something new

I love you when I drink coffee

I love you when I fold the paper grocery store bags with perfection

I love you when I venture into the guest room and see your artwork hanging on the wall

I love you when the boys find a Star Wars movie on tv

I love you when I put my raincoat on

I love you when Ben or Peter speak your name, with a smile on their face

I love you when I hug you, and neither one of us lets go

I love you every day

I love you….

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My love for you is so embedded in my everyday life, I can’t count how many times a day you cross my mind and I am reminded that I love you.

My love for you is pure!  For me, there is nothing unfinished, nothing incomplete in our relationship.  You are simply easy to love and so I do, with all my heart and soul!

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

A Conversation With My Soul

Sometimes I find it so challenging to just sit and write.  What will I write about?  Why will I write?  Who will I write for?  Driven by accomplishments, validated by the outcome, defined by my results – that is who I have been for as long as I can remember.  The intellectual me.  The perfectionist me.  The child me.  The not good enough me.

There is this pull, like a toddler grabbing on her mom’s skirt, this subtle tugging, somewhere deep inside.

What is that?

It’s a feeling, but not an emotion.

It’s an unsettling, yet everything appears to be fine.

It is my soul.  With the patience of a saint, gently tugging at my heartstrings, until I stop, long enough to notice it begging for my attention.

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But how long will this take?  Because I really don’t have any time for this.  I don’t have extra time.  I don’t have free time.   I don’t have time to sit around waiting for you.

Patience

Patience and quiet

Patience, quiet and faith

If our soul is the part of us that is true and pure, that is all knowing, that comes from love, that desires nothing other than for us to fulfill our purpose – why is it not jumping up and down, waving its arms in our face, screaming in our ear all the answers that we seek?

Why isn’t it leaving us a list of directions on the kitchen counter, like a recipe for life?

Why doesn’t it fly a banner high in the sky off the back of an airplane, with instructions?

Why does it seem to play this cat and mouse game with us, making us work so hard to discover all that it knows?

Because we verbally vomit on our souls.  Displaying the selfishness of a one sided conversation.  We beg and plead for the answer.  But we don’t stop, we never stop long enough to give our soul the chance to have a conversation, not just listen to our monologue.

Patience.  Patience to learn and grow, search and discover, fail and succeed.  Patience.

Quiet.  Quiet because it speaks at a different frequency than our ears can hear.  We have to learn to listen with all our senses.  Quiet.

Faith.  Faith that with patience and quiet, we will receive the guidance, the direction, the message that our soul is meant to deliver to us.

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My soul is both weary and ready.  Weary of battling the intellectual me, the perfectionist me, the child me, the not good enough me.  Ready for me to seek the quiet, allow the quiet, embrace the quiet.  Ready to give me all the answers I have been searching for, if only I’d listen and have faith.

My heart flutters.  It’s that feeling from inside, like that tugging of the heartstrings I’ve grown so accustomed to.  But this time it’s different.  I can feel my soul dancing on my heart….and I know we are having a conversation.

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

 

The Gift of Time

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My aunt Barb and I have an extraordinary relationship.  She was just 16 years old when I was born, but she immediately began to cultivate our bond.

As a toddler, she would take me to the park, and when strangers would comment on “her child”, she would respond as though she was my mom and I her daughter.

Although we lived states apart, my aunt’s words and actions showed me how much she cared for me.  She always made me feel special and adored.  Best of all, her love was unconditional.

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Our relationship evolved over the years.  What I am most grateful for is that my aunt allowed our adult – child relationship to completely transition into a peer based friendship.  We frequently refer to each other as a “sister – friend – mother – daughter”, because our relationship fulfills so many roles for both of us.

As Barb began having children of her own, her commitment to parenthood took priority, as it should.  Our love for each other never faltered.  But our ability to finish a conversation, let alone spend quality time together, had diminished greatly!  Once I gave birth to my first child, and we were both moms raising children, our inability to complete a sentence at times became almost comical.

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With our birthdays being just 12 days apart, every fall we would both pose the annual question “What do you want for your birthday?”.  But in 1996 my answer to her birthday inquiry was unexpected and definitely life changing.

I didn’t need or want any material items.  My house was filled with more sweaters, jewelry, books and trinkets than I could possibly use or fully appreciate.  This time, when she asked me what I wanted for my birthday, my response was TIME.  All I wanted was uninterrupted time with her.  Time to finish a conversation, time to eat a meal together, time to laugh, time to put each other first, time away from our responsibilities of mommy-hood.

I wanted to give her the gift of my time….and I wanted to receive the gift of her time!

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She left her 8 and 11 year old daughters with her husband, and I left my 6 month old son with my guy, and off we went for 24 hours of uninterrupted bliss!

We talked incessantly.  We ate excessive amounts of chocolate.  We laughed until we snorted, and tears rolled down our legs.  We shared secrets.  We drank mimosas, because we could.  We skipped down the street holding hands.  We stayed up way past sunset, and slept well after the sun rose.  We lived those 24 hours to their fullest.  When we parted, with tears in both our eyes, we vowed to do it again next year.

Every fall since then, we have stayed loyal to our commitment to share the gift of time with each other.

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We’ve met at the beach, in the city, and on the mountains.  We’ve celebrated in the beating sun, the pouring rain and the whipping wind.  We’ve spent time shopping, laying on the beach, getting pedicures and massages, and hiking through the woods.  We’ve eaten home cooked concoctions and dined out at 5-star restaurants.  We’ve napped in the middle of the day, and watched movies well past the middle of the night.  We’ve talked about the frivolous as well as how to solve world peace.  We’ve smiled until our faces hurt and laughed until our belly’s ached.

No matter where we go, or what we do, our birthday celebration is always perfect, because we are together!

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Today begins the 18th year of this most amazing tradition.  There are no surprises.  We both know what this weekend will hold – 48 hours of joy, laughter, soul searching, gratitude, story telling, connecting and massive amounts of unconditional love.

The gift of time is priceless!  Whether it’s a 30 minute phone call, a 2 hour lunch, a 6 hour evening out, or a weekend together….giving the gift of your time to someone that matters to you, is the best gift you can give, both them and yourself!

Happy Birthday Barb!  xoxo

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with Joy & Gratitude,

Take Nothing for Granted!

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I used to be a not right nowin a minutesoonmaybe later, kind of mom.

Being a mom is hard work.

Laundry, bills, grocery shopping, extra curricular activities, cleaning, cooking….

Blah, blah, blah!!!

It IS hard work.  But none of the stuff we do is more important than the time we can spend with our children.  Every time I said not right now or maybe later (which was a lot!), the message I was sending my boys was “you are not as important as the things I am doing”.

Soon was a regular response I relied on, because it was non-committal.  It always bought me time.  One day my son wised up and asked me “Mom, when is soon?”  Wise words from a 6 year old, but unfortunately they did not startle me out of my mommy zombie land!

Putting my children to bed was when I failed most as a mother.

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Every night I was given the gift of bedtime; a time to cuddle, talk about the day, gently tickle their back, sing a soft lullaby, or just lay quietly together holding hands.  It’s that special time of day when your presence reassures them that you love them, they matter, they are special, and you’d want to be no where else but right there beside them.

I knew in my heart what was the right thing to do.  But by the end of a long day of parenting, my mind and body were tired, and all I wanted was for them to fall asleep so I could be NOT mommy for a few minutes.  As I tucked them in each night, they asked the million dollar question….”Will you cuddle Mom?”.  It was a risky question, because they never knew which answer they’d get.  Sometimes I would crawl onto their bed with great JOY in my heart….but equally as often I would tell them I was simply too tired to cuddle, when the truth was I was just done being a mom for the day!

There are no do-overs.  We can’t turn back the clock and replay the past.  But life has a way of offering us opportunities to learn big lessons, if we are willing to be students!

My life changed in late February, 2008.

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My younger son was just 2 weeks away from his 9th birthday when he suddenly and unexpectedly began experiencing episodes of labored breathing.  He was in and out of the emergency room on four separate occasions in three days, each time being treated for the symptoms, and released.  Finally, at 9:00 pm on a Saturday night, the emergency room doctor recommended we go to the local children’s hospital.

While being admitted at the Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters, Peter began having one of these mysterious episodes.  His breathing became labored and his complexion went ghostly white.  The worst part was watching the change in his eyes.  They remained opened, but became glazed over.  There was no life in his eyes.  He would look right at you but not respond to any directions or interaction.  He appeared to be awake, yet he wasn’t there.

This was the first and only time any doctor actually witnessed the physical changes we had been describing, and they didn’t like what they were seeing.  The hospital staff rushed him into an ER room, leaving me standing alone in the hallway.  It seemed like an eternity, but within a minute or two the doctor approached me and calmly but urgently recommended immediate intubation to ensure they could assist my little guy with his breathing if the episodes progressed.

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They allowed me in the ER room where I stood at his head, softly whispering in his ear that everything would be all right.  I gently caressed his face and hair while they administered medication to put him to sleep before continuing with the procedure.  Once his eyes closed, they escorted me (because I wouldn’t leave on my own accord) out to the waiting room.  Since my guy was home with our older son, I sat alone trying desperately to keep the fear and the tears under control.

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The next time I laid eyes on my little guy will be emblazoned in my memory forever.  My 85 pound, almost 9 year old, football playing son, was laying in nothing but a diaper on an ICU bed with a tube sticking out of his throat.  His body was there, but the Peter-Pie I knew, was no where to be found.

For over 24 hours he lay like that.  All I wanted to do was crawl into bed with him and hold him.  Sadly, that was not allowed in the ICU.  So I scooted my chair right up to the edge of his bed and leaned my upper body as close to him as I possibly could.

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Time passed so slowly.  I retreated to the safety of my cave and became withdrawn, having little to no contact with family or friends during this time.  It was just me, my thoughts, and my conversations with God.  I prayed, actually I begged and pleaded, for him to give me back my charismatic, joyous, energetic, fun loving, inspirational and wise little boy.  I promised him that if he gave him back to me, I would never ever again take him for granted.  I would never deny him my time, my attention, my love!  I would never again say NO when he asked me to climb into bed with him and cuddle.

After administering every test possible, they couldn’t figure out what had caused the episodes.  The doctors discharged our little guy with a diagnosis of reflux.  It didn’t make sense, but it doesn’t much matter any more.  That was five and a half years ago.  Since leaving the hospital four days after he was admitted, Peter has remained healthy.

God kept up his end of the deal!

So did I!

A few weeks after returning home, while Peter and I were laying in his bed cuddling, I told him how sorry I was for all the times I said “No” when he asked me to cuddle in the past.  I shared with him my conversation with God.  I wanted him to know that I was sorry, and that I learned a BIG lesson.  I made him a double promise….that I would never take his presence in my life for granted, and I would never deny either of us the sweet bedtime ritual of cuddling together.

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Pete – 3 years old

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Pete – 8 1/2 years old

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Pete – 14 years old

He tested me over the years.  If he saw the slightest bit of hesitation, he was quick to remind me of my promise.  I was always grateful for him holding me accountable, because life sometimes gets in the way of our promises.

My little guy started high school this year.  It seems the days of crawling into his bed at night to cuddle have come and gone.  Instead, now he joins me in my bed.  We talk, read or watch television….and sometimes we even sneak in a little cuddle!

I still fight back the tears as I recall the mental anguish and fear I experienced in late February, 2008.  But I regularly choose to relive it, to take myself back to that time and place, so I never, ever forget the lesson I learned.  It was the silver lining in the scariest time of my life.

It gave me perspective…..

It gave me a second chance….

If you are a maybe later kind of mom (wife, friend, sister, daughter), I hope you’ll consider giving that lifestyle up.  There is nothing more important than that time we have with the ones we love.  Take not a second of it for granted!

with Joy & Gratitude,

Living a Yo-Yo Lifestyle

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I have an awesome life! There have been ups and downs, but all in all I have no regrets, because I couldn’t be where I am today without living through the life I’ve lived…..

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….Except for this one part of my existence that has haunted me for over 30 years – my body image, eating habits and overall health and fitness.  I have lived a yo-yo lifestyle since I was a teenager.  I can’t say I’m addicted to food, because by definition an addiction is a “compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance”, and food isn’t habit forming, it is necessary.  Yet food is my drug of choice.  I’m not addicted to the food itself, but the way the food makes me feel when I consume it.

My distorted body image and relationship with food have been the single most detrimental relationship in my entire life, leaving me feeling worthless, humiliated and like a total and complete failure.

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This is uncomfortable!  If I could brush this topic under the rug and avoid writing about it, I would.  But I can’t!  It’s too big, too all-consuming, too powerful….and I know I am not the only one that has or continues to struggle with this internal conflict.  Maybe you self medicate in a different way, maybe you battle a different addiction, maybe you experience the yo-yo syndrome with a different “drug of choice” other than food.  Whether you bury your pain and sorrow in food, alcohol, shopping, social media, drugs, gambling or exercise….you are not alone.

It’s with apprehension that I bare my soul and tell my story.  But I’m doing this with the hope that you can see yourself in my journey, that you can find comfort in knowing you are not alone.  And that together, as we are all Discovering Our Awesomeness, we can overcome our demons and create peace in our lives.

Looking back, I always felt like the BIG girl.  In my black leotard, pink tights and pointe shoes – I felt big.  In a bathing suit – I felt big.  Even in jeans and a sweater – I felt big.  The surprising fact is when I see photographs of my teenage years, I was NOT big.  I wasn’t chubby and I wasn’t overweight.  I was just short and muscular, very “Mary Lou Retton” like.   The complete opposite of what society seemed to value in women – tall and lean.  My negative body image was instilled in me during my teenage years, by comparing myself to other people, both my peers and those that graced the covers of magazines, and allowing my internal dialogue to become my truth.

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1982: age 16 – Junior Prom – size 8

During the fall of my senior year in high school I had a falling out with one of my best friends.  Sadly, it took 6 months before we were able to reunite.  The break in that friendship had a ripple effect that left me feeling empty, sad and alone.  So I found comfort and company in food.  Barbeque potato chips, Hostess Devil Dogs, Butterfingers and Reeses Peanut Butter cups became my new circle of friends – and we met on a very regular basis.

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1983: age 17 – Senior Prom – size 14

When I ate, I felt filled up instead of empty.

When I ate, I found temporary comfort from the pain.

When I ate, I shoved my sadness deep down inside.

In those 6 months of self medicating with food, I gained over 30 pounds.  It was validating, because now I really was the big girl I always felt like!

I arrived at college for my freshman year, all five feet three inches of me, sporting a size 14 in clothes, but a zero on the self confidence scale!  It didn’t help that I was assigned to the only all girls dorm, and it wasn’t even located on the university campus.  Oh yeah, and I really was the biggest girl there!

What sometimes appears to be the worst case scenario, turns out to be exactly what we need!  Had I not been placed in that particular dorm, I would never have met my life long friends – Ronni, Stacey & Sue!  It didn’t matter to them that I was the big girl, they embraced me with all my rolls of fat, and slowly, their friendship began to restore my belief in myself.

I wanted to look on the outside like I was beginning to feel on the inside, so I began my first diet.  I was not informed or educated in proper nutrition or how to effectively lose weight.  I just knew if food was the enemy, the thing that made me look the way I did, then I should avoid food as much as possible.  A friend introduced me to speed, an amphetamine that was commonly available on college campuses to help pull the often needed all-nighter in preparation for an exam, or to complete a research paper.  When I took speed I lost my appetite, and the weight melted off in a few short months.  I was once again happily living in a size 8, and had successfully completed my first round of the yo-yo lifestyle.

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1984: Age 18 – Sophomore at college – Size 8

The next 7  years were filled with a constant fluctuation of gaining 10 pounds – losing 10 pounds.  The weight gain during this time of my life was a result of social eating – eating to celebrate, eating with friends, eating for pleasure.  There was no portion control, no calorie counting – just pure indulgence.  I learned that I could eat what I wanted, and if I just cut way back (stopped eating) for a week or two, I could drop the 10 pounds almost instantly.  Thus reinforcing my yo-yo lifestyle, over and over again.

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1991: age 24 – Work trip to Colorado – size 10

Then one day my guy got on his knee and proposed to me.  After 24 hours of celebration, my mind turned to the details of planning a wedding.  Top of the list was my dress, my dress size, the number on the scale and the fact that this would all be documented by a professional photographer.  I typically fluctuated between a size 8 and size 10, which was respectable.  But I took the yo-yo to a new level and found myself in a brand new number – a size 6 on a my wedding day.

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1992: age 26 – Wedding day – size 6

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1992: age 26 – Honeymoon – the ONLY time in my life that I wore a bikini – size 6

Life was good….and crazy!  We were newlyweds, newly relocated to an area where we didn’t know anyone, and new business owners working 7 days a week in hopes of building a successful restaurant delivery business.  This time I used food to combat all the stressors in my life, but the extra 20 pounds really only added to the stress.  Being close to my thirties now, I was startled to find that the weight didn’t melt off as quickly as it had in my early twenties.

Already 20 pounds overweight, I became pregnant with baby number one, which I believed granted me permission to eat anything and everything I wanted.  Pregnant women are supposed to be fat, right?  I gained 30 pounds during the pregnancy and hit a new personal weight record.  After giving birth, some of that excess weight came off, but 2 1/2 years later I found myself pregnant again, this time with a higher starting weight.

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1995 – age 30 – Only 6 months pregnant, but I look like I’m ready to deliver – size unknown

The first 10 years of motherhood encompassed my thirties.  There were ups and downs in parenting, in my marriage, in my extended family, in my friendships, in life.  With the ups – I would celebrate by eating.  With the downs – I would medicate by eating.  The repetition of the yo-yo cycle became second nature.  There was much in life that brought me happiness, and yet I was never filled with joy.  I would find happiness as the number on the scale decreased, but I had conditioned myself to believe it wouldn’t last, because it never did.  Life was a struggle – I was either struggling to lose weight or struggling to not gain weight.

1996

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1996: age 30 – Brand new mom – size unknown, but 14’s were too small

1999

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1999: age 33 – Maid of Honor in cousin’s wedding – size 10

2001

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2001: age 36 – Summer vacation in the Outer Banks – size 14

2003

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2003: age 38 – Ski trip in Colorado – size 10

I hit ROCK bottom in September, 2005, when I arrived at my surprise 40th birthday celebration, surrounded by 75 people – family and friends from near and far, who loved and accepted me exactly as I was.  But I was drowning in 40 extra pounds that made me feel like a failure, embarrassed, and worthless.  No matter how much unconditional love was being showered on me, I couldn’t accept it or return it, because I certainly didn’t love myself.

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2005: age 40 – Surprise 40th birthday party – yes that’s sweat, it was a hot night in September and we were dancing! – size 14

I could have masked that pain with more eating, but the humiliation, anger and disappointment at myself was so strong, that they became the motivating factor to make drastic changes in my life.  I had previously tried the South Beach diet, Body for Life, Weight Watchers and a multitude of other unsuccessful programs.  In search of something new, I joined Jenny Craig.  And for the first time ever, I committed to an exercise program with a personal trainer.  Exactly one year later, when I turned 41 years old, I was in the best shape of my life!  Not only was I a size 6 again, but I was fit, toned and strong.  I felt great about my accomplishments, I felt great about how I looked and most importantly, I just FELT great!  I knew this would be the very last time I would ever yo-yo again!

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2006: age 41 – Summer barbeque – size 6

BUT IT WASN’T……

I don’t have the answer!  But I’m living this journey as I write, so I invite you to join me again on Wednesday as I share the next chapter and how I am finally discovering what it feels like to be hopeful and to believe in myself.

with Joy & Gratitude,