Oxygen Challenge 4

On July 16th I started a 90 day challenge that is being sponsored by Oxygen Magazine. This challenge had two teams you could choose from, #teamjen (Jen Widerstrom) or #teamkarina (Karina Smirnoff). Of course when I signed up there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be on Jen’s team. Over the last year and half that I have personally known Jen, and even before doing her dietbets, she has never steered me wrong. I have seen the kind of progress I can make with her coaching and it’s pretty incredible.

I’m doing this 90 day challenge as a late birthday present to myself and to show myself that I can be consistent, make changes and stick to something. I always seem to get to a point where I’m scare to move forward and I start to revert back to my old habits for one reason or another. I find myself trying to make sure everyone else okay instead of taking care of myself because of having to transition from being daughter first to my dad to being his caregiver first. I also get to a point where I hear my mom’s voice in my head. Before she passed she embarked on her own weight loss journey and was super successful. I was super proud of her, but it got to the point where she would tell me every day or ever week that she was down x number of pounds and was now in x size pants and tops. I know she didn’t mean to make me feel bad and insecure about myself, but it really messed with me mentally and when I get to a certain point I hear those comments and give up. I’m working on not letting that happen this time.

This 90 day challenge is me starting over, yet again, but also proving to myself that I can do whatever I set my mind to. I’ve done it before with other things in my life. Thinking back to all the IMEA music competitions I performed in playing solos on my violin or duos and trios and being ecstatic when all of my hard work and persistence paid off and I would get a medal, or even moving up from the second violin section to the first violin section. None of those things happened over night. It took years of practice and hard work to get to that place. I know I can do this. 90 days seems like a long time, but I know it will be over in the blink of an eye. Part of this challenge also allows you to potentially be on the cover of Oxygen Magazine for the January/February issue. I submitted before pictures for this. With the thousands of women who have signed up for this challenge, I know it will be a long shot for me to win being on the cover of a magazine, but it’s something I wanted to do for me and if nothing else, allow me to create my own before and after story for myself.

Below is proof of what I was able to accomplish in just 28 days doing one of Jen’s dietbets below. The weight loss was only about eight pounds but the inches I lost were amazing. I wish I would have done before and after measurements. I’m also posting my before pictures below at the start of the Oxygen Challenge and will post progress photos along the way, not only to keep myself accountable, but to see the changes even if I can’t feel them, because let’s be honest when you are in your own skin it’s hard to see the changes when you look in the mirror. You tend to still see the person you were before and photos are proof that what you are doing is working. There are 85 days left in the challenge and I’m excited for the road ahead.

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Mother’s Day

Nine year’s ago I was celebrating Mother’s Day with you. I bought you a card and it saddens me that that is all I can remember. I’m sure we went out for breakfast or that I may have bought you flowers, but I’m sad that I don’t remember much more than buying you a card nine years ago. Had I known that would be my last Mother’s Day with you I would have documented it so much better. I would have taken more pictures with you. I’m sorry I didn’t.
I know over the 23 years we had together we had our ups and downs like all mothers and daughters do. Looking back those arguments and disagreements mean nothing. You were the best mom a girl could ask for. Even though you were overprotective of me, you always made sure I was safe, allowed me to grow, develop my own thoughts and opinions, supported me when I switched from majoring in journalism to music, and you allowed me to experience a lot of pretty awesome things, including an unforgettable trip to NYC with dad after 9/11 so I could meet Kevin.
So much has changed since you’ve been gone and I still find myself reaching for the phone sometimes to call you and tell you about things and realize I can’t. That’s the one thing that hurts the most is not being able to share my successes with you and the progress I’m making in several different ways. I hate that I lost you way too soon, and even though I lost you in a way that I didn’t want to, I know it was a blessing because I know you didn’t like doctors or anything medical. I will always wish that I could have one more hug, one more conversation, one more I love you from you. Thank you for loving me unconditionally and allowing me to be the person I am today. Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I love you and miss you.

“the princess saves herself in this one”

Sometimes you read a book and that book has a line in it that really hits your soul. Today has been one of those days. I was home today with a migraine and spent part of the day when I wasn’t sleeping reading a book titled “the princess saves herself in this one” by Amanda Lovelace. I found this book at Target and it intrigued me because the cover is so basic. It’s black with white print and the title drew me to it. I couldn’t be happier that I got this book. Parts of it are hard to read, but the one line in particular that hit my soul was this: “i am caught between mourning you & thinking your death saved me. – will you ever be able to forgive me?”

I’ll explain while this hit my soul. In the years before my dad passed there were many times that he was in the hospital and especially in life threatening situations, he would often say that he did not deserve to have me as a daughter. There were even a couple of times that he told me I should leave him and not come back to the hospital. These are things I’ve never shared before. But as an only child and knowing how fragile life is, there was no way that I would ever turn my back in my dad. He was all I had and I would do everything all over again.

Last summer when dad was really sick and I had to stay home from work for three months with him being in and out of the hospital, he told me he didn’t want me to sit at home every weekend worrying about him. He wanted me to go out with friends. I did on occasion, but knew deep down that I probably didn’t have much time left with him, so I made it a point to make as many memories as I could with him and I’m so glad I did.

However, when I read the line in the book today I realized that yes, I’m still mourning and grieving my father, but I also feel like his death saved me. These are feelings that came to the surface today and hearing his voice and conversations we had over the last seven years. He often told me he felt guilty because I couldn’t go out and do what I wanted. There were certainly times deep down I resented that I didn’t have the life I imagined. The night my dad passed he was the most lucid I had seen him in days. When he told me it was time to go I broke down, but was lucky to spend the last hour of his life with him. Even while actively dying my dad was more concerned about if I would be okay. It wasn’t until he came out and asked how I was going to take care of myself without him and telling him family and friends would make sure that I would be okay, that he let the morphine make him comfortable and that he closed his eyes and was rocking his head to the beat of Elvis tunes. After he died and now that almost six months have passed since I lost him, I feel like his death has saved me as well. My dad knew that I would be okay. He raised me well and I’m finally living life. He still finds ways to show me he is here with me like in NY as I was walking back to the subway after the half marathon, seeing an ad for an Elvis special on HBO at a bus stop. I literally looked up from my phone when the ad changed and seeing Elvis made me smile. I know he’s with me. As crazy as it may sound I feel like he knew that his passing would save me as well. He knew the sacrifices I made after mom died, and everything I had to do for him.

In looking back at my life since 23, I’ve been through so much. As much as life may have sucked at certain points and dealing with some of the stuff I had to deal with, I know I’m a stronger person because of it. I know I can handle what life throws at me. I know I have fantastic tribe around me. I would not be even half the person I am today without all I’ve been through. Life’s lessons have a strange way of popping up at the most unexpected times in our lives, like picking up this book, and reading that line that really hit me. I’m still learning every day and growing as a person. That’s all we can do. Learn from what we’ve been through and use those experiences to reach out to others to help them. That’s part of why I started this blog. It’s evolving into not just my personal stories about being a caregiver, but about finally living life in the way my parents would have wanted me to live life.

Remember to take things one day at a time or even one hour or minute at a time if you have to. Be grateful for all of your experiences in life, good or bad. That’s part of why I started this blog to share what life was as like as a caregiver, but it’s evolved into so much more and I’m working on something to help get my readers more involved and a way  I can give back to all of you, so keep your eyes peeled for a post on that soon.

Dear Me

About a month after my dad passed, Shape Magazine did a 40 day goal crusher challenge. This challenge wasn’t just about losing weight. Your goal could be anything you wanted it to be. During the 6 weeks we would be given Dear Me journaling to do. I loved doing these and don’t really know why I stopped. Last night I figured it was about time I sat down to write a Dear Me. The last few weeks haven’t been the easiest, and I needed to remind myself of some stuff, so here’s my Dear Me. If you’ve never done this before, I highly recommend doing it. The things you write may surprise you and it’s all for the better.

Dear Me, 

First off, STOP being so hard on yourself. You have been through hell and back. Yu can do anything you set your mind to. One bad day or moment doesn’t need to set you back. You’ve done so many things since Dad died almost sic months ago. You are getting your life back and it’s a great feeling. You didn’t have the traditional experiences of someone in their 20’s. You lost your Mom unexpectedly and then had to be your Dad’s caregiver. You sat in surgical waiting rooms, hospital rooms, and even made the hospital room your temporary home to make sure your Dad was getting the best possible care during life threatening situations. You did everything you could to make his life the best it could be from 2011-2017.

Now is your time to live your life and make your 30’s what you’re 20’s couldn’t be. You’ve made breakthroughs. You’ve had a friend make you cry at not one major event, but two this year. The first cry was because she helped you realize what’s been holding you back. The second is from seeing her face light up when you told her how far you went in the half marathon before a blister on your foot prevented you from finishing the last five miles. The tears were also from so many wonderful experiences and new friends who were made on a trip that you never thought you’d get to take. 

So, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are learning the root of what’s been causing your migraines. The fix isn’t exactly pleasant, but you know it will brig relief. You are making so may people proud of you. The changes you are making now will only make you stronger in the future. You are changing your narrative and the cards you were dealt in life. You learned that from a young ago life isn’t always fair. Shit happens. Don’t let it define you. You are better than that.

Take everything you have learned in the last year, the last six months, hell, the last month and be the best you can be. The changes you are making are inspiring others to make changes too. You are reaching people via your blog and sharing things you never thought you’d be sharing about being a caregiver, your generalized anxiety disorder, and life in general. Hopefully it is letting others know they are not alone in this world with their struggles. Keep on keeping on. You are destined to do great things in your life and you are making your parents proud even though they are no longer here. Keep sharing, keep loving yourself, your family, and your friends. 

Keep making yourself proud. 

Love, 

Me

When Life Knocks You Down

The last week has been a rough one for me. About a week before I flew to NYC, I started noticing I was having a lot of facial/sinus pain, along with left ear pain. These are the same symptoms I experienced a little over two years ago. In mid-December 2016 I thought what I had was a really bad head cold. Several people around me were sick and we all seemed to continue to pass it around to one another. I ended up going to one of the walk-in clinics in town to get checked out and discovered I had a bad sinus infection and was put on round of antibiotics because my sinuses were completely clogged and there was fluid behind my ear drum. Once I finished the antibiotics I was still having issues with my ears and with getting migraines. Not a fun combination.

I was referred to Otolaryngology (also known as Ear, Nose, and Throat) for a consult. I was started on a round of prednisone and ear drops for my ears. That made for an interesting experience. While the prednisone and ear drops helped with my right ear, my left ear was left unchanged. And on top of that prednisone gave me mild steroid psychosis. That’s not something you want to experience when you are the sole care giver for your dad, or when you are dealing with patient’s health everyday at your job. My left eardrum was retracted and pressing up against the first bone behind the eardrum. I was scheduled to have a tube placed in my left ear. This was the first time I ever needed a tube and it was done as an in office procedure, which was not fun at all.

When I started noticing these symptoms again, I went to get checked out. The doctor took a look in my ear and told me the tube was still in there. So I said, “It’s still in my eardrum where it’s supposed to be”, only to be told that it’s not and it’s just chilling in my ear canal. Fantastic! Over the last few weeks my migraines, face pain, and ear pain have returned with a vengeance. My medications haven’t really been helping the symptoms. I was home more this week than at work because of the migraines and not really being able to function. Today and Thursday have been the two days this week where I’ve felt pretty good. I go in in about a week and a half to have a new tube placed, which I’m dreading because I know it’s going to be super uncomfortable, but I’m also ready to get relief again.

As the title of this post indicates, life has knocked me down this week. I haven’t done much cooking this week because pulling pots and pans out of the cabinets is not pleasant when your head is pounding. I’ve bee drinking more caffeinated beverages for the extra caffeine, I’ve not bee drinking as much water as I should, I haven’t exercised in a week, and I’ve just been down because of not feeling well. Today I’m finally starting to feel normal again and I’m hoping this continues until I get the new tube in. I know feeling crappy is only temporary, but in the moment it seems like it will never end.

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Re-Introduction

Hi there, and hello to all of my new blog followers. My name is Sarah and I live in Illinois. I’m an only child who has lost both of her parents. My mom passed in 2011 to a brain aneurysm, and my dad in 2017 from sepsis and endocarditis. Below are pictures of me with my mom and dad! I miss them every day.

 

When I initially started this blog, it was to document my life as the caregiver to my dad. And while I will still post about that stuff, this blog has turned into a place where I can share my life experiences since losing both parents. I love that I am getting to experience new things in life and that I have a place to share my growth as a person now. I had a friend give me homework after my dad passed to see how much time of my life I have back now that I no longer need to take care of my dad, and it’s amazing how much time I truly have back. Don’t get my wrong, I would do it all again in a heart beat, but there’s something very liberating about finally getting to live my life fully for me.

So to share a little more about me, I live with my two cats, Socks and Shadow (pictured below). These two have been great to have and have helped so much with my anxiety and dealing with the loss of my dad. Besides having two fur babies, I’ve got several friends who are the best. They have helped me through some of the hardest times in my life and I don’t know what I would do without them.

One of my more recent posts was about my first vacation in eight years to NYC. You can read that post on an earlier blog. I’m making this year a year to focus on me and what will make me happy. I’m working on getting back into shape, taking trips, even if just to see family, because life is too short to not spend it with family. I also have a couple of other major trips I am planning on doing this year. One will be to California, and it will be my first time being on  the west coast. The second I’m still waiting on details, but one of my friends is going to be doing a retreat and I was told last year that I have to go this year, and I’m more than happy to oblige with that request. One of the smaller trips I making is actually this weekend for my cousin’s third birthday. She’s having a mermaid party and the kid in me is excited for that!

Thank you all so much for the follows and likes on my posts thus far and I can’t wait to share more! Feel free to share this with others and have a great rest of the week.

Progress

Over the course of the last two weeks, I have proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to, and that I need to not let that little voice in my head tell me otherwise. Last week when I was in NYC I did so much I didn’t think I could do, but the one thing I wanted to do more than anything was complete my first half marathon. I fell short of that goal due to a blister. I wasn’t disappointment because I completed eight miles. For me that’s the farthest I had walked/jogged continually in my life. That achievement alone made not only myself happy, but also friends of mine happy for me and that was a great feeling.

Flash forward 6 days and I fucking completed the distance of a half marathon today. Albeit there was a break to refuel, but I did it! In my town there is a new walking path that will eventually lead to a state park called Kickapoo State Park. Right now the trail goes from Urbana to St. Joe which is just shy of a 7 mile walk. The group I went with was coworkers I used to work with when I worked registration in the ER, one of the guys I used to go to church with, and a girl who works in the lab that got to know my and my dad really well because dad was always in for lab work. There were new people that I met as well, and it was a blast. We started at around 9:10 this morning and made it to St. Joe about two hours later. Myself and one other person decided that since it was such a nice day that after refueling with food and stuff to drink that we’d make the trek back. I’m so glad I did. I felt amazing by the time I got back to my car. Finally having a nice weather day made it all worth it. I did walk away with a slight sunburn on my face, but I can live with that.

This sense of accomplishment and momentum I’ve had the last few weeks has been fantastic. I’m getting out of my own head. I’m really taking to heart the talks I’ve had with a good friend and I’m no longer letting things from my past hold me back. I’m taking on the world and I love it. I’m in a really good place mentally that to be honest, I haven’t been in years. Each day is a new day to do accomplish something else and to show my dad that I’m doing well because of everything he taught me. The night he passed he asked me how I was going to take care of myself. I’m taking care of myself with the love and support of family and friends. My 20’s weren’t the traditional 20’s that many people experience, so I’m taking life by storm in my 30’s and it feels great. Here’s to many more adventures and goals to crush this year!