Whole 30 Tips and Recipes!

I finished Whole 30 on May 8th and wanted to share some of my favorite recipes and tips!  Here they are:

Whole 30 Meal Plan

 

Breakfasts:

 

Eggs: scrambled, fried, hardboiled… However you like them! I also found that I could cook up an “omlet” using the Ziplock brand “Zip ’n Steam” bags and add some cut up veggies and cook in microwave for 2 minutes. These were perfect for work! I used 2 eggs. Eggs are great over a baked sweet potato too! I love avocado with eggs too!

 

Sweet Potato “Toast”~ cut sweet potatoes into thin slices. Toast in toaster on highest setting for about 3 cycles. Serve with almond butter on top! Great for those times that you’re craving toast.

 

Try to fit veggies into your breakfasts. I wasn’t always great with this. But I did find that I could cook up zucchini and tolerate that ok in the morning. Or cook veggies into eggs, or make egg cups with eggs and veggies in a muffin tin.

 

Some days were just a Lara bar and apple, or a banana with almond butter. Not perfect, but did the trick on a busy work day.

 

Paleo “pancakes/muffins” and smoothies are not “allowed” on Whole 30. They want to break you away from any foods that might cause cravings or the “sugar demon” to come back. Also, I found that the more variety I tried to include, the harder it was! Keep it simple.

 

Lunches:
Most of my lunches were salad with leftover protein from the night before (chicken, burger, etc) or a couple hard boiled eggs. Or just leftovers from our dinner the night before. My salads were always HUGE and colorful! And usually contained 1/2 of an avocado (which made it really filling!)

 

 

Dinner:

 

Adelli’s Chicken Sausage, Sweet Potato, and Apples

http://www.momendeavors.com/2014/11/one-pan-paleo-chicken-apple-sausage-sweet-potato-skillet.html

This makes a great dinner or even breakfast! Meijer has the Adelli’s Chicken and Apple Sausage, and it is Whole 30 approved. A little pricier, but stock up on it when it’s on sale and freeze your extras! I double this recipe for leftovers, and you can add cinnamon if desired.

 

Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken

http://therealfoodrds.com/slow-cooker-hawaiian-shredded-chicken/

This is my favorite paleo recipe! It’s great in a lettuce wrap, on a salad, plain, or over cauliflower rice. Jon and the boys ate it on hamburger buns.  

 

Egg Roll in a Bowl

http://www.groundedandsurrounded.com/recipe/7-ingredient-skinny-egg-roll-bowl/

 

 

I used Liquid Aminos instead for the Soy. Also, make sure you double this recipe because your family will eat it up! Serve in a lettuce wrap or over cauliflower rice!

 

Mango Chicken

https://elanaspantry.com/mango-chicken/

Great over cauliflower rice!  

How to slice a mango:

https://elanaspantry.com/how-to-slice-a-mango/

 

Italian Meatballs

https://www.noshtastic.com/oven-baked-italian-meatballs-with-marinara-sauce/

Serve these over “Zoodles” (buy a “Veggeti spiralizer, which I have seen at TJMaxx in the kitchen area for about $7 to spiralize zucchini!) I served the boys’ meatballs over regular spaghetti noodles. They loved the meatballs, and it was a fairly easy recipe to make!

 

Cilantro-Lime Chicken

http://www.joyfulhealthyeats.com/cilantro-lime-chicken-with-avocado-salsa/

This was so good! I served it with baked potatoes and saved some of the avocado mixture to put on my potato as well.

 

Orange Chicken

http://www.foodfaithfitness.com/paleo-orange-chicken/

Serve over cauliflower rice. I skipped the sesame seeds, and used liquid aminos instead of coconut aminos

 

Hamburger with avocado and/or fried egg on top

Skip the ketchup. And be careful about what spices (if any) that add to the burger. A lot of them contain soy and/or sugar.

 

 

Snacks:

Whole 30 technically doesn’t include snacks because they want you to eat enough at each meal to keep you full till the next meal. However, they do understand that you may need a snack before or after a hard workout, or if a meal is delayed. The best snacks are: Lara bars, Rx bars, fruit with almond butter, nuts, hard boiled egg, veggies, or some leftover protein from another meal. Don’t try to fulfill your sugar cravings with fruit or Lara bars though, or you won’t break free from the cravings! Also, you can’t make paleo desserts during the Whole 30 challenge (even if it’s all “complaint” ingredients”).

 

Coffee:

Yes, coffee needs it’s own category. Your first option is to drink your coffee black… Or, you can blend your coffee in a blender with either coconut oil or coconut milk (use the fat portion off the top of the can!) and add some cinnamon. Or for an easier/quicker option use NutPods creamer, which you can buy on Amazon. I use the vanilla flavor and really enjoyed it. Not as much flavor as my regular store bought creamers, but they don’t contain any artificial junk!https://www.amazon.com/nutpods-Dairy-Free-Creamer-Unsweetened-Vanilla/dp/B01ENL3Q02/ref=sr_1_1?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1495829267&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=nutpods&th=1

 

 

Helpful tips:

1. Read spice mix ingredients carefully! I was shocked at how many had SOY (which is horrible for women~ it increases estrogen levels and can also lead to cancer!) It’s easy to make your own spice mixes!

2. I use Tessamae’s Ranch salad dressing, found in the produce isle at Meijer by the Bolthouse salad dressings (near bagged salads). It’s $5/bottle, but a total time-saver. You can make your own dressing, I just didn’t take the time to go get an immersion blender 😉 They also make a Tessamae’s ketchup, but I thought it was pretty gross. Save your $5.

3. I bought produce saver containers at Meijer in the storage container/kitchen supplies section at Meijer. They have a little “tray” in the bottom of the tupperware that keeps the lettuce and other veggies from wilting! Kept mine crisp all week! Mine came in sets of 2. I used the large one for lettuce, and the small ones for cucumbers and peppers. (I bought 2 sets).  

4. When buying nuts: watch your ingredients! Roasted nuts are not compliant. Many contain canola oils (which are bad for you!)

5. You can make your own cauliflower rice using a food processor, but they also sell it already made at Meijer and Sam’s Club for pretty cheap. I buy it frozen and just portion out what I’m going to use!

6. When going out to eat, you can’t go wrong with a plain burger (no cheese!) either on a lettuce wrap or just use a fork. Skip the ketchup and mayo. Ask for mustard, avocado, tomato, lettuce… Have a salad or veggies on the side. I usually tried to sneak in my own dressing. One thing to mention: most restaurant bacons are not compliant since they have nitrates and added sugar. Sorry 😦

7. Lara bars are a great snack to keep in your purse for emergencies! Just make sure that they don’t contain peanuts (which are a legume, not a nut) or chocolate.

8. RX Bars are great too, but a little pricer. Again, watch the ingredients. They are found on the bottom shelf of the Lara bar section in the cereal isle at Meijer. You can also find Epic bars right next to there, which are compliant as well. It’s a softer form of jerky. I wasn’t a huge fan, but I know a lot of people who rave about them.

9. Make a bunch of “salad in a jar” recipes for the week! In a mason jar, layer your salad ingredients (starting with the “wet” ingredients like cucumber/peppers first) and ending with your lettuce on top. Dump it onto a plate for lunch the next day and you have a beautiful salad! I made about 3 days at a time and would take them all to work at the beginning of the week. Take protein on the side to add. Some of the jar recipe sites suggest putting your dressing in the bottom of the mason jar first. I felt like it made the veggies slimy, so I just took my dressing separately. Also, add a 1/2 avocado. Yum!

10. I ate 1/2 of an avocado daily. It’s a great healthy fat! I would buy avocados that were firm and set them on the counter till they had a little “give” to them them stick them in the fridge till ready to use. Cut them in half, scoop out the half that doesn’t have the pit and use that. Then I would cover the other half (Leave the pit in!) with plastic wrap (trying to get all of the air out) and then store in a tupperware. If theres a little brown on the avocado the next day it won’t hurt you… Or you can just scrape that part off 😉 https://www.avocadocentral.com/how-to/how-to-pick-how-to-buy-avocados

11. Take pictures and post them on Instagram! This was the biggest motivator for me. I posted that I was starting Whole 30, then took pictures of EVERY SINGLE MEAL and posted them. Did I get funny looks at work? Yes. Did I care? No 😉 https://www.instagram.com/_erin_major_/

12. Feed your family what you eat! My first few attempts at Whole 30 failed because I was trying to cook separate meals for everyone! This time around I fed them what I ate, but would add to their meals (ex: if I had zoodles, they could have regular noodles; or add a hamburger bun to their burgers and I had mine in a lettuce wrap). Keep it simple.

 

Results:

I lost a total of 8.6 pounds and 10 total inches off of my body! I was really tired the first week (sugar withdrawal!) Before Whole 30 I was having really bad stomach pain and bloating whenever I ate. Whole 30 took that away. My cravings DISAPPEARED. It was hard at first, but SOOOO worth it. You can do it! Let me know if you need any support!

 

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New Year’s Resolutions

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Each year millions of people create “New Year’s Resolutions,” vowing to give up certain things or add in something to their daily lives.  Many will vow to cut out sugar, eat healthier, lose weight, save money, be more punctual, etc.  Many, however, will refuse to make a New Year’s Resolution, saying that they will be setting themselves up for failure if they don’t obtain it.  They would rather not set the goal than to set one and fail.

I think that any effort to better yourself is always a good thing.  Each year I make a goal list of things that I want to work on.  I put them into categories: Health, Family, Financial, and Spiritual.  Health can be a fitness, nutrition, or weight loss goal.  Family covers my marriage, my boys, extended family, and even things like household chores (since it all affects us as a family).  Financial covers getting out of debt, saving for vacations, and saving for unexpected events, etc.  We love Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” for anyone that is working on bettering their finances!  Spiritual includes goals for Bible study, prayer time, Bible reading, etc.

By breaking goals into categories, it is easier for me to set realistic expectations and helps me to organize my timeframe.  There is an acronym called “S.M.A.R.T.” that helps goals be more attainable.  S= Specific.  M= Measurable. A= Attainable.  R= Realistic.  T= Timely.  If a goal is too vague, it will be hard to reach.  For example,”I want to lose weight.”  That is a tough goal because there isn’t a specific goal weight, time frame, or even how someone plans to lose the weight.  Saying, “I want to lose 10 pounds by March” is much more specific.  Then, other details could be added as far as how to lose the weight, such as following a certain diet plan or working out a certain amount of days per week.

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My current goals are losing the 10 pounds that has crept on over the past year!  Currently, I am counting points through the Weight Watchers app.  I have been a “Lifetime” member for about six years, but have not counted points the whole time.  I had tried lots of other more restricted diets, but they are hard to stick to. I would either get too busy to cook a bunch of complicated/time-consuming meals (that the rest of the family wouldn’t eat so I would have to cook two meals), or I would get bored with the limited options after a while.  When I did Whole 30 (which is a Paleo-type of diet: meats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  No grains, dairy, legumes, or processed foods) I would do ok for a while, but then I would have intense cravings for all the things I wasn’t “supposed” to eat.  If I ate what I wasn’t “supposed” to, I would quit the program and decide to start again “next week” or just feel like a failure.  I’m trying to change my current outlook into, “Start right now.”  Eat something you weren’t supposed to?  It’s ok, forgive yourself and move on.  Start over.  Now, not tomorrow, not next week.  I’m currently focusing on increasing protein and vegetables.  I am still eating some carbohydrates, but I’m trying to cut back a little since those items are much higher in points!  Tracking works for me because it makes me pay attention to snacking habits, or the little bites here and there that actually add up to a lot of extra calories!

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I’ve always been very consistent with my workouts.  My work schedule can make it difficult due to going into work so early, but I get up early and get in 30-45 minutes before work.  Sometimes I can get a little extra in while my youngest is at basketball practice.  I’ve been strength training at the gym and at home with DVDs (I love any of the Cathe Friederich workouts), running or walking on the treadmill, using the stair mill or cybrex machine, and doing yoga or PiYo.  I try to workout at least five days a week.  I definitely have to plan it out though, or it won’t happen!

I will be sharing more about goals and resolutions over the next couple of weeks.  What goals are you working on?  Remember, make sure that your goals are SMART.  Feel free to contact me with questions or if you need suggestions/motivation!

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Nicole Wilkins 30 Day Challenge

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I was scrolling though Instagram the other night and saw that Nicole Wilkins was starting a 30-day transformation challenge and that weigh-in’s were due the next day.  The challenge gave a complete workout plan as well as a meal plan.  I’ve been working out consistently, but haven’t been seeing the changes I wanted.  And lately, I have felt like my eating needed to be cleaned up a little.  So I decided to enter the challenge.

I sent my pictures and measurements in, and let’s just say this: “We are our own worst critics.”  I mentioned the pictures to a friend and she said, “A lot of women would love to have your ‘before’ picture be their ‘after’.”  Fair enough, but I still have work to do ;-).

The plan consists of five days of strength training and cardio, leaving two rest days.  I had to switch up the Monday-Friday workout plan that was written and started the weights this past Sunday.  Let me just say this: these workouts are INTENSE.  It’s a lot of volume for each body part, which explains how sore I am, and that makes me excited to see what my day 30 pictures look like.

The meal plan was a little disappointing.  Part of my reason for buying the challenge was that I thought a completed meal plan would save time when I’m writing out our grocery list.  Less thinking on my part.  It turns out that program gives you ONE DAY of a meal plan, with six meals for that day.  I’m not sure if other women are using this as a template, or actually eating these six meals over and over again.  It reminds me a lot of the Body for Life program that I did about 12 years ago.  Basically, it’s six meals a day, balanced protein and “good” carbs (no white bread), and she adds in some healthy fats like avocado.  I am tracking my meals on the myfitnesspal app.  I have used the app for years, but hadn’t been as good at tracking everything lately.  I’m getting much better.  I like that the app will show you a breakdown of macros and tallies up the total protein, carb, and fat intake.  I’ve found that I need more protein. I’ve been adding in a protein shake daily, and I will often have a protein bar for either breakfast or as a snack later in the day.

This challenge is actually helping me to not look at my weight, but rather to see how strong I am getting through lifting.  I love lifting, but when I get busy it was often either skipped or shortened in order to fit in my cardio for the day.  I don’t know why I did this, since I know how important strength training is.  This program is helping to remind me of that.  There are some moves that feel a little “weird” and they challenge my self-confidence in the gym.  Yesterdays had jumping squats and jumping lunges in between some of the weight sets.  I felt a little self-conscious doing them over in the free weight section at the gym at first, but did them anyways.  Then I realized that no one really cares, they are all involved in their own workouts.  Who knows?  It may be inspiring them to try new moves or give them some new workout ideas.

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Will I win?  I have no idea.  There are a lot of girls in their 20’s with better metabolisms and possibly more time.  I’m not sure how many women are actually in the challenge.  I have seen some of the pictures of other participants, and some women are already in amazing shape, which makes me think “Maybe I could at least be runner up…”  There is one first place winner and two runner-ups.  The first prize is a trip to Southern California to train with Nicole.  The runner up prizes are $500, a 6-pack bag, and a polar heart rate monitor.  My youngest son said, “I hope you win the runner up, because I want that heart rate monitor!”  I think that the workout plan is definitely worth the money even if there isn’t a win.

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Blink

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Facebook has a new feature that shows you pictures that you took years ago on that same day.  For example, today featured pictures from August 7, 2009 that I had posted back then.  Looking through them made me realize how quickly time is passing.  I say it all the time: my boys are growing so fast and before I know it they’ll be grown and out of the house.  People would warn me when they were younger to “enjoy this moment” because they grow so fast.  The country song “Don’t Blink” portrays the same thing…  And yet…  I feel like I blinked, because it sure went quickly and I don’t feel ready.  My boys who were once so dependent on me for their every move are now pretty self-sufficient teenagers, and while that should be a badge of honor knowing that “we raised them well” and that the goal is to raise them so that they can move out someday and be on their own, it makes me sad sometimes.

Both of my boys are now taller than me, and I know that the inches will keep increasing over the next several years.  It’s a weird feeling to look up at your boys.  Proverbs 22:6 says “Direct your child onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (NLT).  That’s all we can do as parents.  Train them, lead them, guide them…  And pray that those lessons stick and they will be able to look back someday and remember the words of wisdom we try to impart on them.

We try to teach our children from our past mistakes and experience… to try to save them from the pain or hassle that we went through.  And pray that they listen…  If not now, that the words will bury deep in their hearts and come out at the time they truly need them.  There will be days that we feel like failures as parents, times that we take on their mistakes as our identities, times that we feel inadequate or just “not enough.”  A common fear among parents is that we are “screwing up our kids” or that we will be the reason our children need therapy someday.  Parents, relax.  We must remember that our children are independent beings, that we can try to be the best parents we can, but we are human.  We will fail.  But we can also trust the fact that God has given us these children knowing that we will fail, knowing that it will bring us closer to Him, helping us to be more dependent on Him.

As we raise our teenage boys, we are learning to lean into Him, to fully trust Him.  It’s the weirdest thing: dropping my oldest off at his first “real” job, letting them go for bike rides or walks by themselves (and not just up and down the road), dropping them off at the movies to meet friends (and not insisting that I sit right behind them…  or even anywhere in the theater).  They’re growing up.  They’re becoming young men.  Their teaching me to trust God more every day.  But they’re also teaching me the importance of enjoying life every day…  Because before you know it, they’re all grown.  Don’t blink.

 

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New Challenge…Crossfit

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A couple weeks ago, I was talking to my husband and telling him that I felt like I needed a new challenge.  I was bored with my workouts and needed something new.  And then I quickly said, “And not running.  I don’t want to run a race.”  He asked, “What about running a shorter distance race?” to which I responded, “I said no running.”  We went through several different options (mud run?  No.  Color run?  No.)  Finally he asked about Crossfit.  I had actually tried Crossfit a couple times a few years ago.  I liked it, but the times weren’t very convenient for my schedule at the time.  Anyways, I decided to look into it and remembered that there was a new Crossfit gym (or “Box” as they call it) in town.  I texted my brother about it, and he said he heard about it and that your first time was free.  We decided to try it together that following Saturday.

Going into it, I was pretty nervous.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  Would I look dumb or like a total wimp?  I was definitely glad that my brother was there so I would know someone!  The workout ended up being a “partner workout”so I paired up with my brother.  It started with partner burpees, where you did as many as you could for 4 minutes straight, and faced each other during the burpees and had to touch hands when at the bottom.  Those were hard!  The WOD was a  400 meter run, then 100 deadlifts, 100 toes-to-bar (we did hanging knee-ups), then walking lunges for one meter holding a weighted plate overhead, row machine till you reach 100 calories burned, 100 med ball cleans, and then a 400 meter run (running backwards!)  Since it was partner work, you could split the 100’s however you wanted between the two of you, so we did 50/50.

Everyone was very friendly and they all cheered each other on.  We left in a good mood and decided we wanted to go back!  The next day we were both SORE but it felt good.  I felt it mostly in my chest (actually, it felt more like my armpits!), lower abs, and inner thighs.  I did a Michelle Dozois “Body Fit 360” DVD the next day to try to help stretch everything out.  It seemed to help.

We went back the following Wednesday and both decided to join.  Wednesday’s WOD was 10 rounds of deadlifts, hang power cleans, and push jerks that were timed.  I was only able to use the weighted bar (35 pounds).  I could deadlift more, but I couldn’t get the bar up for the other moves so I stuck with just the bar.  I’m used to lifting heavy in the gym, so that was a little disappointing, but it is all new movements that I’m trying to learn and get used to.  It all feels a little weird and off right now…  The others were very encouraging and said that it’s surprising how quickly the body changes once you learn the correct form.  I’m looking forward to that!   It was a great workout.  I was out of breath and sweating like crazy!  My time was 15:15 for the workout.  Had I been able to use more weight though, it would have been a little slower.  I was a little jealous of the other girls who got to “throw” their bars down after each move.  You can’t throw down just a bar.

We went back today for the third time and again it was partner work.  I tried out a PiYo class there a couple hours before Crossfit.  PiYo is one of my favorite workouts, I have the Beachbody DVDs, and was excited to try it out live!  The instructor was really nice and I’m looking forward to trying it again sometime.  I was a little worried that the pushups in PiYo would affect Crossfit, and yes, we did do pushups again in our WOD.  Today’s WOD started with a  400 meter run (in the rain!)  I actually called my brother before and asked, “You don’t think he’ll make us run in the RAIN do you?” to which he said, “Yes, you will be running in the rain.”  Ugh…  It wasn’t that bad once we actually ran, but it had been a total downpour as I was heading there.  after the run we did 70 pull-ups (we both used the pull-up assist band), 60 goblet squats (I used a 25# kettle bell), 50 box jumps, 40 bar facing burpees (you do a burpee in front of a barbell, then jump over the barbell, turn around, and do another burpee, and continue the pattern), 30 squat clans, 20 toes-to-bar (we did hanging knee-ups), and we finished with a  400 meter run.

I was pretty nervous about the box jumps.  I had tried them a few years ago at the other Crossfit class, and knocked my hand into the edge of the box when I was jumping and ended up pulling back a huge flap of skin, was bleeding all over, and my thumb hurt for weeks from where it got bumped.  I don’t know if I was thinking about that too much or what, but I could NOT do a regular box jump.  I kept trying and I know it was all in my head because I would kind of freak out and not be able to do it.  Several people were encouraging me, but I was so frustrated with myself!  When I got home, the first thing I did was go home and set up my step bench with six risers on each side and I practiced over and over till I got it!  I think it was a little shorter than the box at the gym, but I think I’ll be fine when I go back and have to do them again! Visit this little video to see what I did: Box Jump Redemption

So now I’m trying to make a plan of how to fit in my Crossfit workouts with my work and family schedule, and also how to still fit in some extra cardio.  One thing that has helped me with fitting in cardio is going to the gym at 4:00am before work and walking on the stair mill for 30 minutes, then getting ready there and going straight to work.  I’m hoping to go to Crossfit this Monday after work (as long as I get out of work on time!)  I need to attend some of the open gym times at Crossfit too, so that I can practice form a little more than when it’s an actual workout.  I’m excited to see how all of this goes, and definitely looking forward to a new adventure!

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Memories…

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Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of my Mom’s death.  She was 34, I was 13, and my brother was 10.  I’d like to share a little bit about her for those of you who didn’t have the privilege of knowing her, and for my husband and sons who are excited to meet her for the first time when we all get to Heaven.  It’s weird to think of the fact that I’m now older than she had been when she passed away, and my boys are older than I had been.  There is something oddly comforting about that…  Almost like “we made it through.”  It had been a fear of mine when I was growing up that I would end up sick and have to say goodbye to my boys when they were young.

Each year around this time I look through a box of her letters, pictures, newspaper, and other mementos that I saved.  And I realize, my Mom saved a lot of momentos of us, too.  I’m amazed at the little notes that she kept from me…  Looking through the box today, it took my breath away.  Usually, I just cry as I look through it.  Today, I just felt like I couldn’t breathe.   Like there wasn’t enough time to go through everything.  I almost felt a panic that set over me to look through everything NOW.  The box contains newspaper articles, pictures, tons of her writings, songs that she wrote (she wrote three songs that my church used to play!), and other knick-knacks that I’ve held on to.  I’m sad that I don’t have more pictures of her with me.  I think  my Dad has a lot of them, but he’s moved out of state now.  They are tucked into a scrapbook that I made for him years ago that I would look through whenever I visited him when he lived near us.

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Growing up, I would say I had a normal childhood until around the time I was in fourth grade when my Mom became ill.  It started out as a benign (non-cancerous) kidney tumor that showed up all of a sudden when she was at the bank.  She doubled over in pain, and later surgery discovered a football-sized tumor on her kidney that was squishing all of her other organs to the side.  They removed the tumor and kidney.  Later, she developed what she thought was just a “bad cold” but it wouldn’t go away.  My Dad took her to the Emergency Room, but they just brushed it off and sent her home.  Over time, her breathing became much harder and she described making the bed as an “aerobic activity” because she would have to keep resting when she would walk to the other side.  The doctors here did not know what was going on, and one even hooked her up to a heart monitor and told her to exercise more.  My poor Mom who could barely breathe was out there trying to ride her bike and go for walks.  It wasn’t until she went to Colorado for treatment that she discovered what was wrong:  she had a rare lung disease called Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is “an indolent, progressive growth of smooth muscle cells throughout the lungs, pulmonary blood vessels, lymphatics, and pleurae. It is rare and occurs exclusively in young women. Symptoms are dyspnea, cough, chest pain, and hemoptysis; spontaneous pneumothorax is common.”  The doctors there told her that only 60 women in the United States had been diagnosed with the disease at that time.  She came back to Michigan and taught area doctors about the disease.  They have said that once you see an x-ray of someone with LAM you will never forget it.  The only cure is a lung transplant.  Which means going on a transplant list and waiting your turn.  It also meant large costs due to the insurance companies not covering any type of transplants at that time.

My Mom was very creative.  She was part owner of B.C. Flowershop with my Aunt Cheryl (her sister-in-law).  She set to work on creating greeting cards, a family cookbook, and other various fundraisers.  She created a line called “Heaven’s Heroes” and “Ewe Originals” that talked about the importance of organ donation.  Her hairdresser had a “cut-a-thon” to raise money for the cost of the transplant as well.  My Mom wrote to people like Joan Lundon, Oprah, and other famous people to help draw awareness.  She received a letter back from Joan Lundon’s company saying that they were sorry to hear about her situation, but that was all.  At that time, my Dad worked for the Coca-Cola Company.  Miraculously, they received a letter that the company had decided to pay for the transplant when the time came.

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My Mom eventually had her transplant.  However, since it was considered an experimental surgery due to the rareness of the disease, the doctors at University of Michigan decided to just do a single-lung transplant, thinking that the new lung would make up for the other lung.  Unfortunately, the other lung continued to have problems and collapse, to the point where they decided to remove the old lung and leave it as an empty cavity.  I wish I could tell you more about it and the science behind it, but being young at the time I didn’t fully understand what was going on.

My Mom had an amazing outlook on life.  It sounds cliche, but I think that literally everyone loved her.  She was a Christian, so she knew where she was going when she died, but her strength was just incredible.  I remember a message that she shared where she talked about how everyone always asks “Why me??” but that her answer was “Why NOT me?”  I can’t say that I have that same strength, because there are plenty of times that I had thought “Why me?” when my Mom was sick and it just didn’t seem fair.  No child should have to lose their mother at such a young age.

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When my Mom was sick, we spent a lot of time either in the car going to and from Ann Arbor to Battle Creek to visit her in the hospital.  There were times that my brother and I couldn’t go, and instead had to stay with our Grandparents or Aunt.  I remember “getting in trouble” one day at school for not finishing all of my homework in English class.  We had left as soon as school was finished for the day, so the only time I had to do the homework was on the way there.  Once I was there I was much more concerned with visiting my Mom than doing homework, and it was pitch black on the way home.  Homework was the least of my concerns, and looking back, shame on that teacher for making me feel like I chose the wrong option.

I never thought I would have to say goodbye to my Mom at the age of 13.  The day started out normal.  My Grandparents came over to visit, we played catch in the yard, and later went out for ice cream.  Before bed, it all turned upside down.  My Mom had been taking her evening medications (after a transplant, there are many “anti-rejection” medications to take to help your body not treat the new organ like a foreign object and try to attack it).  My Mom must have choked on one of her pills, probably vomited and aspirated it into her only lung, and stopped breathing.  My Dad did CPR as I called 911.  Being out in the “country” area, we actually had a different number to call.  It seemed like it took them FOREVER to get there.  I remember yelling “Hurry!  She’s dying!”  When the ambulance finally got there, my Mom as in a  coma and on responsive.  They ended up putting her on a ventilator (or “life support” as I knew it then).  I believe that we spent three days in the Intensive Care Unit in Battle Creek.  By the third day, the doctors told my Dad that there was not any sign of brain activity, and that the best option was to take her off the ventilator.  I remember holding her hand as the oxygen left her body.  I remember seeing her pink lips turn a bluish shade.  And I remember leaving the hospital on that sunny day and wondering how God could let the sun still shine when my Mom had just passed away.  It wasn’t fair, and it didn’t seem like the world should still be able to go on outside those hospital walls like nothing had ever happened.  The next several days were full of funeral planning, visitations, and the funeral itself.  Tons of people came to the funeral, and the line of cars to the cemetery seemed to go on for MILES.

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Being summertime, my brother and I were home alone a lot to grieve on our own.  Parents, if your child (or even anyone you know) goes through a loss like this: get them in counseling!  I don’t know why, but it seemed like my family lived in almost a denial about my Mom dying.  We didn’t talk about it, I don’t feel like we fully grieved, and I just remember feeling so lonely.  I don’t know why, but I was almost embarrassed to tell anyone that my Mom had died.  I was a very shy child, but still, there was something about being the “girl whose Mom died.”  I’m not sure if I was worried about the awkwardness that they would surely feel when they found out she had died (people don’t always know what to say, and often instead of just saying “I’m so sorry” they can come up with some really different comments).  I’m not sure if I was worried about crying, or just the fact that it would make it THAT MUCH MORE REAL.  My life was forever changed, my heart was broken, and I didn’t know what to do.

I used to have dreams that she would come back and visit me.  She never said anything, but I felt like I was able to be in her presence during that dream, and I would be so sad when I woke up.  I told my Dad about the dreams before.  I never had another one after that, which made me wish I would have kept them to myself…

There were a lot of things I had to go through on my own.  Sorry for the guys reading, but I had only had one period before my Mom died.  From the shock of her death (and losing 20 pounds quickly, which is another story) my body stopped having periods for over nine months.  When I did start again, I was too embarrassed to ask my Dad for pads that I would write him a little note.  My first bra shopping trip was with one of his female co-workers.  Talk about embarrassing.  But I know that he did what he felt was right, and I’m guessing that the lady must have offered to take me and he just took her up on it.  I had to go through dating, graduation, choosing a career, getting married, buying a house, having t kids, raising TEENAGERS…  Events that seemed like they would have been so much easier if I had the guidance of my Mom, someone to support me along the way.  I often wonder how differently my life would look if she was still here.

I hear so many teenagers (or even older) women get upset with their moms or say rude things about them.  I want to shake them, to yell that if I still had my Mom I would NEVER talk like that about her.  But, I know that everyone’s situations are different, and that I have my own faults that others look at and shake their heads.  I want them to remember that our time here is so limited, we only have so much time with our loved ones, and that we must NEVER take our time here for granted.  I know that my Mom is going to be the first one in line behind Jesus when I get to Heaven.  Even 25 years later, I think of her all the time.  Even with her gone, when I am going through something I try to think “How would my Mom have handled this?” and try to go in that direction. It reminds me of the  verse in Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (NIV).  I remember seeing my Mom sitting at the table praying for my brother and me, and I want to show the same love to my boys.  I want to leave a legacy for my boys in the same way that my Mom left for me.  I want to remember her strength, and pray that God will give me the same strength and boldness that He gave her.

 

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Introducing… Chevy!

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As many of you know, we lost our beloved boxer dog Monte on May 16th unexpectedly to cancer.  We loved him dearly, and had him for over 8 years.  As I prayed, I was asking God if we were supposed to get a dog right away, or wait.  I literally felt like I could not heal without pouring love into another dog as soon as possible.  Not to replace Monte, but to bring comfort to loss and to try to help fill a void.  I had different views from different people.  Some felt that I was just trying to replace Monte and not truly grieving, others felt it was a great idea and had said that they did the same thing when one of their pets had passed away.

The day after we had to put Monte down I looked on the Internet at various local animal shelters, hoping to find another boxer because they are such a good breed.  I saw one at the local shelter, but he was older and I didn’t want to get a dog that might not be with us for long.  Then, I typed in “boxers for sale, Michigan,” and found a three-year-old boxer in Lansing.  The family had two younger children (ages one and two), lived in an apartment (so the dog didn’t get to go for very many walks), and they were moving.  The owner said that he could tell that the dog wasn’t very happy and needed more attention.  He had included several pictures, and immediately I knew:  I want this dog.  I hadn’t talked with my husband at all about it, but he was at a church group and wouldn’t be home until late, so I emailed the owner and figured I would just see.  The dog had just been posted online that day, but being a boxer I figured he was probably already taken (especially since the ad said he wasn’t looking for any fees or money, just wanted to find a good home).  I included pictures of Monte with us, and said that we had just lost our boxer and would love another one.  Surprisingly, the man emailed me back and said that he was still available and could I come the next day (being Wednesday), and that his name was Chevy.  I emailed back and said I couldn’t come until Friday or the weekend due to work.  When I didn’t hear from him that next day, I figured he had found someone who could take him sooner, or that he had changed his mind and wanted to keep him (since they had him for three years, I know it had to have been a tough decision).  By Thursday morning I had pretty much given up hope on the dog and started to look at other sites.  Thursday afternoon the owner emailed me and asked how serious we were about being the Chevy’s new family because he had had a lot of offers and wanted to find a good family.  I emailed back again and said we were very interested and that we could come the next day.  By this time, Jon had known about the dog, but he wasn’t really giving a “yes” or “no” answer and just told me he would go along with “whatever I thought” (which made me very nervous that if it was the wrong decision that it would be all my fault).  My oldest (Adam) had been adamant that he wanted a dog right away, but not a boxer.  At first my youngest didn’t want a dog, but later said it was OK as long as it didn’t look anything like Monte.  So here I was, going to look at a dog that was a boxer, so looked very much like Monte.  We set up a time to meet the next day at 10:00 am.  I was nervous the night before and the whole way to meet Chevy.  As we dropped the boys off at school they were both getting more excited about the possibility of coming home to a new dog.  They wanted to go with us, but they had already missed a day of school the day after Monte passed away, and there was no guarantee that we would be bringing Chevy home.

When we first met Chevy, he was a little wild!  Jumping up and licking me like crazy.  Also, he was so much smaller than Monte had been, about 40 pounds.  Lots of muscle, but you could definitely count his ribs and see his spine.  He didn’t bark, which made me very happy since Monte was not a barker and I really did not want a dog that barked a lot!  The family was super sweet, and their oldest son kept giving Jon his toys to hang onto while I played with Chevy.  Jon said it was up to me if I wanted to take him home, and of course I said YES.  They gave us his food dishes and crate, and off we went.13240573_10208179326513102_1729658635651891674_n

Chevy was hilarious on the ride home.  He rode ON my lap for most of the way.  Sitting straight up like he was a little human.  The first thing that Chevy did when we got home was to try out everyone’s beds.  He wiggled under all of the covers and rolled around.

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After he took his little tour of the house I decided to take him for a walk.   I had wondered how he would do, because when I first got Monte he used to pull so much that I could barely walk him until I bought a pinch collar.  Chevy did great!  He didn’t pull, and he was seriously SMILING the whole time.  I think I took him for about four walks that first day.  On the second walk though, he found that he could slip right out of his collar by ducking his head down, so we’ve been using a pinch collar ever since.  I don’t have to tug on it at all, but if he tries to escape it will help prevent that.

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The boys were so excited to meet him.  They immediately fell in love.  We have had Chevy for three weeks now and he has fit right into our family.  We are very thankful to the family that gave him to us.  He definitely helped to bring healing to our family!

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