Listening More Closely to my Body

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That was the hot chocolate: a bright spot in an already gorgeous date!

My husband and I went out on a beautiful date last weekend. We went out for brunch to a lovely place called The Little Lion in Old City here in Philadelphia. They do a yummy southern spin on brunch favorites. I had a version of eggs Benedict with rib meat, fried potatoes and a spicy Benedict sauce. Brad had a buffalo chicken version of biscuits and gravy. It was rib sticking food, heavy but so delicious. Needless to say, our plans to walk to Penn’s landing afterward were very fitting.

It was foggy and quiet, like we were in an old movie. Old City Philadelphia is of course the oldest part of the city where all the coolest stuff is: Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin lived there and its filled with tiny quaint shops and brick streets. The buildings are some of the oldest in the country, and the traffic while tight can’t get too big because the streets are the same size they were when our country was founded. The best way to see old city is on foot because I would in no way park down there even if I had a car. I’ve ridden the bus through there, and the bus gets less than an inch away from the parked cars. That is how small it is. So it feel small town in the middle of Philadelphia. The big behemoth buildings where behind us, quaint shops next to us and the Delaware River in front of us. It was Sunday morning and almost no one was out.

It was about as close to a quiet day in Philadelphia as any person has a hope to have. It was bliss. The only downer is that it was foggy. Philadelphia fog, we found out later, is more like the air soaked. As if it rained and then someone just stopped time. You are walking through rain drops. It doesn’t really feel like it at the time, until you get home and you realize that your hair and clothes are drenched. So, Brad has been working with his boss who was sick all week, and after being soaked all day, Brad got a very bad cold, and then a sinus infection. His cough was extremely wet and gross. I thought he had walking pneumonia. Luckily it cleared up enough for him to go back to work today.

At the restaurant, I was really surprised because I was able to walk up the stairs with both knees and then down them with both legs. Usually I only use one leg to lift me down because my other knee isn’t strong enough to lift without pain or lower me down without pain. It isn’t something I have done on purpose. I didn’t think about it. I have just been using one leg to go up and down stairs. That’s what I do. Every time I do stairs I try a couple with both legs to see if it works but for years it hasn’t. This is how detached I have been from my body. I used it like a tool but didn’t maintain or listen to it. I don’t know how long I haven’t been using one of my knees on stairs. I didn’t think about the choice to stop other than in the moment I thought, “Oh that hurts, let’s just avoid that.”

That day, I walked up and down the stairs with both knees working and not hurting which really surprised me. I was over joyed. So over joyed that when we walked down to Penn’s Landing I walked down all the stairs and back up and there are a lot of stairs. The Art Museum steps are famous because of Rocky but there are more at Penn’s Landing. I must have over done because the next day I had an unbelievable pain from my knee up to my crotch, a shooting pain every few minutes.

I’ve always thought I learned things very slowly, but I have to chastise myself for not being concerned why I couldn’t use my knee all those years, and then once I got that use back immediately I over used it. I, of course, immediately emailed my saint of a physical therapist and told her what happened. She gave me some stretches and told me to take it easy and I stretched it out and it was better in a couple of days. I was back to doing my full yoga routine with full range of motion.

Alas, there is hope. If this pelvic pain that has been plaguing me is related to my knee, then maybe I can eventually fix it! I am pretty happy with that! I go to my physical therapist this week and I will see if she agrees with my determination.

Basically, I have learned a few things. First, I can’t take my husband to the river when it is foggy, no matter how gorgeous it is. Second, even though I feel like I have been paying closer attention to my body, I am not doing enough. Thanks to my physical therapist asking me, I have been trying to notice what comes before, during, and after my pain. I guess I need to ramp up my mindfulness in all areas. I also need to remember to work slowly and steadily.

I am hopeful that beautiful days can teach me something, and my patience will pay off in the end.

 

Hoping for a Brand New Day

 

Imagine that you are in pain for days. For four or five days, you are in excruciating pain when you wake up and it lasts for hours until your Aleve kicks in. When the Aleve kicks in there is still a dull pain and aching in all your muscles because you have been trying not to clinch everything in yourself against the pain. So basically, your body has been in alarm for at least four days. When it is over what do you do? Do you rest? Do you relax and think, “I am so glad that’s over, I am going to be good to myself today after all that I have been through?”

The first couple of times I went through this, I am sure that was my response. I don’t remember because it was that long ago. After years of these episodes, I responded differently. I sulk. I have at least one day of sulking. It is pathetic I know. I somehow feel stupid for not knowing it is coming, and not being tougher when the pain does come. I feel sorry for myself for having to deal with the pain and then hate myself for feeling sorry for myself.

I am trying to have more compassion with myself. I think that yoga and mindfulness can help with that. Trying to be compassionate to yourself and then with others is important to all healing. I really am having a hard time with compassion and empathy lately. I think that I am just so tired of the pain that my subconscious is wanting to take it out on everyone else, especially republicans…(joking, kind of.) I think there is a sort of confluence of horrible news, family crazy, and bad health that is making me evil. I was even rude to someone who brings me groceries. I am NEVER rude to strangers unless they do something crazy like kick puppies. I know what it is like to be summarily be treated like crap because you work in the service industry. I do not approve of it at all. It is like a point of pride for me.

So, I have become something I hate and am having a really hard time with it. I want to be a nice person who doesn’t yell at my husband for sweeping crumbs off the counter onto the floor. I want to be the person that tips nicely and says things like, “Have a nice day.” I’ve begun to resent everyone, just because I feel shitty and they don’t. I think of other reasons, don’t be mistaken. If you are reading this and you know me, I am probably mad at you for something. That’s a problem if I am angry at all those who support me.

So how do I turn this around. Prayer can help, of course, but I feel like I need some extra help. I was talking to my physical therapist complaining about my recovery time and how it is hard to pull myself out of the depression/angst. So these feelings are bleeding into the time when I actually feel good. I get depressed, resentful and angry. I can’t just wake up and turn that off. It has never been easy to do, but now it’s just getting old. My gynecologist recommended a psychologist a long time ago, but I didn’t think I needed one then. Now that my physical therapist has recommended it too. I really think it’s the better choice than pushing all my friends away. She says that there are specialists that can give me techniques that I can use to recover more quickly. I guess a lot of people with chronic pain need recovery tips. I need a way to get over myself, or I am going to lose a lot more than just days with pain.

Husband and I took to the mat while listening to the sounds of a yoga Pandora channel. My apartment windows were open and the place fragranced with snow and bacon. It reminded me of my Grandma’s house. If I was lucky enough to get there after breakfast Grandma would scuttle me into the kitchen and load all the left overs in a big skillet. Then she’d give me a smile and say, “I need you to feed the birds for me, they’re really hungry.” I would feel so important to be given that job. I’d take the skillet out onto the porch down to the grass and spread the leftover breakfast. Then I’d come back in and get my reward bacon. Grandma had a way of making me feel so special. I think of how brilliant she was. She fed the birds, recycled breakfast, got me out of their hair for a little bit, and made me feel special at the same time. I loved her so much. I miss her. Thinking of her always makes me want to be a better person.

I want to go back to savoring being able to wake up, cuddle, cook breakfast, do the dishes, and do yoga all without pain. It should be glorious, like the feeling you get when a car alarm is going off outside for hours and it finally stops. The pain pushes me close to mania and then after three or four days of that I wake up and the sun is out and the birds are singing! I turned on my Pandora today and the song “Can you feel a brand new day,” from The Wiz came on. Every time I hear that song I feel goose bumps and want to dance. The message is amazing because it is like a fresh slate and a message of empowerment and renewal. I know essentially it is about the emancipation which to me is so powerful. To talk about something so horrible with empowerment and joy. I want to be that classy. I want to be a better person, the person who can recover quickly and be empowered for a new day.

For All Those Who Are Struggling

“You can practice deep listening in order to relieve the suffering in us, and in the other person. That kind of listening is described as compassionate listening. You listen only for the purpose of relieving suffering in the other person.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

 

I am seriously trying to do this. It is so hard. I am a Christian but so much of what Buddhists say make so much sense to me. Understanding takes so much listening.  Not the normal listening, the ya ya I get what you’re saying, but….kind of listening. We need the kind of listening that sincerely ends with, “I am sorry your experience is so different than mine, but I believe you. I stand with you to make it better.”

I have been trying and failing but I keep trying. There is a lot of anger and pain right now. I am feeling so much of it. This can be hard for us who take those feelings into our limbs. My fibromyalgia is flaring hard right now. I am probably not the only one. I am sure there are so many out there who are feeling so angry and hurt and it is affecting their bodies.

I am dealing with it by being good to my body. I know people are doing lists on how to get involved in social justice, but I want those who have fibromyalgia or some other body malady to know that you should take care of your body so you can be more effective in the future. Actually, anyone who needs to take a time out, I understand. You can’t even help yourself if your health suffers, so please, take some time to listen to your body as well.

Some things that are helping me are:

  1. Walking- getting out of the house and watching all the lovely people on my street in Philadelphia. Yesterday I was walking and heard at least three different conversations in different languages. I also watched those people be kind to others, and people be kind to them. There is so much goodness around us. It gets drowned out by all the crud, but the good is still there if you go looking for it. People stop and say excuse me. People say hi and talk to me. Not only do I see the goodness in other people. I try to see the good in me. I tell people how nice they look when I notice they do. I try to brighten people’s day. I’ll even admit that the exercise helps.
  2. Pray or meditate – quiet reflection of how I can help is what I really need right now. Sometimes all you can do is all you can do. The only way to help with change is to know what your reserves are, and that takes quiet reflection. Also, I take comfort in a God of love.
  3. Spend time with loved ones- especially the ones I disagree with. I don’t have to talk politics or anything. I just like to remember they are more than their beliefs. It makes me feel love for them, which helps me to try and understand. We have to remember we love each other. We have to remember that there is a reason humans make different decisions and it is usually pain and hurt. We love each other, and I believe the highest form of love remains in understanding. Understanding and love is the key to all that troubles us. I know that sounds cheesy but it is true.
  4. Heed the self-care you know you should. Pace yourself. Take the time to take care of yourself. Take time out from your social justice rants, protesting, and volunteering to fill up your reserves. Eat right, exercise, take long baths with Epson salt, go to your doctor’s appointments, and do whatever she tells you to do. You know what you’re supposed to do to take care of yourself, don’t slack on that.
  5. Talk- spread love and understanding the best way you know how. ,

This is my plan. I am going to keep doing this. This is the plan to keep my body moving, my hopes up, and my mind on the good stuff. There is hope, there is always hope. This country has overcome so much hate, we just have to keep going. Slow and steady people, don’t burn out now.

What a Miracle is my Body

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This is me after a seven block walk. I sweat profusely.

So much of my life is built around distracting from my endometriosis pain right now. I watch TV or listen to music while reading. If I engage my mind enough then I can ignore the pain. It is only partially successful.

I realized, as I walked to the library, that distraction is how I’ve always gotten through exercise. I don’t like to sweat. It is uncomfortable, although I am working on that distaste. Exercise has always caused pain in my ankles and I’ve never been good at it. Today, I walked in the heat as fast as I could manage to the beat of my Lady Gaga Pandora channel. I used the beat of Pitbull’s Shake Senora to move faster and faster. By the time I made it to the library I was dripping with sweat and my pants were sticking to me. If there were such a thing as tiny men, they could have slid down my cleavage like a slip and slide.

This is in total contrast to my yoga experience. Every move in yoga has to be thoughtfully carried out. For one, my balance, as it stands, is horrible. Some of the poses require me to be on one foot or one knee. I have trouble with standing on two feet or balancing on both knees. I am learning and practicing over and over, but seriously have to concentrate. I have to feel every part of my body and muscles I didn’t know existed. Normally when exercising, I would try to ignore pain in my muscles or work through it, using the adage “no pain, no gain” or more likely I’d give up. With Yoga, if there is pain—I am doing something wrong. Not only do I have to concentrate on my muscles, hand and foot placement, and balance, but then there is the breathing. Yoga just isn’t the same without the breathing. The deep breathing brings in a sense of calm that I have never experienced with other exercise.

It amazes me the contrast. I love the difference. I believe that is why I love yoga. I love how I can totally immerse myself in the activity. I breathe in and out slowly and deeply. I free my mind of anything that doesn’t have to do with the pose at hand. When it is really good and I have focused enough towards the end of the practice I am more aware of what my body is doing than I have ever been.  By focusing intensely on what I am doing and making sure it feels good.  There is gain with no pain. Don’t get me wrong I feel strain on my muscles but I don’t feel pain.

I have always ignored my body because I have been told no pain no gain.  I wasn’t very good at sports because of my bad ankles, and I was never the type of body I wanted. I got told repeatedly by society, my family, and even “friends” I was the wrong body type. When I repeatedly fail at something, I tend to forget about trying it again. I have hated my body because of what it could not do. It could not be good at aerobics, softball, or volleyball. Even worse, It could not be skinny. Don’t get me wrong, it was thin at one time, just not the thin that was popular in my youth. It was curvy thin. I hated it. I wanted to be the woman who could wear pleated pants and poufy shirts a’ la Different World. I wanted to be Lisa Bonet.

I surely didn’t want to be me, with my curves and very strong muscled legs. I wanted to be like a reed in the wind. Then I became known for my curves and then abused because of them, and then I wanted to be a bulldozer, not a human.  So more and more I retreated into this body, and wore it like a coat, a covering for my soul but not something that affected my soul.  IF I could distance myself from my body then I would not be responsible for it or how it made other people think about me. I thought I’d focus on what I was good at, reading.

Recently, I have distanced myself so far from my body because it seemed mean to me: the pain my body brings me, the interruption to my day, and pushback of my goals. My body has been a bitch for quite a long time. (While some of that has been caused by me ignoring her, most of it hasn’t. Endometriosis can’t be exercised away. It can only be burned away or excised by a doctor). Trust me it wasn’t hard to get mad at my body.

Yoga has helped me to forgive her. Yoga has helped me see that this body people made fun of, that wasn’t good at sports, had weak ankles and poor balance – even she could be loved. At first yoga was another distraction from the pain but as I got into it, and as I started awakening the understanding of my bodies minutiae it started easing the pain. I started to realize that just like any love I had to actively participate in the caring for the object of my affection in order for it to thrive. Those balance issues are still there, but it works my ankles and they are getting stronger. I am so aware of my body, I can tell when I am going to start sweating. I feel the heat from within and I welcome it. For the first time in my life I welcome the sweat. What’s more is that the first time I did it, I was really bad at it, but the more I practiced –miraculously- I got better. For the first time in my life I got better at exercise. Each pose takes time to master, but when success comes I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my body.

It is only recently through yoga and my families help have I been able to figure out a way to celebrate what my body is capable of. I am super stretchy, more than the average bear. My body likes yoga, it craves it. I am a good swimmer. I am a good dancer, with a natural rhythm. My legs are super strong. I ride bicycles with ease. I am double jointed in my fingers, I do a mean downward dog, and I am working my way up to hour long yoga sessions. I am resilient. I fail at these poses but keep trying.  I am able to heal pretty easily if I take care of my body. I am finally able to see what a miracle is my body.

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Oh, and I can give good cuddles. Look at him smile. That’s some good cuddling.

 

 

Its been a Rough Month and not just for me…

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What chin? I don’t have a chin…

It has been a really long road but I am back. I am sorry for not posting sooner but I have been really sick. It all started when I got back from Oklahoma. I was pretty hopeful. I had my biopsy scheduled and Oklahoma was a very active. I will publish a blog about it later. I was excited. The next week I went in for an endometrial biopsy. They had to put me under. They started with this twilight stuff that put me under but I was still kind of awake. I guess when they started the biopsy I got a little out of control so they had to put in a tube down my throat. Apparently the twilight stuff doesn’t work on me because I may have been combative. I didn’t really know the extent until later in the day because I was sore everywhere and my chin started to swell. By swell I mean my normally minimal double chin turned into a quadruple chin. I couldn’t swallow and it hurt to move my tongue.

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The CHIN

I called my doctor and she didn’t seem to think it was anything big. She said everyone gets a little swelling. The next day I woke up having even more trouble swallowing and I could barely walk I was so sore.  We went to the ER around three pm, and waited and waited. We didn’t leave until 2 am the next day after they took blood, ran a CT scan, and several doctors poked around my chin and inside my mouth under my tongue. Come to find out I had a salivary stone and it was infected. It was so weird. I mean a couple hours after the biopsy it just swelled so fast. Apparently it can happen when they put a tube down your throat but its super rare. All the docs kept saying, “I’ve never seen this before.”

Great, right? Everyone wants the doc to be surprised. I just kept asking, “My face will not stay this way right?” I mean I can deal with the natural double chin, cause that one is my fault but this, this was ridiculous. It took four days of steroids and antibiotics before the infection broke and it started to ooze puss into my mouth. I am sure I don’t have to explain how walking around with a make shift spittoon and spitting yellow salty liquid was unpleasant. It took an additional two days of spitting and hurting to finally get my face back and to be able to move my tongue and jaw without pain. I was amazed at my face in the mirror. I feel so much more beautiful than I did before. I will never complain about my fat face again.

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Look at that beauty on the way to the ENT! She got her chin back!!!

I went to the ENT and got a good bill of health only to come down with a sinus infection the next day.  I have been stuffed up and miserable for over a week now.  Not only have I been sick for a month, but I’ve had several family members going through crises that I can’t explain.  I hate that I am so far away from my family and it is difficult to watch them go through so many painful things.

Then the nation went through a horrible painful event. My thoughts are with Orlando now. I feel just as helpless to help them as my family.  Between the stress, sadness, and sickness I have been down and out. I am sure this week I am not the only one. Over and over this tragedy has made me think about all the loved ones I have lost due to intolerance and hatred. I am definitely grieving for these families.

It is hard to handle everything so I am focusing on trying to get well right now, because it is all I can do. This morning I was able to breathe through my nose so I made a smoothie and eggs with mushrooms us and then I did some yoga. I researched an anti-inflammatory diet and started a journal in order to get everything off my mind. Right now this is all I can handle.

I urge everyone reading this to take care of your health physical and mental. This world is getting more horrible everyday it seems if you watch the news and read the internet. Sometimes I have to turn it all off and just be mindful of how I am truly blessed. I hope that helps you too. If you have to, if it is depressing you, just step away. It is okay. I have to do it sometimes.  Lean on whatever gives you strength. For me that is prayer, my husband and my family and friends. I also meditate and do yoga. What gives you strength during this horrible time?

Everybody Wins with Body Positivity

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Oklahoma Welcoming me Home! Could be a representation of the sun setting on weight shaming?? Let’s hope.

I’ve been oblivious when it comes to the struggles that my plus size sisters have been through, for the most part. I have been told in my life that I am like a puppy. I come into the room bouncing and jump on everyone’s lap thinking they are all gonna love me. This is true, and is why I have been mostly shielded from the body shaming, but also I kind of don’t put up with it. I have written about when someone tries to criticize me I shut them down pretty quickly in a calm way that usually makes them understand how stupid they are for assuming they can tell me what to do with my body. I am pretty good at that, while still not alienating them. It’s a talent, perhaps I’ll teach you later.

I still see the forest for the trees however. I see how the media and our culture permeates everything with a — be slim or be outcast — shade. I don’t know anyone who has not noticed the glamour-ification of thin.  To that end, I am so happy about the body positive movement.

On a large scale people are getting it wrong, even those who should know better. Shape Magazine’s Editor’s letter this month talks about body confidence. She talks about how “ninety one percent of women have body dissatisfaction” and “When you feel good about yourself you take care of yourself.” All right, that’s good stuff, but then she says, “Of course loving your shape doesn’t negate the need to have body goals: those targets keep you motivated and excited about staying fit and healthy. But there’s freedom in focusing and articulating those goals. If the vision of slimming down and feeling amazing in a bikini or a slinky sundress works for you use it…” That’s fine and even true, but if you are trying to push a body confidence message then you have missed the point. The point of the body confidence movement is that we should feel beautiful and confident as we are. Also, by not knowing how ridiculously not body confident that is reeks of co-opting a movement in order to sell magazines.

Women we need to stop being so critical of each other. We need to lift each other up. I think that is what my idea of body confidence is. I don’t think it is wrong to use a bikini as a goal, but if we are talking about body confidence then I want women to be empowered to love how they look right now.

While I’ve always been pretty confident but I can’t say that I have been jumping on the bikini bandwagon. I don’t see me doing that at all. I know other women do it, but it makes me uncomfortable. As I type this I think, I don’t want my flaws out there for everyone to see. I don’t want my stretch marks, lily white belly, and thighs to be shown to other humans. It is an instinct to think of those things as flaws. It is an impression that has been left there by years of socialization. I think back to when I was a young girl in the back yard wearing a bikini in our three foot pool, giggling with my brother, running around in sprinklers and feel as if I have lost something somehow.

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Sister and I dancing in Brother’s kitchen, feeling pretty confident. She’s wearing what she was calling a 40,000 dollar necklace. She got that for graduating from OSU!!!!! Isn’t she beautiful! Tell me that is not a woman who should feel confident! Here me!?

I think the main benefit of the body confidence movement is that as a society we are starting to focus less on being slimmer and more on being stronger. Some of the benefits of this is that people who normally would think of themselves as less than are starting to understand how awesome they are. According to many studies it is easier to lose weight if you feel good about yourself. Now there is the crux of a lot of arguments in order to subordinate fat people: Carrying extra weight is unhealthy. Weeeeelllllll….not all who carry extra weight are unhealthy. But if the argument is to be hard on fat people to get them to lose weight, then as you can see that argument is flawed. The constant pressure of society and the degradation of large people only make more large people. It doesn’t help anyone.

I have been focusing on how to make myself stronger and more able. If I do that then I can feel good about myself. If I think “Oh, I wanna fit in this bikini or those tight jeans,” that means my body is not right how it is now. That makes me feel horrible. I am a capable human with a body that heals itself, all I have to do it give it a little push to move the healing along. If we as society can start there, from that point of view then I think we will get everything we want: healthy hearts and minds and happy souls.

Back Baby Steppin’

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This is me socializing in the park. Even my lunch dates require exercise now!

There so many exciting things are happening in my life right now. I am volunteering at the library, getting to know new people, writing more and exercising more. I have not had an episode of pain in two weeks. I am delighted. My husband is relaxed and I am making very small progress on all areas of my life. I am cooking, walking, and stretching a lot more. I am in the zone.

Something that is helping me besides being pain free for two weeks is this new deal I have with myself. If I do not write at least an hour a day, then I have to forgo my modem and give it to my husband to take with him to work. Without the router I have no internet and no TV because we have no cable. So I have nothing to research with while writing or entertain me while I clean. This is an even bigger motivator to jump start myself than the writing I am already doing. Once I get writing I get more excited about the writing. So this is just a jump start to get the fingers moving! It has worked. This week I have written every day.

I have also met my pedometer goal every day and done yoga three times. I even tried to do a yoga video called Power Yoga with Rodney Yee. Rodney Yee is a yoga instructor born in my native state of Oklahoma. (I just found that out!) He is a very handsome man who apparently only owns pants. These pants are made of spandex and are usually neon colors. I like his calm voice and dulcet tones, but I think I want to branch out. I think that I need something called Half Power because I had a lot of trouble doing those yoga moves so quickly. Downward dog –Upward dog — Downward dog –Upward dog —  Downward dog –Upward dog — Downward dog –Upward dog — Downward dog –Upward dog…sweaty sweaty sweaty sweaty but I was done when he got to Half-moon pose and fell over because my knee didn’t like it very much.  So I stopped but was proud of myself for attempting and making it about half way through. It’s been a long time since I even put in an exercise DVD. Actually I think last time I put a video in it was a VHS tape.

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Lynne my library lunch date!

I am also cooking more so my husband and I are eating fresh vegetables and fruits. I got back into making smoothies and eggs with veggies for breakfast. Leftovers for lunch and for dinner I am cooking fresh salads, veggie filled pastas and I make delicious veggie tacos.  I am not saying I haven’t had weird pizza roll dinners once or twice but I have been making great strides to getting my healthy habits back.

It feels like I am just bragging in this post but I feel as if I must after what I have been through lately. I am now looking forward to progressing but more importantly, the most encouraging development is coming back to the program feels inevitable. If I have to put my exercise plan on hold for a month because of pain and there be no doubt I will get back to it when I feel better, then that means I am officially a person who works out. It am not a poser. I am the real deal.