Work hard. Results will come.

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Most things in our life are things we fully control. We control the time we get up in the morning, the food we choose to eat, the friends we have, and the overall lifestyle we choose. For most, it’s a simple choice: sedentary or active. Growing up I was fortunate to have a high metabolism. I could eat whatever I wanted, and my twig-like limbs remained unchanged. Of course, it didn’t stay like that. During my final college semester, my lifestyle shifted from active to sedentary. I was eating out, snacking late at night, drinking, not exercising and sitting on my butt, stressed out, completing assignments night after night. I succeeded in maintaining my 4.0 GPA, but failed at staying in control of my weight. Within six months I’d gained about 30 pounds. My mom told me that she hardly recognized me when I moved back home after graduation. When these words came from my mom who knows me better than anyone, I knew she wasn’t sugarcoating the facts. I’d lost control.

I was stuck in denial for some time, but then things took a turn for the worst after a doctor’s visit. I found out my cholesterol level was high and that I was pre-diabetic. Things needed to change. At the end of the year, my dad surprised my mom with a membership to a community gym that opened less than a mile from our house. In January, the gym offered a huge discount on memberships. For motivational support, my mom said she’s pay for half of my membership. Now that I was a member, I started going several times a week. The fitness loft was clean with brand new equipment. I quickly found a workout routine I enjoyed. I’ve been going for a little over three months now, and I can officially say I’m hooked! I’m not yet at my goal weight, but I have lost several pounds. The best part is, I can see a difference when I stand in front of my full-length mirror. Even my boyfriend comments on my slimmer waist when he hugs me.

Fitness is not about being better than someone else… It’s about being better than you used to be.

I wish that I hadn’t let things get so beyond my control during college, but this has been a huge lesson. I no longer have a high metabolism, and therefore I have to pay more attention to how I treat my body. It’s as simple as that. I’ve also learned that results don’t arrive on day one. The most frustrating part of working out is waiting for your results to appear, and I think that’s why a lot of people don’t follow through. Whether I’m on the elliptical machine, walking the track, lifting weights, doing crunches or wiping sweat off my forehead, I feel empowered. Even though there may be people there in better shape than me, I’m focused solely on my progress, which is the way it should be. I’m looking forward to see where my body will be come swimsuit season!

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Celebrating a beautiful life

heaven-child-godLast night just after 9 p.m., my mom received a call. The call informed us of my Oma’s passing. Yesterday marked her 25th day at the Olathe Hospice House. She’d been placed there after receiving a brain cancer diagnosis. Before cancer appeared, she’d suffered through two strokes, three UTIs, three cases of pneumonia, multiple seizures and hospital visits. To speak truthfully, the past 11 months have put our family through a great deal of suffering. We’ve been living in a suspenseful movie that’s kept us on the edge of our seats, just waiting for the Lord to take her into His eternal embrace. Although she’s physically been with us, we lost a big part of her last April when the strokes robbed us of her voice. I can now say that you’ll never appreciate the sound of someone’s voice until they can no longer talk to you.

Even though we knew since April that this outcome was inevitable, the initial shock of the news deeply affected us. The news traveled through a chain: my Opa told my mom, my mom told me and then contacted my dad, and I told my sister. I remember seeing my sister’s face change when she saw my watery eyes and tear-stained cheeks. I held her in my arms and reassured her that Oma was with her Creator in a much better place. There was no more pain, no more suffering and no more poor quality of life. She now has a front seat in Heaven where she’ll watch over us for the rest of our lives.

Before the conclusion of her earthly life, we’d started to think about the flow of her funeral. Now that she’s on her way to being cremated, everything is fast-tracked. Due to my creative aptitude, I created the photo-boards and a slideshow to display the beauty, adventure and love that exemplified her life. Looking through albums made me appreciate the woman I aspire to be. She had wonderful qualities that set her a part from others, but one quality shined more brightly up until the end: her strength. She was a fighter. She fought to stay with us for as long as she possibly could. She defied all odds when she lasted 25 days in hospice. Even the nurses were amazed by her strength. In my mind, she wasn’t fighting for her life, she was fighting to stay with the people she loved.

What’s been comforting me during this time is prayer. Last night before I went to bed, I knelt by my bed and spoke these words:

Dear Lord, thank you for ending my Oma’s suffering by welcoming her into your eternal embrace. Please reign down on our family with your unending consolation, love and strength. Wrap your arms around us and soak us in your grace. Make it clear to each member of our family that life will continue and that the pain in our hearts will heal over time. Lord I do not blame you for I know that everything you do is for a reason. Please bring our family closer together during this time of sorrow as we mourn the loss of a loved one. In your glorious name I pray. Amen.  

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Facebook, fingernail biting and forgiveness

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With the season of Lent starting in two days, I’ve been narrowing down what I plan to give up for the 40 days leading up to Easter. With the help of my boyfriend, I’ve decided on two bad habits: Facebook and fingernail biting. These are both things that I do without thinking, and they both result in loss. Facebook costs me time and fingernail biting costs me… well my nails. Research tells us that it takes approximately 21 days for a pattern to transform into a habit. So by the time we reach April 16, I should no longer feel the need to anxiously pick at or chew my nails or surf through my Facebook newsfeed. I will have successfully conquered two negative habits through the art of discipline and sacrifice.

If you were to ask a non-Catholic to associate a word or phrase with Lent, most would comment “A time to give something up like sweets or TV.” They wouldn’t be 100% wrong, Lent is a time of sacrifice, which accompanies the idea giving something up that you enjoy or have a habit of doing. In addition to sacrifice, Lent is a time of forgiveness. I find that the concept of forgiveness is becoming exceedingly more elusive these days. When someone screws up and says they’re sorry, half the time they don’t truly mean it. The two words float out of their mouth out of habit, and while the person on the receiving end may nod and say it’s ok. Have they really practiced the art of forgiveness? Not quite.

An article from Christianity Today highlights three basic steps in practicing forgiveness: surrendering the desire to get even, rediscovering the wrongdoer’s humanity and finally wishing them well. It’s difficult for someone who utters the immediate words – it’s ok – to have completed these steps. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to go through the motions on your way to forgiving someone – the response does not need to be immediate. It’s also not required to forget what the person who caused you pain did, but you shouldn’t allow that memory to control your life. When I’m hurt by someone, I try hard to force what they did out of my mind. The trouble is when we try to repress or forget, it only prompts the memory to become more engrained in our mind.

I have never been a skilled forgiver. I’m guilty of uttering the words – it’s ok – after being hurt or wronged by someone. By speaking that faulty, immediate response, I’m depriving myself and the sinner the time to reflect on the committed transgression. A fake line of forgiveness does not do either of us any favors. I think the most important element to understand is time. Even though God can forgive us in a single breath, we do not have that divine ability. We require time to pray, reflect and listen to the Holy Spirit.

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.       –Micah 7:18-19

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Reaching a new milestone

There are firsts in every romantic relationship: first date, first kiss, first time you realize you’re in love, first time saying I love you, first time hanging out with their friends, first fight, first time meeting the families, first night spent together, first trip… and so on. The majority of firsts happen within the first six months of the relationship. At least, that’s how it went for us, and now on Feb. 20 we checked off one more first: anniversary.

It’s hard for me to believe that we’ve already been together for a year. I guess time flies when you’re laughing, cuddling, loving and having adventures with someone you truly love. 

We came to the mutual decision to have a low-key anniversary weekend since our actual anniversary fell on a Monday. I used to be the kind of girl who wanted to dress up to celebrate this milestone, but 23-year-old Amy can’t think of anything better than snuggling up on a couch in pjs while watching a good movie. It was such a relaxing, romantic escape.

image_zps29e17516Our weekend began with a scheduled gift exchange and car repair that benefited my 2003 Toyota Corolla. After everything he’s done for me in the past 12 months, I wanted to nail the gifts, and I accomplished that with three thoughtful items. The first was a duo of books called 31 Prayers for My Future Wife and 31 Prayers for My Future Husband. I knew this $20 purchase would be useful to us because we’re discerning our relationship for marriage, and prayer is a significant part of marriage. The second was a wooden wall decor piece that read God Gave Me You, which is the Dave Barnes song that outlines our relationship. The third and final gift was his favorite: an engraved wooden box filled with 28 personalized, blue dominoes. I had the box and dominoes engraved with our names to make it more romantic, and we decided to use it at a minimum and let it serve as a piece of decor so it’ll last for years to come.

The rest of the weekend was filled with relaxation and laughter, which is normal. Then on Sunday night around midnight, as I was Internet surfing on my Mac, he walked in with two cups. He told me he wanted to make a toast. He handed me my cup filled a fourth of the way with red wine and sat down next to me. He then proceeded to recite what sounded like a well rehearsed speech on his thoughts of our year together. It was the sweetest toast and impossible for me to follow although I tried. It was then that I asked him, “What were your favorite moments during the past year?”  I know how difficult that question was. I couldn’t even boil it down to one memory and neither could he. The truth is, I don’t think we’ll ever actually know what our favorite memory is because we’ll be too busy making more.

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Life doesn’t end at the waterfall

“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.” 

Tonight was the first time I visited my Oma (read as grandma) since she arrived at the Olathe Hospice House yesterday afternoon. It’s been a long, painful journey since her strokes in April 2016, and now we are nearing the end. The end of the life of this wonderful, brilliant, kind-hearted, courageous, beautiful woman who enriched us with her unconditional love. Seeing her resting peacefully as her body continues to wither away is heart-wrenching, and yet as I sat next to her I could see her continue to fight. She was fighting to signal she could hear me and fighting to show me that she loved me and would miss me too. Whether that be in the way she raised her arm, twitched her legs, slightly opened her eyes or applied pressure to my hand – I knew she could hear me.

This is the first time I’ve lost a family member I was extremely close with, and it’s also my first time in a hospice house. I can see why this is where many people spend their last days on Earth: the feeling of consolation is undeniable. I felt comfortable unloading the waterworks because I knew everyone around me felt the same way I did: heartbroken. Losing someone you love is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to face because all you can think about is how you will proceed without them. It’s difficult when you come to the realization that life won’t ever be the same again, but a small part of you hopes that over time things might become easier and you’ll gain some well-needed peace.

Tonight as I was sitting next to her bed, holding her hand and choking back tears as I told her the contents of my heart, I thought about all the milestones she’s been present for: graduations, birthdays, boyfriends, accomplishments, plays… and then I thought about all the milestones yet to come like landing my first job, getting married, having children. She won’t be here to celebrate with me, tell me I look beautiful in my dress or hold her first great-grandchild. It was then that I said to her, “I know you won’t physically be here, but I know you’ll have a front-row seat in Heaven where you can cheer me on like you’ve been doing for me my entire life.”  Then she pushed back on my hand, and I knew that was her sign that she was listening and agreeing with me.

My boyfriend recently told me about a homily he once heard at a Catholic Mass. He said it stuck with him over the years because of the powerful message it contained: life is like a river. Life’s river constantly flows, changes and adapts to its surroundings, but it never flows backwards. Sometimes it flows smoothly beneath clear, blue skies, while other times it’s filled with jagged, sharp rocks and violent rapids. The main point is that however many years we have to flow on this Earth, we’ll all go over a waterfall at some point. It’s crucial to remember, however, that rivers do not stop after a waterfall. They pool up at the base and begin flowing again. When I heard this analogy, I compared the waterfall to my Oma’s death. Even when her river goes over that inevitable waterfall and her earthly life ends, there will be a whole new life waiting for her at the bottom.

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“The end of life’s river is the gateway to eternity.”

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Spontaneous public outburst? No thanks

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John Mulaney, one of my favorite comedians, said in one of his stand-up routines, “I’m Irish, and Irish people don’t tell you a thing; Irish people keep it so bottled up. The plan with Irish people is ‘I’ll keep all my emotions right here, and then one day I’ll die.'” 

The first time I watched his newest routine, I laughed when I heard this line. Partly because I’m a quarter Irish and partly because he’s 100% correct. It doesn’t make sense why people waste so much effort trying to conceal their emotions when it feels so rejuvenating to release them. After all, bottling up emotions for an extended period of time is the equivalent of having to wait to pee. When you finally have the opportunity to visit the restroom, you literally sprint to relieve your bladder. In turn, when you finally give yourself the opportunity to release the emotions you’ve buried, you’ll find that much more than you expected comes out: usually in the form of an outburst.

It would be easy to say that burying emotions is the best method for appearing strong and in control, but emotions aren’t meant to be controlled. Emotions are the body’s form of verbal and nonverbal communication to others. Whether you’re crying, laughing or frowning – these signs help people easily diagnose what’s going on ‘under your hood.’ But when you bottle up and bury all of your emotions then there’s no way for anyone to know that you’re in trouble, need help and want someone to talk to. If processing your emotions is the only cure for what you’re feeling, but you refuse to allow your body to partake then it’s only a matter of time before you experience an emotional outburst.

Over the years I have become better at sharing, but there are still moments when I try to conceal all the hurt, all the anguish and all the pain with a fake smile. And let me tell you, it’s so exhausting to try to make it through a day or week with a false expression and a heart ready to burst. Last night, instead of allowing myself to verbally process, I waited too long and experienced a spontaneous outburst… in public. If you’ve ever cried in public, it’s near the top of the embarrassment chart. When you cry, you’re at your most vulnerable. Needless to say I did my best to ensure that very few people witnessed my snot-infested mess. Luckily this unplanned outburst happened during my weekly bible study and the woman seated next to me who saw everything was a very good listener.

So even though I have two strikes against me: being 25% Irish and a woman. I can heed John Mulaney’s words and try to process my emotions rather than push them down in hopes that they’ll become a ticking time bomb waiting to explode in the form of an uncontrolled, unwanted spontaneous outburst.

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Getting attached to a theory

On January 23, I started a three-week course called 21st Century Catholic Dating. Even though I’m in a relationship, I thought this class could offer some new insight. So far we’ve conquered 66.6% of the classes, and the primary concept we’ve discussed the most has been the attachment theory and its four styles.

575x360-v-dpc-64298008For those interested in psychology, you’ve probably heard about the research study that brought this theory into the light. John Bowlby, British psychiatrist, performed a study with mothers and their children called The Strange Situation. In this study, a mother and her child went into a room with a researcher. The mother leaves the child behind with the researcher for three minutes and then returns. Every child threw a fit when their mother left the room, but then the responses deviated. Some children quickly calmed themselves down, while others continued to fuss. The ones who calmed themselves down had responsive, loving mothers while the ones who never calmed down had cold, dismissive mothers.

This study symbolized that “The quality of one’s earliest emotional relationships has a lasting effect on personality.”

While Bowlby’s work was done primarily on children. It was found that his results also applied to relationships between adults. Researchers found that emotional support and effective dependency were two concepts that created additional strength in a child’s developing personality. In the past, researchers believed that dependency was a negative component in human behavior. Luckily, they were 100% incorrect. As we now know, human beings were created with the instinctual desire for human connection. In fact, we can’t survive without it.

When it comes to relationships, “A sense of secure connection between romantic partners is key in positive loving relationships and a huge source of strength for the individuals in those relationships.” 

The quality of your earliest relationship, preferably with your mother, will pinpoint the attachment theory style to which you belong. The four styles are secure/anchor (50-60%), anxious/wave, avoidant/island and anxious-avoidant (extremely rare). Your attachment style dictates how you function in a relationship and the type of partner you need to help you thrive. When my boyfriend and I took the quiz, we found that we’re both in the secure category. This meant that we were were both secure individuals, willing to commit and fully share with each other, generally happy people and able to adapt to the needs of the moment. A relationship between two anchors will exhibit a desire to be close, great communication because they know how to share without being accusatory and a natural  longing to be intimate.

2dWhen you take this quiz, your result will appear as a dot on a graph with four quadrants. Your dot’s coordinates indicate that you’re also an ish-version of another category. For example, my dot appeared in the secure quadrant, but my dot’s coordinates indicated that I am 2.8ish anxious and 1.2ish avoidant. Every quadrant is different because every style has its pros and cons. It does not mean that you’re a terrible person who is never going to find love if you’re classified as an island or a wave. It simply benefits you to know what you need in a relationship and who the best match will be. If you’re a wave, you need someone who can calm your fears. If you’re an island, you need someone who will understand your need for space and independence. The most important thing to remember is that styles are not permanent. As individuals we constantly change through our level of self-awareness and the loving interactions we have with other people.

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