NEDA Awareness Week 2019

For those of you who are used to my posts, this one will be a bit more serious than my normal ones. I’m not one to promote major things but this post will be about something near and dear to my heart.

Today, February 25th, is the start of the 2019 national eating disorder awareness week. About 6 1/2 years ago, when my little sister was 14 and just starting her freshman year of high school she was diagnosed with anorexia-nervosa. This was a huge moment in my family’s lives. Our small family of 4 has suffered over the years helping her and watching her go through this incredible trying time. I want to share our story with you so you can maybe see the signs that we missed and to give you a look at how someone so confident can fall into the belief that you need to be a size 0 to be pretty and to fit in.

It all began a little over 7 years ago. My sister and I come from a very fit and active family. Our mom is the cross country and track coach in our town and runs all the time (seriously, ALL the time) and our dad wakes up at 4 in the morning to go lift for a few hours at the local gym. This is something my sister and I thought was the norm. We would spend a few hours everyday after school going to practices with our mom and knew that our dad would be in bed by 7:00 every night so he could get up and work out early. When my sister was going into 1st grade and I was going into 5th grade we started competing in gymnastics. We never knew anything different. So, when we were old enough to officially join high school sports, it was a no brainer.

My sister, Lea, and I are 4 years apart in age but were 5 years apart in school because of our birthdays. When I was a senior in high school, Lea was on the varsity cross country team as an 8th grader. Because of our mom being the coach and an avid runner, we would train with her in the summers before season would start. My sister ran so much that summer that when the season started, she was talented enough to be on the varsity team. I, being the annoying older sister, was jealous that she was that talented (better than me) and did NOT understand her liking for running so much. The season ended and we had a few weeks to rest before gymnastics season began. The only problem was, my sister didn’t rest.

A normal high school athlete who goes season to season is supposed to spend the little time they have between sports, saving their body. They are given those weeks to do nothing because they physically need the rest and a break. When the season ended that year we had about 3 weeks before gymnastics started and my sister continued to run large amounts of mileage a day. By the end of the cross country season, varsity runners on our team could run up to 7 miles a day because they had built up their endurance so much. No matter what time it was or what the weather was like, Lea would go out for 3-7 mile runs every single day. I thought this would end when gymnastics started because she LOVED gymnastics but running slowly began to take over the one thing she truly loved.

Our practices would go from 3:00-5:30 everyday. If the clock said 5:31 and we were still practicing, she would begin to stress because she needed to go for a run (she also had a touch of OCD.) This happened all season long. Slowly but surely her favorite thing in the world (gymnastics) turned into a burden keeping her from running. By the end of that gymnastics season all she cared about was going for a run.

Her running became so obsessive towards the end of her 8th grade year that she was running a minimum of 10 miles per day, EVERYDAY! This was red flag number 1.

The next red flag came when she started watching the food channel and got interested in healthy cooking. She would meal prep with my mom on Sundays and taught my mom how to exchange normal ingredients to a healthier substitute for every meal we ate. (Needless to say, I HATED eating the food at my house because the “healthy version” of these meals were disgusting!)

This obsession continued as the school year turned into the summer. She would eat as little as possible while also only eating “healthy” foods for her body. It got to the point that she wouldn’t eat anything unless she prepared it herself.

**Side note: I don’t find anything wrong with eating healthy but I also believe that it should be done in a positive way and not as a way to lose weight. My mom always taught me that anything is good in moderation and I’ve always believed that.**

Between the running and the diet, during that summer she dropped significant weight. Being her big sister, I was extremely concerned but I could only say so much without being accused of being “dramatic” or “jealous” of her healthy lifestyle. Towards the end of that summer, right before her freshman year started, her hands began to turn purple. Now when I say purple, I mean PURPLE! Not the purple your hands get when they’re cold but a dark violet that never went away. Obviously, this was pretty concerning. She went to the doctor multiple times to figure out what was wrong. (The part of this story that gets me every time is how did those doctors not see how underweight and malnourished she was!?) Finally, after 2 months of visits, her pediatrician made the concern verbal about her weight. After that first comment, it was only a matter of weeks before she had her first stint at the Minnesota Children’s Hospital.

Throughout the years, my sister has been in 4 different treatment programs. Some effective and some that hurt her more than it helped her. She would have good months and then fall 10 steps behind and would end up in another inpatient facility. We’ve had some scary episodes with her heart and her breathing. She had to wear a telemetry pack around the hospital whenever she was admitted because her heart rate was dangerously low and the abnormalities with her heart were alarming. Her teenage years were lost because of this disease.

As the years have gone by things have dramatically changed because of this. My family is completely different. Our traditions and dynamics have changed because of having to make room for treatments and meal plans. Our sister relationship is also different. We have had so many highs and so many lows. We still go day by day sometimes because, I’ll be honest, I can’t handle the change that has happened. Lea’s personality was lost during those years of treatments. The sister that I knew, is gone. In her place is a new person that I’m still learning to be around and get to know. I love my sister more than anything else in the world but that doesn’t mean it’s easy and that I love every change that has happened.

After 6 1/2 long years of watching her go through this rollercoaster, I have a very hard time with anyone making comments about other people and their weight. I also have a very hard time when people make comments about their own weight and negative body perception. When someone makes a comment about going on a diet it makes me wonder what they may be thinking when they say that. We live in a world where we think that we HAVE to be a size 0 to be pretty. That is the most ridiculous thing in the world to me! Every person and every body is different. We all come from different places and are a combination of many different ethnicities. We’re not meant to be the same!

I shared this story because I hope that you can see how the signs were there. I hope that you can use what Lea went through, to help yourself if you need it. I shared with you the signs of anorexia in case a young student in your class needs someone to talk to and be there for them. I also share this with you because as the years have gone by, I have become much more aware of unhealthy relationships with food and working out. I hear little comments and see little actions that could possibly result in something much more serious. I want to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Look out for yourself and look out for those around you. Stop the stigma of the size 0 model who only eats kale for breakfast and spends 4 hours a day in the gym. That’s not normal or healthy. Be a shoulder for the ones who need you and stop the negative talk you may hear about anyone else. Be happy, love yourself, be proud of who you are and what you look like!

Gymnastics, Family, Yoga, and New Girl

Today is was a nice and relaxing day. It was the perfect Saturday after a full week back.

I started the day with a nice cup of coffee while lying on the couch. There’s nothing better than waking up and not having to do anything for awhile so you can just relax on the couch in your pajamas.

I then went to judge a gymnastics tournament. I LOVE gymnastics. I did gymnastics, I coach gymnastics, and I also judge. Some tournaments can be super long (and I was not really excited to spend my Saturday working) but the meet was only 2 hours long! I was in and out of the gym and it was still the afternoon. It was also a fun meet to work and watch.

The rest of the day was pretty great as well. I went to hang out with my family for a couple hours. I feel like I haven’t seen my family since Christmas since things have been so busy lately and I only live 15 minutes away from them! I love catching up with them and just spending time all together.

My yoga with Adrienne for the day was all about ease and serenity. It was a 30 minute meditation practice. It was all centered on the floor and was about mindfulness and taking things easy. After a long week of teaching, it’s just what I needed. I love finding my center and creating those positive vibes throughout my body.

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I then got some chores done around my apartment and now I’m ending the day watching some New Girl and drinking a glass of wine. Does anyone else love New Girl? Seriously, she is me to a tee. (I’ve always secretly wished I lived in an apartment with 3 guy roommates.)

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I forget how much I love Saturdays when there’s nothing to worry about and no school work to get caught up on. Sorry this post was kind of random but it was such a nice day I needed to write about it.

The Best of 2018

Every year I like to go back and reflect on the events that shaped this year into what it was (like most people out there). One year ago, I marked 2018 as the year of me. I wanted to push into the new year with my focus being on myself and taking care of myself. I’ve been able to fulfill that resolution through many different new things I have experienced and have done that I’ve never done before.

January 2018:

I started the year by creating a mantra for myself, “you are strong, you are beautiful, you are enough.” I got this idea from a daily devotional I received a few years ago. The book is called, “Staying Strong 365 days a Year,” written by Demi Lovato. Each day she gives a quote, her own background to the quote, and a goal written at the bottom of the page to keep in mind for that day. January 1st had the goal to create a mantra that is just yours. Hence, the mantra I created for myself. I tried hard to stick to this every day and to repeat it to myself when times were hard.

I also started the year by creating a bullet journal to keep track of 6 goals a month I had for myself and my feelings each day. Every day I recorded if I attained the goal for the day and my mood/feelings for that day. My goal was to do this every day for a whole year and I was successful in that goal!

February 2018:

Looking back, February was filled with gymnastics and nothing more. Every weekend was spent at a different tournament for the different teams I coached. It was a blast and an incredibly fun month, but needless to say that was the month I missed school the most for getting sick. Coincidence?

March 2018:

In March, I started a new coaching position coaching pole vault for my high school’s track team. This was a very new experience for me. I never did pole vault myself but the head coach (also being my mom) was desperate to find a pole vaulting coach and asked me because of my gymnastics background. It was definitely a job of firsts. I love to know what I’m doing and I like to know that I am good at my job. This was a job I had no idea what I was doing 90% of the time. I had to learn to be okay with that and learn along side the vaulters.

This was also the month that I was cut from my 4th grade teaching position in my hometown. This was very hard for me to work through. Our district was in incredible debt and myself, along with all of the other non tenure teachers in the district, knew we would not have our jobs the next school year. I knew this was coming but it was difficult to deal with nonetheless. Little did I know, this would end up being one of the best things to ever happen to me!

April 2018:

April was a month I spent a lot of time with my family. A major reason behind this was being able to coach alongside my mom each day. In April, my mom and I went to the NCAA Regional Gymnastics Tournament in Minneapolis, MN. We are both HUGE NCAA gymnastics fans so this was a treat for us. We got to watch the then ranked no. 1 team in the nation, Oklahoma and their star gymnast, Minnesota native and NCAA no. 1 ranked gymnast, Maggie Nichols.

May 2018:

May was CRAZY. My birthday is in May and this was a great day in itself. The day before my birthday I interviewed for a 3rd grade position in a neighboring town. The day I turned 23 my phone rang and I was offered the job. I was hesitant at first but I LOVE my school and my kids more than anything. On Mother’s Day, my younger sister and I decided to get matching sister tattoos. We both have a few and had always wanted to get ones that matched.

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I also made the decision to move out on my own. Halfway through the month I began looking for apartments and signed papers 2 days after I started looking. Our last day of school was May 31st and I moved into my new apartment June 1st.

June:

June was spent mostly furnishing and decorating my apartment. I spent many hours and tons of money creating the perfect space for myself. I live on my own which meant I was able to design it exactly how I wanted to. I also made the biggest decision of my life and decided it was time for me to sign up to see a therapist for my daily struggles. This was a HUGE step for me and it was one of the best decisions I had ever made.

July 2018:

July started off with my first ever therapy session. I’ve had a lot in the past 6 months and they have made a huge difference. It’s crazy for me to think back and see a turn in my mood and thoughts. I spent the month making the most of being with friends and family. I also competed in my first triathlon of the summer, which was also the hottest day of the entire summer! Finally, I ended the month by booking a trip for myself over spring break this year to London and Paris!! In one of my sessions, I was asked what was something I’d always wanted to do. Paris has always been a dream of mine. In a crazy turn of events I was told about a traveling company that takes groups of 18-29 year olds all over the world. I took the plunge and booked a trip for myself. Something I NEVER would have done!

August 2018:

I spent most of this month getting ready for school to start again in my new school. I had 2 weeks of workshop along with putting together my room. I had my 2nd triathlon of the summer and signed up to start doing Crossfit at my local gym. (Again, signing up was something I never had the guts to do but I did it anyways and love it!)

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September 2018:

September 1st I got to go to see the one and only Taylor Swift on her Reputation tour. I’m a die hard fan and have now officially seen her 4 different times. (Her music is my guilty pleasure!) September was also the month I officially started my new job!

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October 2018:

October was a month I centered around keeping myself healthy. I had a pretty tight routine of school, seeing my family, and working out. I worked on staying mindful and tried to implement that into my classroom with my kiddos.

November 2018:

High school gymnastics started!! I hadn’t been in the gym since the summer (which is new for me, I’m usually in there every day) so it was so great to be back! I had to adjust to this new crazy routine but it was worth it. I got to be back and work with girls I hadn’t seen since they were 10. I’m also a nerd when it comes to Harry Potter so I was in heaven when Crimes of Grindelwald came out. I definitely went to see that twice in the same week.

December 2018:

I started December with my shiny new blog. Even if no one reads my posts, there’s something very therapeutic about writing your thoughts down to share. I have loved being able to start this journey. Like December for most people, mine was centered around my friends and family (and gymnastics) with Christmas. As stressful as school had gotten during this month, I was able to spend my off time with people I love and who make me happy.

This year has been a year of many many firsts. Looking back, I accomplished my resolution of celebrating the year of myself. I was able to do new things for no one else but myself. I did my best to keep myself healthy and to try new things to keep me happy and healthy. Here’s to 2019, the year of adventure and happiness! I will start 2019 with the same mantra I started this past year with, I am strong, I am beautiful, I am enough.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. I truly believe that’s true. Christmas is the most magical and peaceful time of the whole year. Sometimes I think the whole year is one big build up for this amazing day.

My Christmas was wonderful, just as it should be.

Our Christmas starts on Christmas Eve. My little family of 4 spends the whole day together. This is the first “full/official” year that I’ve been completely moved out of the house, so we had to adjust some of our traditions but it was still special. I went over to my parents’ house around 11. When I got there, we hung around the living room together talking and just enjoying each others company. My family LOVES to play cards. We played a few rounds of a game my great grandfather invented along with a few games of 500.

We then sat around and started opening our presents. My family opens our presents from one another on Christmas Eve. I think it started because my younger sister and I were so impatient when we were little, our parents gave in but it has turned into our family tradition. Now that my sister and I are in our 20’s, opening gifts is more of a fun affair for all of us. We all choose fun gifts for one another that match our personalities. I was pretty proud with what I purchased for my family. I bought each of them a mug that matched their personalities but were also funny.

I found each of them a mug on Etsy. (I swear by Etsy. I buy 90% of all of my gifts there so I can find special gifts personalized to ever person in my life.)

My dad’s mug was from the shop, DreamteesUS, my mom’s from the shop NovemberandMae, and my sister’s from the shop inkyandindigo. I was seriously so proud of them (my family lives for lame jokes/puns)!

Once we had opened all of our gifts we played some more cards before we went to church. Once our service was over, we came back and had a plethora of appetizers for dinner that we snacked on while we watched our traditional Christmas Eve movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation! Such a classic! (My mom also made us some chocolate fondue for desert which is another normal tradition!)

Unlike most Christmas Eve’s, I ended up going back to my apartment to spend the night. This was very hard for my mom to accept but I wanted to sleep in my bed more than anything! (I also wanted to sleep in and my family does NOT sleep later than 6:00am, no joke.)

Christmas Day was amazing. I woke up and found that Santa came for my kitty Lucy. I promise I’m not a crazy cat lady, but she is my baby and Santa knew how great she is. We opened her catnip Christmas toys in her stocking and played with them for quite some time. I had a relaxing morning watching more Hallmark Christmas movies before heading back to my parents’ house for the day.

We spent a few hours together as a family and then headed to my grandpa’s house for the day. This is another major tradition, we ALWAYS spend Christmas day with my mom’s side (for as long as I can remember!) My mom’s side is very small. We have our family of 4 and then she has 1 brother who is married to my aunt and they have 2 girls, so also a family of 4. Once we were all at my grandpa’s we had 9 people there. I’ve always loved how small and intimate our family is. My grandma, and great grandma, were always there with us but they both passed away around 6 years ago, so now it’s just us.

We spent the first few hours just catching up and eating. I’m the oldest cousin, so the other 3 girls are all still in college. We’ve always been SUPER close but with college it’s very hard to see one another, this made catching up last longer than normal.

We have a tradition in my family that my grandparents’ started. All of us granddaughters and our parents each have our own specialized stocking our grandma had made when we were born. Our grandparents fill the stockings every year with our main Christmas gifts. It was always my grandma who orchestrated the stockings but since she passed, my grandpa has done great carrying on the tradition. We always start with the youngest opening hers and work up to the oldest (which is my dad.)

For the rest of us, a few years ago we decided it would be much easier (and more fun) to play the dice game for our presents. We have enough gifts in the middle for all 9 of us and play the traditional game (when you get doubles you pick a gift, then everyone opens theirs, followed by 2 minutes to steal if you role doubles again.) This has been one of my favorite traditions we have started! My whole family gets into it and I love it! (My dad is a very introverted person and usually “observes” games but with this game he gets so into it!)

We then spent the rest of the day playing games and enjoying each other’s company. My cousins, my sister, and I are very close (it helps that there’s only 4 of us). We are all sisters so anytime we get to spend together as we get older is a treat!

My family went back to my parents’ house for a few hours to spend more time together before I went home to watch the Grinch and go to bed.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are my favorite days in the entire year. I love being with my family and sticking with the traditions we’ve had since I was born. To this day, December 26th is always the saddest day of the entire year for me. I hate knowing I have to wait 364 days before Christmas Eve comes again.

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas!!