Reminders and Rainbows

Normally, I love seeing my Facebook memories pop up and remind me of what I posted “on this day.”

Today, however, Facebook reminded me of a pregnancy announcement I made on this day two years ago. Which means in a few days, I will be reminded of the day I called the doctor and asked Facebook for prayers, because I knew something was wrong. And a few days after that, I’ll be reminded of how I shared with you all what was going on. How I’d had a scare, but I was waiting in agony on test results. How I was terrified but hopeful. And in a few more days, I will be reminded of I shared with the world that I had lost my baby.

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The doctors called it a “missed abortion,” which is “when the embryo or fetus has died, but a miscarriage has not yet occurred. It is also referred to as delayed miscarriage, silent miscarriage, or missed miscarriage.”

I’ll be honest with you, even though I am ashamed of this truth. Before I experienced this type of loss myself, I didn’t get it AT ALL. I knew it was an extremely common occurrence (1 in 3, they told me). But I didn’t really understand why women seemed to grieve so hard and for so long after miscarrying.

I never imagined that I would know the pain of a miscarriage myself. I had never understood how it could hurt so much to lose someone you never even had the chance to meet. I came to understand. I had only known that I was pregnant for a month. That’s the blink of an eye. Barely any time at all, and yet I grieved nonetheless. So hard and for so long.

What happened after that, Facebook won’t remind me of, but it doesn’t have to. I remember well. My inbox was flooded with messages from other women who had gone through the same loss. Many of these women didn’t know me very well. Some experienced a loss during their very first pregnancy (which I cannot imagine) and some experienced multiple losses (which I also cannot begin to imagine). Some had lost their babies early like me and some were further along. Some had even given birth. Some had “rainbow” babies and others were still waiting for their miracle to arrive. For the healing to even begin.

It is for this reason that I don’t regret sharing my pregnancy early. I don’t wish that I had waited so I could keep the knowledge of loss to myself, as many women do. So very many suffer this tragedy in silence.

No, I am glad that I shared my news and my heartbreak with the world, because, had I not, I would not have received the numerous messages from the sweet women who reached out to tell me that I was not alone. They knew exactly how I was feeling. They knew that no words could truly soothe the pain, but they sent them anyway. And many of them thanked me for sharing, because they too needed the reassurance that they were not alone in their suffering. None of us really are, are we?

I don’t pretend to know why God puts us through these things. Whatever the reason may be, I’m grateful that there was beauty to be found in the wreckage. I’m grateful that I was blessed with my sweet Ella, my rainbow baby, not long after my miscarriage. In a few months, Facebook will remind me of that. And I’ll smile.

But I can smile today too. Yes, I remember the pain, but I also remember the connection I felt. I remember the reassurance that, despite the reputation that women may carry, they care deeply about one another. Although we are often competitive and try to outshine each other, we also have a caring side that would never want to see another suffer alone.

For that, I am grateful. For that, I will smile today. 

♥,
          Mandy

A Non-Runner's Half Marathon Story

Yesterday I arrived home from Disney World after an amazing week with my family.  Our trip was filled with lots of heartwarming moments, in between the long lines and temper tantrums, of course.  But I'm so grateful we had the opportunity to go and enjoy each other's company in my favorite place. 

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We arrived on Saturday afternoon and early Sunday morning, I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  I never thought I'd be able to say that I ran 13 miles or honestly, even one mile. But I did it.  

Why I Call(ed) Myself a Non-Runner and How I Changed My Mind

When I say that I was a non-runner, I'm not kidding.  I know some people won't believe me, because some people have only known me for the past few years.  And in the past few years, I've taken small steps that have led me in the direction of confidence and have helped me to overcome my self-limiting beliefs.  But there was a time that I would have done almost anything to get out of running or exercise in general. 

In high school, I dreaded gym class. I mean, I really really hated it.  I especially loathed running, because I felt ashamed of how out of shape I was. I remember faking sick to avoid the dreaded "beep test." And one time, when we were told that I would that if we missed the mile, we would have to make it up after school. Ugh.  That time I actually attempted "training" so that I wouldn't be quite as humiliated.  Of course, when the time came, there were other students in the same boat as me...  Pushing through the pain and embarrassment, heaved over like they were going to be sick. 

I never played sports, but I know if I had, these experiences would have been extremely different. A surprising bat of courage found me when I was 20 or so and I signed up for a martial arts class, all on my own.  I really came to enjoy Tae Kwon Do.  There's something about breaking a board with your own strength that empowers you.  Slowly but surely, I began to think a little differently about myself.  Maybe I wasn't destined to avoid physical activities with others forever.  Maybe I could do hard things.  Maybe I could surprise myself. 

Regretfully, I ended up quitting TKD before I ever got my black belt. I was slightly distracted by other things, like getting married and starting a family (you know, minor details).  After my second baby, I was shocked by the body I was left in.  I didn't recognize myself and I was determined to do something about it.  

Through the years I had started and stopped many different exercise programs and/or diets.  However, this time, when I ordered a DVD from an infomercial, I set myself on a path to transformation.  Transformation of my mind and of my body.  Completing that first program, something I also never thought that I would successfully do, told me that there was no reason I could not do it again.  There was no reason I could not finish anything I put my mind to.  

Maybe I didn't have to be out of shape forever.  Maybe I could actually be disciplined. Maybe I could actually be fit.  Maybe I could actually be proud of my fitness level. 

All I had to do was decide.

Fast forward a few years.  I have now successfully overcome many self-doubts.  I have completed multiple at home fitness programs at this point, but I have still not overcome this running thing.  Part of me still believes that I never could be a runner.

But...there is some, more rational part of me that knows that if I would simply go for it, I could do it.  I could be a runner. It is this part of my brain that decides, "I'm going to run a half marathon." Someday.

On May 2nd, 2017, a close friend tells me she has signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  

This is it.  If I'm really going to do this, this is my chance.  A princess-themed half in DISNEY.  If I'm ever going for it, this is the race I would choose. The race isn't until February, so I have plenty of time to train. So, although I am 9 months pregnant, I sign up.  
 

Training

That summer, I ran my first mile with my friend in Atlanta. It. Was. ROUGH.  I huffed and I puffed and I struggled my way to that first mile.  I'm pretty sure it took close to half an hour.  I started to think that maybe I had made a mistake.  

The voice of doubt is often relentless.  It still isn't worth listening to.

I didn't start training until the Fall.  I didn't want to start too early, but I was terrified of starting too late.  Every beginner's half marathon training plan I could find said that you should have some basis of fitness before starting it.  So, I decided to start slow with the Couch to 5k app.  

Week 1, I was running 60 second intervals.  By week 9, I was able to run a 5k.  

If you follow a program and trust the process, results will follow.  The problem for most people is that they give up too early. Or maybe it's that they never start. 

After I finished Couch to 5k, I started a half marathon training plan.  It was a simple one I found online.  A few days a week, I ran about 3 miles.  On weekends, I ran a long run that got progressively longer.  Two weeks before the race, I ran 12 miles.  It felt a little bit like a miracle. 

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible." -Walt Disney

 

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Race Day

Two week before my race, my friend who had signed up with me broke the news that she wasn't going to make it.  I would have to do this alone.

But I had done all my training alone anyway. And I wouldn't really be alone.  My family was going to be there to cheer me on as I ran with a few thousand other crazy women (and as it turns out, quite a few men as well). 

I told myself, "I have not come this far to only come this far." 

When race day arrived, I was feeling pretty good.  I had trained enough that I knew I could successfully complete the run at the required pace. I believed I could run the entire thing, because I had proven to myself that I was capable of that.

The race started at 5:30am, but to my surprise, I didn't get to start running until after 6:30. I didn't know anything about corrals.  (If you're a beginner like I was, find out how your race works, so that you can be prepared.) 

My first three miles were a little tough, but miles 4 to 8 felt pretty good. I got to run through Magic Kingdom, which just so happens to be one of my favorite places in the world, so I was intent on enjoying it. 

The last five miles of the race, my body started talking to me.  I wasn't surprised, because it did the same thing during my training. My feet hurt the worst, but my ankles and one hip wasn't very happy either. But I kept pushing through and I finished. My time wasn't anything to write home about, but I didn't care.  The point, to me, was finishing it. And I did.

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My Tips

If you are looking to start running, here's my advice: Expect it to be tough.  But be tougher.  Expect hard days. Anticipate your doubt.  Anticipate bad weather. Anticipate oversleeping.  Be ready for all of it and don't let any of it derail you.  Keep your eyes on your goal.   You got this.

Other tips:

Commit to a race.
Start slow.
Start training early (in all, I trained for 21 weeks).
Follow a program.
Buy running shoes.
Download fun running music.
Find a friend to hold you accountable.
Share your goal with others.
Have a backup plan for missed runs.
Don't let excuses get the best of you.
Finally, give yourself some grace. (You'll need it.)

♥,
            Mandy

We Smile.

A Tribute to Struggling Moms

We smile.

Through the chaos. The tantrums. The arguments. The messes.

We smile.

Even when there’s knotty hair, missing shoes, dirty diapers, and soaking wet bathrooms.

We smile.

We cry sometimes, but we also smile.

Even when it feels like we’re failing.

We smile.

Even though the days are long.

We smile.

Even though we barely sleep.

We smile.

Even though we work from morning to night.

We smile.

Even though we never get a day off.

We smile.

Because we are “Mom.” And we know there are little eyes watching.

We smile.

Because, somehow, we must hold our families together even when we feel like we’re falling apart.

We smile.

Because we know that someday we will remember this as a beautiful time in our lives.

Full of love, giggles, make-believe, and magic.

When we were the center of their worlds.

And we refuse to wish away days that someday we’ll wish we could have back.

So, we smile. ❤

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DONE.

I am DONE. 

Seriously. Done.
Let me explain.

My mom recently moved and yesterday she gave me a small old book she found that belonged to me as a kid.

It was called "My Life According to Me."

I wrote lots of silly, funny things in it. But something in it struck me as not being so funny. It was actually pretty darn sad.

In the one section, it asked "If I Could Change One Thing About the Way I Look It Would Be..."

My answer: "Shape."

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Guys... I was 11 years old! 

I also had my weight written on another page followed by a "goal" weight. Shall I repeat, I was 11?!

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And it just hit me...

Here I am, trying on my bathing suit to go to Florida soon. I'm months away from turning 30, and still struggling with the same. darn. thing.

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Wishing I didn't have these "love handles," or that my belly was flatter, or my thighs were thinner, or my arms didn't jiggle so much.

But now, I'm a mom of 3 girls.

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Three precious faces looking to me, observing and learning through my example how to feel about themselves. And no matter how many times I assure them that they are beautiful and perfect just as they are, that message will be lost if they see me believing any differently about myself.

 

I need to love myself completely, "flaws" and all, if I want them to love themselves.

They'll already be receiving messages from the media, boys, friends, and our society that they should conform to certain standards. But they will NOT get that message from me.

From me, they will get a message of love and self-acceptance.

A message that no one is perfect, perfection does not exist, and that true beauty is found within.

They will get the message that they have been given their body as a gift, to take care of and to love and cherish.

They will see me living a healthy lifestyle, exercising and eating well in order to feel good and be the best mommy possible.

But they will never see me striving for a certain number on the scale. They will never see me aim to be a certain shape. They will never hear me say that I wish I could change something about how I look.

I'm done with all that.

Done.

I suggest you be done too. 

♥,
           Mandy

Focus on the Beauty

            Ben and I bought our first home in a cute little river town called Marietta.  Occasionally, on a Saturday morning, I would take advantage of living near the water and head down to the river.  I loved to sit silently and watch the water.  It was a wonderful opportunity for me to unwind and to simply be.

            One morning, I was especially captivated by the glorious scene before me. The sky and river seemed serene. I felt small as I gazed at the mountains just beyond the river.  It was like I was staring at beautiful painting rather than at water, trees, and sky.  I had seen it many times before, but this particular morning, I allowed my mind quiet down enough to actually notice it.  And I was in awe.

            After a few minutes. I looked down to my left, and realized that there was an empty bag of chips there. I hadn’t noticed it when I first sat down.  I laughed at myself for my lack of observance, but thought it wasn’t that out of the ordinary.

            Then I looked at the ground next to the bag and realized that there was an empty plastic bottle.  And then another bag.  And more bottles.  As I widened my gaze around the area, I discovered that there was actually garbage everywhere. 

            “How did I not notice all this trash?” I thought myself. 

            But the answer came to me instantly.  I was overwhelmed by the artistry before me.  I chose to focus on that beauty, so I hadn’t noticed the garbage even though it had been there the whole time. 

            I have often thought about that morning.  The experience affirmed my belief that you will see what you look for in this world.  I already believed that what you focus on is what you will notice. If you are thinking about how cruel this world is and you look around for proof of that, I promise you will find it. But if you believe there is an abundance of love and kindness, look around for it and I promise you will see that too. You see what you look for and focus on. But it's all there.

             One day after a trip to the grocery store, I recorded some observations.

-          I saw a young woman help an elderly lady get a cart out from the row.
-          I saw a cashier give a free bag to a gentleman who needed one more (it was a store where you normally have to purchase bags).
-          I saw someone with a full cart let another person with only a few items go in front of them.
-          I saw multiple people ask the cashier how her day was going.

         All simple gestures, but they all made me smile.

            I don’t know about you, but as a mother of two small children and a baby, I don’t usually look forward to trips to the grocery store (which becomes apparent when we have nothing left to eat except for PB&J sandwiches and I still think I can put off shopping for one more day).  That day, however, a grocery shopping tripped filled my heart with joy. And simply because I chose to see the good there that day. 

            Beauty (however you define it) can be found in the most unexpected places. So, take the time to look for it.  It’s all around you, in your every day life, passing you by unnoticed.  It’s in simple activities that you do mindlessly with your kids, it’s in the sky you see every morning that you leave the house, it’s in your home, your kids’ hearts, it’s even in the dirty kitchen you have to clean up after dinner.

            And yes, among the beauty, there is likely a lot of garbage as well.  But if you focus on the beauty, the garbage won’t bother you as much. Maybe you won’t even notice it.

♥, 
          Mandy

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Five Seconds Could Change Your Life

Yesterday, I finished reading Mel Robbins' book, "The 5 Second Rule." 
No, it has nothing to do with dropped food.
It has everything to do with improving your life.


The premise is this: Any time your gut tries to move in the right direction, your brain talks you out of it after 5 seconds. If you don't take action within those first 5 seconds, you miss your window of opportunity. 


Example: You feel the urge to sign up for a class you've been interested in. You don't act on the urge because you start thinking about all the reasons you shouldn't do it or why you should do it later (aka procrastinating). It'll be hard. You don't have time. Maybe in the future when things slow down. 


But what you need to do recognize that urge to sign up and start counting down 5-4-3-2-1...and then TAKE ACTION. Get on your computer and sign up already! Or get in your car and drive to the university. Whatever it takes. Just take action in 5 seconds or less. 


I love the idea that we all instinctively know what we should be doing. We know we should get out of bed right away and not hit the snooze button. We know we shouldn't eat donuts and we should exercise every day. We know we need to reach out to loved ones to foster relationships. We all know what actions we need to take to enrich our lives. But how often do you we actually do them?


And why do we put them off if we know they are going to improve our lives?


Because our brains are full of the reasons (aka excuses) about why we shouldn't act. 

You have to beat your brain to the punch.

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Act within 5 seconds. Literally count down in your head and take action before you get to 0 (or blast off...whichever you prefer). 

There are literally endless ways you could apply this rule to your life. From getting out of bed in the morning, to getting off of Facebook, to working on your home business...there is almost nothing you couldn't use the rule for.  The book itself is full of testimonials and stories of people who have found ways to apply the rule and change their lives.


One of my favorites and most useful ways to apply the rule is to beat procrastination. Mel explains that the reason most of us procrastinate is because we don't want to deal with the negative feelings that work may bring up for us. For many, "procrastination is not a form of laziness at all. It's a coping mechanism for stress." 

In my life, I've found the rule to be helpful in multiple ways already. Yes, it works to get me out of bed. It works to get me off of Facebook when I'm zoned out and lost in the newsfeed. It has worked for me to express difficult feelings (such as apologizing). I've also used to redirect poor nutrition choices. If I'm reaching for something not-so-healthy to satisfy a craving, I can 5-4-3-2-1 grab some water or a healthy alternative. 


I also love the idea using the rule to get rid of extra clutter. How often do we overthink getting rid of something when we know darn well that we haven't used said item in years? 5-4-3-2-1 trash or donation pile... no looking back! 


And as Mel points out, every time you make a decision in the right direction, your confidence grows. You start realizing that you've had the power to change your life all along. And THAT feels amazing!

If you want to know more or if you find yourself hesitating and constantly blocking yourself from taking actions that you know you should take, you definitely need this is in your life. 5-4-3-2-1, you got this!

♥,
           Mandy

I Was Having "One of Those Days" As a Mom

I was having one of those days as a mom. 
I was frustrated. 
Nothing seemed to be going right. 
My fuse was getting shorter.

I was exhausted.
The kids wouldn't listen.
They kept asking me for things.
Asking over and over and over again. 
Even after I had said no a million times.

I just wanted a minute to sit down and rest.

I got snappy. 
I rolled my eyes.
I yelled about something that wasn't worth yelling about.
I even wished that I could take a day off from being a mom.

See, you get days off from other jobs.
Days off to recharge and come back for more.
You don't get time off as a mom.

Even when (if) the kids nap, you feel like you should use that time to pick up around the house, do laundry, dishes, or one of the other never ending tasks on your to-do list.

Even at night when everyone is asleep, you are still "on call." At any moment, a child could wake up needing you. Maybe one had a scary dream. Or is puking. 

Or worse, maybe you lie awake at night thinking about all the things that went wrong that day. 
About how you're not being the best mom possible. 
Maybe you even think that you're a bad mom.
About how the other moms seem to have something together that you haven't figured out yet.

You don't even get the luxury of restful nights when you're a mom.

This leads to you being even more exhausted, and often, even more frustrated. 
It's not every day, but it happens.

I've been there. 
You've been there.

And I was having one of those days. 


I retreated to a place of refuge after turning on a movie for the kids to watch (shameful, I'm aware).  
I sat down and took some deep breaths. 
I saw a book sitting in front of me that I had purchased over 6 months before but had never opened. 
It's called "The Love Dare."

Something inspired me to start reading. 
It's a book with 40 days of challenges for loving your spouse and deepening the love in your marriage. 

Do you want to guess what "Day 1" is all about?

Patience. It's about patience.

Because "love is patient" is the first line of the famous verse. 
Patience is crucial to love. 

This book about marriage taught me a great lesson about motherhood.

"When you choose to be patient, you respond in a positive way to a negative situation. You are slow to anger. You choose to have a long fuse instead of a quick temper. Rather than being restless and demanding, love helps you settle down and begin extending mercy to those around you. 

Patience is a choice to control your emotions rather than allowing your emotions to control you. Patience brings an internal calm during an external storm."

Gut check. Ouch. That one hurt. 

This could have been another opportunity to beat myself up. 
Maybe that's what you're doing as you read those words. 

But let me extend another option to you:
Be patient. 
Wait...what?

Be patient with YOU. 
Be patient as you learn this thing called motherhood.
Be patient as you have "those days." 

And yes, be patient with your little humans too.
Remember that they are the biggest blessing you'll ever receive. 
Remember that there are lots of women around the world who would love the opportunity to have "one of those days."
And remember that you are not alone in this journey.
Don't judge yourself so harshly.

We're all a hot mess, we all lose it, and we all have "those days."

♥,
          Mandy

On Being A Mom and Being a Role Model

 

I'm currently sitting in my daughter, Evelyn's, room, thinking about how my thinking has changed since having my girls.

I look at them and think about how they'll see life someday. How they'll remember the lessons that I teach them with my own life.

I want them to know that they can do anything, not just because I tell them so but because I SHOW them that. Among other things, I want to be an example of continual personal growth, loving others, and having a servant's heart. An example of someone who went for her dreams, instead of simply talking about those dreams.  I want them to see the good in others, even when they don't see it themselves. I want them to be confident and believe they are worthy of love. 

I read once that the biggest influence in one's life is usually the same sex parent.  That's a MAJOR responsibility. And privilege. But  having these two precious girls watching and emulating me, makes me want to be better for them.  The best version of myself possible. Because they deserve that from me.

♥,
         Mandy
 

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Love the Here and Now

Sometimes I need reminded of lessons that I have already learned... For example, when I get really sucked into achieving my goals and get my blinders on. It's like I'm in a fog where all I think about is what to do next. 

I want to achieve my goals, yet enjoy where we are now. Just like I always tell my fitness accountability groups, you have to enjoy every step of the process and be grateful along the way or you'll still be unhappy once you've "arrived." I wrote about this in a post called "Love Where You Are" last year.

My kids' smiles always remind me why I have goals in the first place. It's all about them. They remind me to slow down, cuddle, play, enjoy every bit of life on the way. 

♥,
            Mandy

 

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You Won't Be Everyone's Cup of Tea

You won't be everyone's cup of tea. 

See, I prefer coffee. Doesn't mean there is anything wrong with tea, I just don't like it. 

You're not meant to please everyone. Even if you tried really hard, someone out there would still not like you. Just keep being you (as long of you're nice) and work on becoming a better version of yourself. 

I tend to be a people pleaser. Sometimes I get tempted to "conform" to the people I'm around or change a Facebook post because "What will people THINK?!" but I'm slowly getting over it.

I have to remind myself that it's not important that everyone likes me. Just that I am doing my best and living by my values.

"Some people won't understand your journey, but they don't need to. It's not for them."

♥,
           Mandy

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Where Does the Time Go?

     It's been a while since I've posted anything on this blog.

     Isn't it funny how life gets away from us sometimes?  It's hard to focus when you're spread thin. I've realized that every time I say "yes" to something, it means that I am saying "no" to something else.  You don't have time for everything. You have to choose. And if you don't choose, the choice is made for you.  

     So much of what we do now is MINDLESS and I refuse to allow myself to live that way. I want to DECIDE what to do with my time. I keep looking at the clock and wondering where my days have gone. Do you know that feeling?  Do you feel good about how you've spent your day? If you've lost yourself in play with your children, you probably do feel good about that. And you should. But if you've lost yourself in television or Facebook, you probably don't. I know I don't. I'm sick of giving my time to activities that aren't important to me and don't add value to my life. 

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I'm going to come back to this blog, because it's important to me! Less of the unimportant, more of the important. 

I've made some major life changes since I've posted last. I quit my full time job that I had for 9.5 years (since I was 18!) and I started a new job that I am working just a few days a week. More of my time is now available to my family and friends, to my coaching business and to myself! I'm eternally grateful for this! Every day that I wake up and don't have to rush to work feels like a joyful dream!

It took a lot of work to get to this point. I'll go into more detail about that in a later post. For now, I hope you take away that your TIME is valuable and you need to decide how to spend it or it's going to slip away.  

 

♥,
           Mandy

What's Most Important to You?

     Last night, I visited an old friend who is very sick. I had lost touch with her for past 3 years or so. I had no idea that she was sick or how bad it was. I am extremely grateful that I was able to see her again. And it got me thinking...

      How many of us are so busy "making a living" that we forget to enjoy our lives? That we rush out the door without giving hugs and saying "I love you?" Are we so busy that we can't take the time to sit, uninterrupted with our spouses and simply talk for an hour?

      We lose touch with friends and it's normal, because we're all so busy. Busy busy busy. I heard this quote in a book and it stuck with me..

     "On the one hand, we all want to be happy. On the other hand, we all know the things that make us happy. But we don’t do those things. Why? Simple. We are too busy. Too busy doing what? Too busy trying to be happy."

      At the end of life, what will you wish you had spent more time doing? Working? Dishes? Or spending time with the people who matter most? Because NOW is the time to start do those things so that you don't regret NOT doing it later.

     This a reminder that I needed and I figured someone else would too. Thanks for reading and I hope it helps you to focus on what's most important.

♥,
Mandy

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least." 
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Gate of Change

"Each of us guards a "gate of change" that can only be opened from the inside."
-Marilyn Ferguson

I read this quote today and it really "clicked."

It seems simple enough. But how many of us spend time trying to change those around us? You can't. You can help, inspire them with your own life, give advice, but in the end, the choice is theirs.

Looking at it this same idea from another perspective, you also cannot wait for someone else to change YOU. YOU have to open the gate yourself. Stop waiting for other people or circumstances to do it for you.  Something inside you has to decide to change. Take responsibility, recognize your power, and make stuff happen. You got this! 

♥,
         Mandy

You Can't Make Everyone Happy

A reflection on critics...

     No matter what you do in life, there will always be someone criticizing you. Don't let it stop you or you'll never accomplish a thing. 

     Aristotle once said, "To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing." But no offense to Aristotle (I'm channeling Elle Woods here), but I know that people would criticize you for that too!  So you just CANNOT worry about it!

    And please, if you're a criticizer...umm...stop. 😉 We've all been there but at some point you have to realize that your criticism says more about you than it does about anyone else.

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Comparison: The Thief of Joy and Peace

     As I write this post, I am sitting in my car on the way to Beachbody's annual Summit.  I will be surrounded by 25,000 other coaches.  It got me thinking about my personal growth and development over the past year.  If I had gone to this event last year, I imagine that it would have been a completely different experience for me. At least in my head. I think I would have spent a lot of time comparing myself to these amazing coaches.  I would have looked at their success, their superior levels of fitness, their passion, their ambition, their servants' hearts...and I would've used it all to tear myself down.  I would have seen myself as inferior and most likely would've used a negative internal dialogue to remind myself of my inferiority during the entire convention.  That might sound extreme, but I have a feeling that I'm not alone.

        How many times do you compare yourself to others?  It could be about anything.  Maybe you go to visit your friend's house and spend most of the time wondering how she possibly keeps it so spotless when she has three kids.  Then you either, A...See yourself as inferior and wish you could keep your own house that clean or B...Tell yourself that she must ignore her kids and therefore feel better about yourself because at least YOU have your priorities right.  Sound familiar?  Come on...admit it.  Maybe you compare your body to your friends'.  Maybe it's cars, clothes, personality (I get jealous of people who are always the life of the party...I need to warm up to people to really be myself), business success, bank accounts, musical talents, etc.  No matter what it is that you use to compare yourself to others, I want to encourage you to KNOCK IT OFF. 

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     Comparing yourself to others rarely leads to anything positive.  Unless, of course, you chose to be INSPIRED by others and what they show is possible (like in the case of business success). If you are comparing yourself about something that you can't change, like some model's long legs when you are 5 feet tall...tell me, what can that do for you?  

     I know it's hard to simply stop this.  But recognize this destructive behavior for what it is.  Try to tell yourself that you are just as beautiful even though you'll never have those long legs.  Focus on the qualities that you like about yourself.  So you'll never have her legs.  But maybe you love your eyes.  Be grateful for those beautiful eyes.  Everyone has qualities that they don't like about themselves, including that model.  Why focus on them? I think it's human nature, but it's really very silly when you stop and think about it.  We all have things we like and don't like about ourselves and yet we spend all of our time focusing on the bad.  Hmmm.  No one is perfect, even if you might think they are. But there is much beauty in imperfection.  Embrace it.  And if you're fortunate enough to have a significant other who tells you that you're beautiful, believe that they mean and enjoy it (I think this requires a whole other blog post, but we'll do that another time)!

      Maybe you'll never paint as well as your best friend (I know I never will!) but you might be a darn good writer and you should be proud of that.  We all have our own unique talents.  You may not have found yours yet.  Some talents take practice to develop.  Just don't give up and don't let a defeatist attitude destroy your chances of finding your passion.  If you want to learn to paint better, then paint! You don't have to be the best and you don't even have to be good.  Do it because you love it. 

I used to constantly compare myself to others. I would literally let it ruin my enjoyment of events and get-togethers because in my head I was self-deprecating.  I still do it at times, but I've gotten better at catching myself. When I do, instead of yelling at myself for doing it, I try to light-heartedly think, "There I go again!" and mooooooooove right along with my day.  These negative habits won't fix themselves overnight.  You have to CHOOSE to stop doing this to yourself and then WORK at it, just like anything else. 

    An idea for how to change this behavior and your thoughts... Try journaling out your negative thoughts and then turning them into positive affirmations.  I know what everyone thinks of when they think about affirmations..."I like myself!" or something of that nature, but it doesn't have to be so cheesy.  I use simple ones like "I am confident and my confidence is growing everyday," because I used to hold the belief that I would never be successful because I was not confident enough...see how this works?  I say affirmations daily because they have the power to change your thoughts.   The daily repetition will eventually cause your mind to believe what you are telling it! You can re-program negative patterns in your brain using this powerful tool.  So put aside your goofy assumptions and try it. 

      This year, I am attending Summit and being surrounded by some of the most beautiful, successful, talented, kind, physically fit people I have ever seen.  And I have already decided that I am going to enjoy every single moment and not let myself ruin it by wishing I were like them.  Most of these people are the pinnacles of what I would like to be.  I am choosing to be inspired by their achievements.  I know I will learn an amazing amount from them.  And I will remember, that despite the pedestal I might put them on, these are just other people who really aren't that different from me.  There will be areas of the life where they are "further ahead" so to speak, but that is absolutely OK with me. Life, to me, isn't about figuring out how to be better than everyone else.  It's about being the best version of myself that I can be and helping others. And these people can help me with that.  LET THE GROWING BEGIN!

♥,
          Mandy

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Permission to Recharge

      This week I have been confronted with an important lesson just when I needed it.  So many days I am "go go going."  I try to fit in every little task into my day. As soon as my peaceful morning routine is over, I start running around. I often multi task in an effort to "save time" and "get more done."  For example, while I'm cooking breakfast, it isn't unusual to find me sending messages to clients and cleaning the kitchen all at once. And whenever I know that I have a free evening, I inevitably think up some task that could be fit into that block of time and then completely ruin any chance of relaxing that I might have had. Even if I decide not to do whatever that task was, I'm racked with guilt about everything I could be doing.

     The message that I have received this week is "Slow down. Life is not an emergency. You must take time to refill your tank and or will run out of gas on the highway."

     It's a message that we've all heard but rarely apply.  There just always seem like so much to do and not enough time to get it done.  The problem that we must face and accept, however, is that there will always be things to do.  You will never really be caught up.  This fantasy has had me chasing my tail for a long time.  I continue thinking, "If I just do a couple more things, then I'll be good. Then I'll feel caught up and be able to relax."  You can guess what happens, because there's a good chance it happens to you too. 

     Make an effort to do less. You can't do it all.  And that's OK.  You're only human and you're only one person. Choose what's important and focus on those things.

     We must start giving ourselves permission to refuel as often as needed (myself included).  Everyone will refuel and recharge in different ways.  For you, it might be spending quiet time by yourself. For someone else, it might be playing with their kids.  Maybe it's a girls' night out.  But whatever it is that it takes for you to feel refreshed and recharged, you need to make the time to do it as surely as you need to stop to put gas in your car.

      If you are a scheduler, pencil in some time to rejuvenate. You deserve it. You don't simply deserve it. You require it.  It isn't selfish or foolish. It's necessary.

♥,
           Mandy
 

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Handling Discouragement

       Discouraged.  It's something we all feel at times.  Especially if you have some big dreams and expectations.  You feel like you're working hard, going in the right direction...and then SMACK. A road block.  They can come in many forms.  But you know when you've hit one.

        Or maybe you feel like you're working hard and you're not really getting anywhere. You're just spinning your wheels over and over and never gaining traction.  

        It can feel depressing.  Hopeless.  You'll probably feel like it's not worth it.  Your mind might start coming up with all kinds of reasons why it's OK for you to quit.  It becomes easier to justify giving up.

So what to do?  

        Well, this can be situational.  But my best advice is to write down your "why."  Why did you start on this journey in the first place?  What do you have to gain from continuing?  What would the future you tell yourself if he or she were successful and looking back?  


I've had to do this this week.

        My usual positive self has been feeling a bit defeated.  Even though I am working towards my goals every day, my progress has been slow in many areas.  Sometimes I feel as though it's not worth the effort.  But you know what....

It is!  

       You might not always feel motivated.  Some days you will reread that list of "whys" in an effort to motivate yourself into action and it just won't happen.  But we base our decisions on these negative emotions, we will never accomplish anything worth while. 

       I believe that is why you hear cliches like "Perseverance is the key to success."  They become maxims like that for a reason.  They are TRUE!  Persevere through your hard time.  You might be closer than you think to your goal.  Either way, you aren't getting any closer by giving up.  
 

"If you can't fly, then run.
If you can't run, then walk.
If you can't walk, then crawl,
But whatever you do,
You have to keep moving forward."
-Martin Luther King Jr.

       Martin Luther King Jr. had such a great point.  Do what you can with what you have.  Don't give up and don't let allllllll of those great reasons why it's OK to give up convince you. It's not OK to give up.  That's what average people do.  You're not average.  You can persevere through this.  You have the power.  Own it.

 And yes. I wrote this post as much to myself as to anyone else.  

♥,
            Mandy

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Birthday Reflections: Moving in the Right Direction

     Yesterday was my 27th birthday.  Birthdays have a way of causing one to reflect on life, such as where you have been, where you are, and where you are going.  I'm still in awe of the fact that my body helped create two little beautiful human beings.  My oldest will be THREE this year.  It seems like only yesterday that we brought her home.  I can't believe this year will be five years since I married the love of my life.  That means it's also been five years since I graduated from college.  Time seems to be going so fast. 

     It made me think this week a lot about where I am in life.  There is so much that I love about my life.  There are things about it that I don't like though too.  But I can honestly say that I am on a path to change everything that I am unhappy about.  I am not simply sitting by and waiting for life to magically change.  With God's help, I am moving in the direction of my dreams.  And even though this requires sacrifice, at the end of the day I can rest easily because I know that it will all be worth it.

    I was watching "Despicable Me" (hilarious by the way) with the family the other day.  The first scene is in Egypt at the pyramids.  I thought to myself, "I can't wait to see that someday."  I have always assumed that someday I will see all the amazing things in the world that I want to see.  Do you do that too?  Do you just assume that someday you will have the time and money to do what you want to do?

      For example, I am always wishing that we had the ability to travel.  Instead of allowing my desire to travel to become a distant dream, we are making sacrifices with money now, so that we will have the time and money to do it later.  The timing is good for us to make this work.  My kids are so young that they don't notice that our family days are spent on mostly free activities like going to the park.  They won't care that this year we are cutting costs by spending our vacation at a beach and staying with friends. But because we are working hard this year and spending less money, we won't have to work as hard later and our money will be freed up in the next 1-2 years. 

      When I talk about sacrifice for us it means spending less money, but it does not mean that we do not enjoy ourselves,  We find ways to have fun for less.  The point is, that we are on a path to change what we don't like about our lives.  AND we are enjoying ourselves along the way. You can't just assume that the future is going to be what you want it to be.  You have to create it.  Don't assume that you're going to have money when you retire unless you are actively setting it up so that you will.  Don't assume that 10 years from now your life will be different unless you are taking the steps to make it different.

     Too often, people make themselves victims of circumstance,  They act as if they have no say in what becomes of their future.  If you are at a job you dislike (studies show that 80% of Americans are), then what are you doing to change it?  If you want more time with family, what actions are you taking to make that happen?  Do you wish you could be debt free yet you are doing nothing about changing your spending habits?  In other words, are you complaining about something and doing nothing to change it?  Take your power back and start taking steps to change what you need to change.

The chart below may seem oversimplified, but it works for most things.
 

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     A common cause of feeling like a "victim" is that we assume that our future will be a certain way because our past has told us that.  Have you heard, "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior?"  It might be true, but it doesn't have to be.  

 

    A great example is when people start a new weight loss program.  You hear people say all the time that they've "tried everything" and it's no use.  They think that because they have failed in the past that they are destined to fail in the future.  If that were true, however, no one would ever succeed because everyone fails at some point!  Some manage to overcome the failure and grow from it.  You can too.  You have to commit to your goals and then identify obstacles and how to overcome them.  But don't let your past be the indicator of what you can do.  Instead, see your past mistakes and failures as a learning experience and use it to discover what you need to change to succeed this time around.  

    Little changes every day can become big changes over time! 

     This year I turned 27.  I wonder how different my life will be 28?  It'll be fun to look back at this and reflect again.  I expect that it will only be wonderful by then, because I am choosing to make it so.  You can too.

 

♥,
          Mandy