Preparation for Vacation: My Surprising Revelation

Somewhere along the course of my life, I became convinced I didn’t deserve to feel good about myself. Well-manicured nails, nice clothes, special treatments… these things were exclusively reserved for thin, healthy women. They deserved them, not me. I’d have to earn them. And the only way I could earn them was to quit smoking and be thin. Since I almost always fell short in that department, I have deprived myself of that which would make me feel better. I didn’t realize this until quite recently…

The Revelation

I was sitting with my counselor chatting about my progress and how great I’ve been feeling. “And although I’m not at the weight I hoped I’d be by now, I went ahead and made all my appointments anyway for waxing, mani/pedi, etc. I’m going shopping for a new swimsuit and a few new pieces of clothing. I’ve been applying self-tanner,” I said with a laugh.  “I want to do whatever I can to look as good as I feel. I never did that in the past and I always regretted not trying harder before a special event.”

“Why do you think that is?” she asked.

I had to think about it. Why didn’t I buy new clothes or splurge on new make-up, pedicures or waxing before special events in the past? The truth emerged.

“I suppose it’s because I was never who I wanted to be for the occasion. And so I guess I never felt I deserved those things. I was a fat smoker. I didn’t earn a new swimsuit or clothes, or special treatment. And so I’d go to the thing or the place, and I’d feel self conscious about my clothes and my nails and my hair and my smoking. Feeling like shit was what I deserved.”

No sooner than the harsh reality left my lips did my eyes start to well with this sad revelation. I never understood this was my thought progress and why I made the decisions I did. It hurt to learn this is how I treated myself… that in yet another way, I was my own worst enemy.

“And why is it different now?” she asked.

“I feel good. I know I don’t look much different yet, but I feel different. I’ve quit smoking, have worked so hard and have made so much progress. I don’t want to punish myself anymore. I want to reward myself. I deserve to go to Punta Cana next week and feel as good about myself as possible. So many times I have done things as if I’d get a re-do when I was ready.”

“Like those things didn’t quite count because you weren’t the version of yourself in your head?”

“Exactly. But I’ve learned that there are seldom opportunities for re-dos. I may never go to Punta Cana again. It may be years before I get to to the Caribbean again, if ever. I don’t want to go in an old swimsuit that barely fits or with ugly feet. I don’t want to look at pictures and wish I’d tried harder. I don’t want to feel self-conscious and cry in my room before gaining the courage to go down to the pool.”

Clearly, somewhere over the past few months, a miraculous shift in my thought process occurred.

I deserve to feel good about myself. 

The Preparation

And so I went shopping. Twice. My arms laden with hangers I entered the dressing rooms at various stores prepared for war and experienced countless emotions throughout the process. But with patience, forgiveness, diligence, discernment, and a little help from my friends (Kathy reminded me to tap into my inner Goddess and that I deserve a beautiful swimsuit I feel great in), I emerged victorious. I found two great swimsuits, two gorgeous cover-ups that make me feel confident and sexy, and a few other pieces that fit great and make me feel good.

I will get my nails and toes done, my hair cut, and some waxing. I’ll replace some overdue make-up. I will put care and effort into packing (minimally, of course).

The Conclusion

I have let my fears and a sense that I didn’t deserve things hold me back for a long time. I want to travel! I want to see and experience new things! I want to feel good about myself! I want to achieve my goals! I have shifted my thinking from a place of fear to a place of love and I have witnessed my life finally begin to change. I’ve worked very hard to rid myself of destructive and sabotaging thought processes. It was only once I started to do that that I finally began to see change. I now see this idea that I don’t deserve to feel good about myself for what it truly is: another story concocted by my fear-mind to keep me from living my life and pursuing my dreams. This idea was never motivating, only debilitating.

And now that I know I deserve to feel good about myself, the sky is my limit.


Put Yourself Out There & See What Happens

I heard the enthusiastic “Hello!” over the music coming through my headphones and looked around. One of my neighbors waved from across the street. I slipped the buds from my ears and shouted a greeting back. I was nearly done with my regular 3 mile walk, a few houses from home.

“Do you walk often?” she yelled.

I crossed the street to her front yard. “Fairly regularly.”

“I want to walk. Can I walk with you?” she asked.

I had been waving to this woman while walking Cooper since I’d moved in a year ago. “Sure. How about tomorrow morning? Is six too early?”

“That’s perfect!”

“Okay, see you tomorrow at six!”

I went home and told Mike I had a date to walk with the neighbor in the big white house up the street.

“Cool, what’s her name?” he asked.

“No idea.”

I’m not certain that’s exactly how the conversation went, but it’s damn close. And we really didn’t exchange names until the following morning at six am.

I love this story. You see, that’s how me and my very good friend, April met several years ago. All because she put herself out there by approaching a stranger, and because I reciprocated. We both took a chance that day. And I am so very glad that we did. Because now she is one of my closest friends!

The truth is that you just never know what will happen unless you try. Based on April’s family’s comings and goings (their cars must whizz past our house a dozen times a day) it would be easy to assume she was far too busy for a new friend. Or because she has children and I do not, either one of us could have assumed we wouldn’t have much in common. But it didn’t matter. She wanted to walk and saw me walking. That was the spark that set things in motion.

And all you need is one little spark. A shared commute, a flirtatious glance, children in the same class, someone who works in the same building, the handsome man in your Saturday morning yoga class, a friendly neighbor… The world is overflowing with possible human connections. All it takes is a little courage to put yourself out there, a smile and a friendly greeting. After that, see where it goes. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

In mine and April’s case, sure, I could have said, “No, I walk alone” in a very villainy accent. Or we could have gone for a walk and the conversation may have been awkward or we’d discover one or the other wasn’t a nice person and we wouldn’t make plans to walk again. The worst that could have happened is that our lives stayed the same, no better no worse.

Instead, we hit it off splendidly! We would walk well over a hundred miles together over the ensuing years. Mike and April’s husband have become close friends and we adore their children. They have a key to our house and have helped with Cooper when we’re away. They are our wonderful friends, our closest “family” within a 70 minute drive, and we are incredibly grateful to have them in our lives.

put yourself out there. Jess and April.
April (left) and me.

Look around you. Another friend or future date might be sitting on the bar stool across from you, live down the street, frequent your gym, or make your weekend smoothie. You won’t know until you put yourself out there.

April did. And I am so damn glad she did.





A Year In Review & New Year Goals

These past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about the year behind us, and the year before us. This is a wonderful time for reflection and looking to the future. It is a time to reset and refocus. A fresh start for everyone!

new year goals

For many, 2016 was one hell of a tough year. We lost so many treasured people and endured an absolutely volatile election. The jokes about 2016 being so awful will live on long after the year has ended. But I have to say, my 2016 wasn’t so bad.

2016 Highlights

  1. I QUIT SMOKING! As of this writing I am 159 days cigarette-free! Everyone, this has been a goal of mine for over ten years. TEN YEARS!
  2. I got a new car! It’s my first new car, too. It replaced a thirteen year old Ford Focus. So yeah, it’s a big deal.
  3. I published my first book! Questions For Life Two Year Guided Daily Journal For Intentional Living is the product of the four components of my daily practice combined into the perfect tool for the masses. This has been a wonderful experience so far and I am thrilled so many people love the journal.
  4. I traveled to Asheville, NC and had a wonderful time with family. The mountains were where I finally quit smoking and where I got the idea for Questions For Life. The trip was ripe with new experiences and I am grateful to have traveled someplace new.
  5. I built this new website. All by myself, too! This was a very significant blogging goal of mine for 2016.
  6. I got my Mom back. My Mom has been addicted to pain killers for many years and it’s been hard. VERY hard. But she managed to kick her addiction and come back to us all. I thank God every single day for this.

So yeah, not too shabby!

In looking back at last year’s New Year post, I see I didn’t write specific goals for 2016. I set out to continue trying to lose weight and stop smoking, one of which I finally achieved! As for other goals, I realized that so many good things had finally become a part of my routine, my LIFE, that I didn’t find it necessary to write them down as goals. That’s pretty cool. And even without those specific goals, I had a successful year just continuing on this wellness journey. I have learned so much, accumulated more tools, had so many new experiences, and generally have continued to get to know myself better. It was a good year.

I grew in 2016. I don’t think I can ask for much more than that.

2017 New Year Goals

But I want to get specific again for 2017. Lately, some new year goals have been playing through my mind, so I’ve focused in on them and come up with the following list:

  1. Pay off three specific debts.
    • Financial freedom continues to be a major goal of mine. I have identified three specific debts I have aimed to eliminate by the end of 2017.
  2. Complete the first draft of my fiction novel.
    • This is a bold goal, yes. But after barely even touching my novel in 2016, this needs to be a much higher priority.
  3. Establish a healthy morning routine, and maintain it consistently.
    • I still struggle with getting out of bed early and getting to yoga. I will not resolve to work out every morning because it’s not realistic. But I do want to commit to giving myself an hour to journal, meditate, read, write, exercise, etc. I also resolve to NOT let my phone be the first thing I look at every morning. Which leads me to my next goal…
  4. Drastically reduce the amount of time I spend on Facebook/social media.  
    • One of the questions in Questions For Life is: What would your life look like if you never wasted another minute? Without being too specific, I will say that my life would be amazingly productive and I’d have a lot more to show for my time here. My biggest time suck is Facebook. I catch myself mindlessly scrolling through the nonsense and falling down rabbit holes when I could be producing or learning or any number of things that would serve me better.
  5. Continue setting New Moon Intentions each moon cycle with specific 29 day goals.
    • One of the many things I learned in 2016 was how well New Moon Intention-setting works for me. Each new moon, I write down specific intentions which vary cycle to cycle. They include everything from finish reading a book, setting a specific weight goal, not checking social media as soon as I wake up, taking on an extra yoga class, etc. I commit to these intentions at my altar before the Moon and Universe. This holds me much more accountable than simply striving to achieve something by the end of a month. It’s all about finding what works for you. This works for me. So for all 2017 I will set intentions for each new moon, starting with today’s New Moon. I will include in these intentions other goals, as well as mini versions of my larger goals. For example, work on my novel twenty hours during the cycle.
  6. Lose weight
    • For the second consecutive year, I have managed not to gain any weight. That’s great and represents progress. But I still struggle to lose weight. That being said, however, I am ending 2016 weighing six pounds less than I weighed at the end of 2015. It took a year’s worth of cognitive therapy and practice, but I think I’m finally on to something. In 2016 I managed to finally quit smoking. I think 2017 will be the year I finally manage to lose weight…

The Importance of Goal-Setting

Damn, it feels good not to have “quit smoking” among that list. When we set new year goals, we establish benchmarks in which to assess ourselves. By setting goals,new-year-goals we say to ourselves: I resolve for this year not to be the same as the last. I won’t live the same year over and over again and call it a life. I will do things differently. This past year I quit smoking. The sense of achievement when we accomplish our goals is incredibly rewarding.

So take some time and think about what you want this year. Just make sure your new year goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based). For example, my goal to lose weight isn’t very SMART. I haven’t specifically committed to a certain number of pounds I aim to lose, but I will in my new moon intentions, so I’m covered.

After you’ve established your annual goals, break them down into smaller, specific chunks. Want to lose 50 pounds? Set a monthly goal to lose five pounds and assess yourself regularly and make adjustments where necessary. Want to quit smoking? Don’t just give up if you have a cigarette. Keep track of how many you have a day/week/month and make your goal to cut that back the next week and the next month. Want to save $1,000? Do the math and finesse your budget and come up with a realistic plan to do so. Goals are nothing without a plan to achieve them.

I love this time of year so much. So much optimism, so much energy. I look forward to continuing this life-changing journey in 2017, and I look forward to sharing it with you. I’d love to hear what some of your goals are for the new year. Please share them in the comments.

And if one of your goals is to minimize, then please join my Third Annual Minimalism Challenge kicking off January 1!

I wish you all a very happy, healthy, and hopeful new year!

Previous New Year Posts:

12/30/2015: A Year Well Spent

12/31/2014: 2014/2015: Looking Back & Looking Ahead








Because You Want To: All The Reason You Need

Back on December 8, I shared my latest weight loss saga in ‘Twas The Night Before Weigh-In: My Christmas Struggle Story. In this post I’ve provided an update on how that all turned out. I certainly learned a lot over the past twenty days, including one very valuable lesson about the reasons why we do things. It turns out that because you want something is a good enough reason to go after what you want… but more on that after the update.

In case you didn’t catch the Christmas Struggle Story post and don’t feel like reading it now, I will summarize quickly (but it’s a good post so you should read it.) Long story short, I signed up for a clinical study and went through the majority of the enrollment process before learning my BMI was POINT 3 too high. I was given a week to lose two pounds right in the midst of holiday festivities. But I did it! Only to be told the night before my weigh-in that some of my test results hadn’t come in yet so we’d have to reschedule. Twelve more days, during the height of the Holiday season, I’d have to maintain this lower BMI. It was a struggle. But the day before my appointment I was on point to meet my goal.


Nineteen days I monitored my weight, resisted cravings, adjusted and micromanaged, all during Holiday parties, dinners, and gatherings. Not making this goal was not an option. I would not suffer the embarrassment of not being able to lose two measly pounds and then maintain that loss. The day before my appointment I weighed myself and was on target. For good measure I decided to eat very light and skip dinner. All was well… until at 5:05 that evening when the doctor called.

It turns out that my weight wasn’t the only thing that didn’t meet the guidelines. My cholesterol was also several points too high. It was an automatic exclusion in the study. Maybe they could re-screen me in a couple months, she said.

I was disappointed. But when something is simply not meant to be, it’s pretty obvious. And this was obviously not meant to be.

I had plans to go see the new Star Wars movie that night and after a sense of disappointment, my very next thought was, “well, at least I can get some popcorn now.”

Silver lining. I ate the crap out of that popcorn, too.

Call it resentment, entitlement, bitterness, or whatever, but I ate kind of crappy the next day, too. I couldn’t put my finger on why, though. I feel grateful for the challenge and this exercise (pun intended). I learned that it IS possible to not gain weight, and even lose weight, during a month as full of indulgences as December. Being forced to lose weight for this study was precisely what I needed to learn what I could do, as long as I was willing to focus and had the right incentive.

Finding Another Reason

But now I’m learning how quick I can backslide as soon as my incentive is taken away… and I don’t like it. One and a half days I allowed myself to over indulge and feel whatever negative emotion I was feeling. I’ve put a stop to that. But I still feel less motivated. I wonder… why isn’t my health and my own desires to lose weight enough reason to go after what I want? Why did it take a doctor and a clinical study to get my ass in gear?

These are the questions I’m asking myself today…

I don’t have an answer, except to say that what I want needs to be enough incentive. And lucky for me, I have the perfect motivational mantra to help me. I got through nineteen days successfully managing my weight. I did it once, so I can do it again. I WILL finish the rest of this holiday season, and this month, and this year at my clinical study goal (or less), mark my words. And I will do it for no other reason than it is WHAT I WANT.

Everything happens for a reason. I truly believe I was not meant for this study. What it was meant for was teaching me this lesson. It gave me a confidence and an empowerment to end my year strong and to start a new one with even more optimism and energy than usual.

Because we want something really should be all the reason we need to go after things. For many individualized reasons, it’s often not enough motivation. But it needs to be. What better reason than because we want it!?

So now, ask yourself: is this a good enough reason to go after what you want?

It is for me.

What’s Your Motivational Mantra?

Every now and then I get the silly idea to start jogging again. This past September I started again with one simple rule; to jog further every single time I went. The first day I jogged I gave it my all and noted my distance. After a short walking break, I bargained with myself to jog the length of an avenue near my house. It sucked. But the next time I jogged, I knew I could increase the distance and run that entire avenue again. I knew for one very clear and simple reason: If I could do it once, I could do it again.  This has become my motivational mantra.

I actually hate jogging. But it’s great exercise, super beneficial and I like the idea of jogging. Over several weeks I increased my distance incrementally. Each time I jogged I burned the new distance into my mind. The next time I jogged, I directed my mental thoughts on that distance knowing full well that if I could reach it once, I could reach it again.

I practiced jogging this way until mid-October when I became terribly sick and was in bed for eight days. My cough lingered long after that. I didn’t jog. I was worried to test my lungs and dreaded the idea of starting over after having lost my momentum.

But that changed on Thanksgiving.

Although I was hosting, I found myself blessedly organized enough to get a workout in. And so I quickly got changed and tied on my sneakers before I could change my mind. Between my bedroom and the backdoor my thoughts considered how far I should go. Well, it’s your first jog post sickness so maybe just until you get tired?, one voice offered.  No, she should commit to a distance, but maybe only half of where she left off, another suggested.  Just walk and take it easy today.

As these thoughts lovingly battled it out in my brain, another voice rose above them, assertive but kind. You did it once. You can do it again.

And it was that reminder of my motivational mantra that propelled my feet to a new 2016 record despite not having jogged since mid-October. I felt glorious. Not just then, but for the rest of the day. I had never exercised on Thanksgiving before and I felt victorious. Not only did I exercise, but I once again went further than I had before.

This motivational mantra is comforting me today, too while I fast after an overindulgent extended weekend. I was discouraged and disappointed in myself last night, but today I am reminded: If I could do it once, I can do it again. I’ll get my weight back down and pick up where I left off, just like I did with jogging.

motivational mantra

Please share: what motivational mantras do you repeat?


Giving Ourselves Credit: Celebrating Achievements

Today is a special day! Today marks the day that I have finally achieved something – something I have attempted and failed to accomplish countless times. Something that no matter how hard or how many times I tried, evaded me. But I never gave up! No, no I did not. And it is because of that practice and perseverance that today I am celebrating my 100th day cigarette-free. And it is glorious. I feel liberated and proud and I am giving myself credit and celebrating my achievement. That’s because our achievements and milestones are worth honoring.

giving myself credit for being smoke-free

No one, I repeat NO ONE, gets to decide what’s a big deal in our own lives except US. Many people may think that 100 days cigarette-free is no big feat. But I know it is! Because I know how hard this has been for me. I celebrate lots of things that most people probably don’t even think about, like going an entire work day without touching the potato chips on the kitchen table. Maybe it’s no big deal for most, but for me, that’s an eight hour endurance match against a tougher opponent. And you better believe that when I win, I give myself credit. Because I know how hard it was and I don’t invalidate things that hard for me, just because they may be easy for most people.

Quitting smoking has been really hard for me. 100 days is a new record for me and so I am celebrating. I will not diminish my achievement or hold off celebrating until I go a year. That’s because giving credit provides positive reinforcement and makes me feel good about my progress. It makes me want to keep going. It’s like, “Yeah, I got this!” The bigger deal I make of my success, the less likely I am to falter.

What are some of the struggles in your day to day life? What makes you feel like you kicked some ass? How can you celebrate those achievements?

I know I feel like a rock star when I get to my 5:45 AM yoga class, and when I don’t eat anything else for the rest of the night after dinner. Both things are pretty damn hard, so when I do them, I feel good! I give myself credit. I don’t talk down to myself anymore or make sarcastic comments like, “Took ya long enough!” or “Wow, great job doing what you should have been doing all along anyway.” Instead I say, “Nice job, Girl!”

I celebrate victories constantly. I give myself credit! A LOT! And you should too! Because we deserve credit and recognition from ourselves. It’s another way we can be a good, supportive friend to ourselves.

So in honor of my 100th day cigarette-free I took the above photo and am shouting from the proverbial mountain top that I AM 100 DAYS CIGARETTE-FREE!! I also bought myself four more succulents. The last time I bought them was in honor of my 100th blog post because that was a pretty cool thing worth honoring too. I like the symbolism of having a living, breathing thing to grow with me.

I’m proud of myself today. And I think I’m going to keep up the great work! (Pats self on back.)

Facing and Embracing Fear to Avoid Regret

The wind picked up and the temperature dropped as we climbed in elevation. I gripped the lap bar, my sleeves pulled tightly over white knuckles. We swayed forward every time the chair lift came to a stop, causing my stomach to drop. I glanced below my dangling feet at the craggy mountain slope and calculated my chances of survival should our chair snap free from its steel cable. I don’t have a fear of heights so much as I have a fear of faulty engineering. But it was my friend, Amy’s birthday, and taking a chairlift to the top of Mount Snow in Vermont was what she wanted to do. So I faced my fear and anxiously awaited my prize of solid ground, breathtaking views, and an alcoholic beverage in the lodge to calm my nerves. I am grateful I didn’t give in to my fear. The reward of a new life experience sitting atop that mountain overlooking the valley was worth the discomfort.

Acknowledging Fear

When was the last time you did something that scared you?

I could rattle you off a list of things I’ve done that scared the hell out of me. Highlights include slipping down sliding rock in Pisgah National Forest into frigid water. Holding a tarantula in Colorado. Being a passenger along Mount Evans Road, the highest paved road in North America, which dropped off to certain death at 14,000 feet.

I recall these moments specifically because the experience of facing and embracing fear is so memorable. Knotted stomach, tight back, clenched jaw, rapid breathing, increased adrenaline… the mind races with one ultimate decision: give in to the fear or face the fear. When you decide to go for it, a nervous courage joins the party leaving you feeling emboldened and rebellious. Then you do the thing that scares you and exhilaration floods through you like a tsunami and you’re no longer who you were a moment before. You’re changed: stronger, braver and more experienced.

The Cost of Fear

There is nothing to gain by giving in to fear, but there is so much to lose. Had I allowed myself to be held back by fear over the years, I would have sacrificed so many incredible life experiences. All those memories and stories… gone. All those instances when I demonstrated bravery that have boosted my confidence… gone. All that exhilaration… gone.

Fear grips us when we think we may fail, get hurt, or worse, die. This is not an easy thing to overcome. We give in to it in order to prevent risk of injury or death, but the truth is that the joke’s on us. That’s because fear does not stop death, it stops life. Fear stops us from living.

facing and embracing fear

Adrenaline is what makes us feel alive! Taking risks and chances, being afraid, increasing life experiences – THAT’S living.

We don’t regret the things we do that scared us, we regret not doing them. Twenty plus years later, I am still grateful I quite literally took a leap and jumped off a 25 foot cliff. To this day, it remains one my proudest moments; one that helped shape who I am as a person.

I was no younger than ten or older than twelve. Forever trying to keep up with my big brothers, I found myself at the edge of a cliff at Action Park. I desperately tried to will myself to take that last tiny step before chickening out, stepping aside and letting people go ahead of me.

My fearless brother, Joey jumped and climbed the hill back to the cliff several times while I stood there becoming increasingly worn down by my fear. My eyes welled with tears as my resolve slipped away. Joey came back again. “Ready?” he asked. I stood at the edge and crossed my arms over my chest as instructed. Finally, desperate, I uttered two words through frozen lips. “Push me.”

Without hesitation Joey nudged my back and down I went. The fall seemed to last a lifetime before I plunged deeply into the cold water. I emerged a different person; someone bolder, someone braver, someone more experienced.

cliff jump at action-park
The 25′ high cliff at Action Park I jumped off when I was tween.

Imagine if I had let my fear get the best of me that day on top of that cliff? This would not be a story of courage, but one of regret.

Facing and Embracing Fear

When you are faced with the opportunity to do something that scares you, take it! These are what some of life’s most defining and memorable experiences are made of!

What scares you? What do you regret not doing because you gave in to your fear?

Jump off cliffs, hold a snake, ask the girl out, travel alone to a foreign country… DO WHAT SCARES YOU! You may think these experiences aren’t that memorable, but believe me, they are! The adrenaline surges and sense of empowerment alone are enough to make you feel more alive. It’s a total bonus that facing and embracing fear boosts confidence.

Believe me, these are the stories you’ll tell. You will live to see another day, and will get to enjoy a life that has more… well, LIFE.

P.S. In writing this post I realized that my brother, Joey, who really is fearless, was present at nearly every single one of my scariest moments, even those that didn’t make the final draft of this post. Truth be told, on Mount Evans Road I was so terrified I begged him to let me out of the car. He wouldn’t let me because it wasn’t safe. If it wasn’t for him nudging me off the cliff, I may never have taken the step myself. If it wasn’t for him not letting me out of the car, I wouldn’t have ever been 14,000 feet high into the clouds. Thanks, Joey. xoxo












Don’t Give Up

I recently pushed my body to its physical limits at a new brand of spin class whose goal is to guide riders through an inspirational, meditative fitness experience that’s designed to benefit the body, mind and soul. Three quarters through the class the instructor shouted for us to concentrate on what we love most about ourselves. Red in the face and short of breath, my eyes stung. Not with sweat, but with tears. It took a year just for me to list things I like about myself. Out of the saddle, calves on fire, pedaling like my life depended on it, it came to me. I DON’T GIVE UP. “Now validate it!” the instructor yelled. I pushed even harder.

Images of all the times I considered quitting and didn’t played through my mind: endurance races like Spartan, grueling steep hikes, school… But I don’t give up, no matter how much it hurts or how long it takes. This is what I love about me.

And this is why today marks my 32nd day cigarette-free. Because I haven’t quit on trying to quit smoking. I have tried and failed countless times, but I don’t give up. I refuse to concede that it’s just too hard and accept being a social smoker. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone 32 days. I can’t promise it will be the last. But I can promise that if it’s not the last, I will try again.

It is this unwillingness to give up that drives me to keep trying to lose weight, keeps me on this journey, keeps me pursuing my dreams of being a successful writer. I truly believe I can achieve my goals if I work hard enough. If I don’t achieve them, it will only be because I stopped trying. If I smoke again, I won’t blame the fact that I live with a smoker. That is simply a large obstacle. If I can’t lose weight, I won’t blame the practically non-existent healthy options of convenience food. It will mean I didn’t do enough to manage my diet, exercise and eating disorders. If I don’t become a successful writer, I won’t blame the flooded market and saturated blogosphere. It will mean I didn’t work hard enough at honing my craft and didn’t spend enough time writing. There is nothing and no one to blame for my failures but me.

The same goes for my victories. On this 32nd day of being cigarette-free, I am reminded that I can do hard things. Although I never give up, it often seems as though I rarely get to stop pedaling either. But today, one day over a full month, is finally a win. Today I get to hop off the bike and take in the scenery a bit. Yes, it took many attempts to quit smoking. But maybe all those attempts were just practice. Maybe now I’m finally ready to WIN.

Grateful I Got Started: Celebrating 100 Posts

All my life I’ve not started things because I didn’t feel prepared or qualified. If I did start, I often grew bored or frustrated and eventually gave up. Now, after 100 blog posts, I feel proud, accomplished and even more energized to continue my journey. I’m so grateful I started when I did and didn’t let sabotaging thoughts postpone my plans. Nothing is ever perfect at the start, and I love being able to look back on 100 blog posts and not only see my personal growth, but the growth of this blog and my writing as well.

Procrastination & Preparation:

You may recall I almost didn’t start this blog back in November, 2014. I wanted professional photos taken, but thought I was too fat. 100 blog posts later I’m no thinner than I was then. Imagine if I had waited? I’d still be waiting! But I didn’t wait because although I didn’t feel my body was ready, I was. My journey had begun and I literally could not wait to write about and share it. It was that excitement that compelled me to begin despite not having my ideal photo and some other minor concerns.

I don’t think we’re ever fully prepared for anything. Planning can be just another form of procrastination. Sometimes we have to bite the bullet and go for it with what we have and what we know at the time. So I had the photos taken anyway, and I’ve come to really appreciate them. And I started on Blogger because I was familiar with the platform and it was easy to use. I knew I could always move later (even if I had no idea at the time how to go about the transition).

Are you planning or procrastinating?Click To Tweet

With any new project, nothing will be ever be perfect at the start, no matter how much planning and prep we do. Imagine if it were!? How BORING. We’d all quit six months in if there weren’t changes and improvements to make and goals to strive for. With nearly anything, we learn by doing. We can read every book and watch every video, but I guarantee you there’s nothing quite like figuring it out for yourself and doing it.

Start Somewhere:

Everyone starts somewhere. No, actually, not everyone starts somewhere. Because a lot of people don’t start at all. Those who have the courage and drive to start do start somewhere. But we rarely get to see their starting line because by the time we know who they are they’re often much closer to the finish. We can’t start at the finish.

But we can all start somewhere. What are you waiting for?

As I’ve worked on myself, I’ve worked on this blog, eventually learned WordPress and designed this website. I can’t even begin to quantify how much I have learned and grown as a result of having a place to document my journey. This blog keeps me motivated on what is oftentimes an arduous process of healing and growth. I am so incredibly grateful I didn’t allow something as trivial as photos keep me from writing. My journey would have stalled and I wouldn’t have everything I’ve written to share with you, especially my weight loss struggles. So even if it takes another 100 blog posts (my God, I hope not) I will have another photo shoot. And when I post all those photos, you’ll know how hard I worked to make it happen and how important they are to me.

Whether you’ve read one post or all one hundred, thank you for being a part of my journey.

Ask yourself:

Is there something holding me back from starting a project or working toward a goal?

Is it a good reason or a trivial one?

Am I planning? Or procrastinating?

Do I have the bare minimum to get started?

I bet you do…

The Birthday Gift

Today is my 34th birthday! So many people say their birthday is “just another day,” but I wholeheartedly disagree. Today is my day, a day to bask in a little special treatment and celebrate the blank page between the end of one chapter and the start of another. I don’t want to write the same chapter year after year and call it a novel. Today is my day to reflect back on what I’ve written all year in the book of my life and get excited for what’s to come! Here’s some highlights:

  1. I was nominated, then elected Vice President of the South Jersey Writers’ Group
  2. My story, “One For the Road” was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog
  3. I moved The Cracking Nut to its new home here and re-branded it (learning WordPress in the process).
  4. I got a new car! My very first new car!
  5. I identified a novel concept and “won” NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) by writing 50,000 words of said novel.
  6. I started stand up paddle boarding and fell in love with the activity.

Aside from the car (which is not an indicator of recent success, by the way, but a sign that my 2002 was getting to a point of beyond repair) and the paddle boarding, seeing those highlights spelled out like this helps me realize that I have been doing a decent job working toward my goal of becoming a professional writer.  I definitely haven’t spent the year sitting on my ass. In fact, despite my lack of meaningful weight loss, I am happy to say I haven’t been sitting on my ass much at all.

Weaved throughout those highlights has been the continuation of this blog, continued efforts to minimize, and greatest of all, persistent work towards healing and living a gentler, happier, more compassionate life. Thirty-three was probably my very best year in terms of mental wellness, and I am so grateful for the amazing progress I have made in order to live more mindfully. Life was not good for a very, very long time. I was living the same angry, disappointed existence year after year and calling it my life. But there was no life… not by definition.

Now there is so much life… the capacity for growth and functional activity. Now there is light where there was only darkness.

Thirty-four… I think it’s going to be a good year. I’m old enough to know better, young enough to still have the world in front of me, as much as any of us can hope, at least. My goals remain the same: lose weight, write, learn, have fun, and be a good person.

I’ve done a bit of all those things in my 33rd year. In fact, I feel as if the past several days was a wonderful final exam for my 33rd year, testing much of what I have learned. It’s been an intense few days full of visits and family, many of whom I have not seen in a long time. I feel that I passed with flying colors, showing patience and compassion, self-care, understanding, forgiveness and love. I feel proud of myself.

But I’m tired. So my gift to myself today is self-love, in the form of nutritious food and a peaceful and happy low-key birthday.

I started with a healthy birthday girl power bowl
I started with a healthy birthday girl power bowl

I’m not only excited for the rest of my day, but the rest of my year, and the rest of my life. I am grateful for the opportunity to turn a year older – so many people don’t get the chance. This is another reason why today can’t possibly be “just another day.” Today is a beautiful birthday gift.