An Open Letter to My Ex-Husband

An Open Letter to My Ex-Husband

To My First Love and First Heartbreak, 

Do you remember the day we met? Like magnets, we were drawn to each other and our bond was a difficult one to break. But we eventually found our weak spot and hit our breaking point 15 years later. As preteens, we were so young and hopefully optimistic about life and the outcome of us. For miles, we explored each other’s hearts along the path to our spot. I still find myself giggling out loud when I think about the time we crossed the “river” at our favorite park, and you gracefully fell off the rock into the murky water. Your sense of humor could turn anyone’s darkest days around. Your strength and determination are things I’ve always admired.

Before having children, it was like having a sleepover with my best friend every night. Dancing around the house, listening to our favorite songs on our balcony, leaving a trail of messes all over our tiny apartment, and laughing until morning were some of my fondest memories. Then we had babies, and I saw a tender and soft side of you that made my heart grow ten sizes. The demands of parenthood put a strain on our relationship, but I’m pretty sure our mutual love of sarcasm, appreciation for a good ole craft beer, and ordering pizza in the middle of the night right after swearing that we are starting a health kick are probably what kept us going for 15 years. You were always the best at giving thoughtful and generous surprises and words of encouragement over the years to make me feel appreciated. When I worked as a nursing assistant in college and was having a rough week, you left roses and a massage gift card in my car. When I was in the hospital after having an emergency c-section with Steven, you drove to pick me up my favorite Mexican food. When I was motivated to workout after having our second baby, you bought me the comfiest yoga pants ever. When I was on my own taking care of the kids in Texas for four months while you started your job in Vegas, you ordered Hello Fresh to our door to make cooking meals easier on me. Then you showed up in the middle of the night our first weekend apart to surprise us with a stay-cation at an amazing resort in the town where I still lived.

It was quite the emotional investment being your number one fan, but especially rewarding when you were always winning! You accomplished more by 29 years young than some people do in their entire life. From graduating from UNLV with your Bachelor’s degree before you turned 21 to graduating with your master’s degree while we had a newborn at age 22. You were so valued and successful in your career, that you managed to become a Director of Strategic Planning by age 26. Although the demands of your job took a toll on both of us, you always made sure we had everything we needed. You always made sure to make the most of each moment with our kids when you did have a chance to spend time with them. Thank you for all the memorable family trips, allowing me to always steal the good side of the bed, and putting up with my messy tubes of toothpaste. I’ll always remember our joy rides around the city, just so we could have 30 minutes of sanity and adult conversation while our kids slept soundly in the backseat. Which reminds me, thanks for also putting up with my moments of insanity and allowing me the opportunity to explore yours.

After all I’ve put you through over the years, I deserved hatred. Instead, you chose to put me first above yourself at the time. You continued to pray for me, listened to me when I needed to figure out life, and you held me when I was hurting, even though deep down you were hurting more. Even in your broken moments, you were the closest example of God’s unconditional love that I had experienced. It inspired me to be kinder, more patient, and quick to forgive in other areas of my life. It would’ve been so easy for you to walk away during the difficult times. For you to leave me alone to deal with my broken self. But you didn’t. You stayed to make sure I became stronger and healthier. You sought advice from our childhood pastor and paid a ton of money to get us professional help. You went above and beyond to help strengthen our marriage, and for a few moments, it did grow stronger than it ever had; until one day the conditions of life and the hurt in our hearts got the best of us, that honeymoon phase feeling wore off, and we realized the irreparable destruction of what was left of our relationship. I desired nothing more than to make you the happiest, most loved, respected, and appreciated man that ever lived, and it breaks my heart that after how hard I tried, I still feel like I failed you so miserably.

Before all of this chaos, I was never afraid of growing old; because I always thought we would be growing old together. We’ll look back one day and remember the seasons of life we went through together, and I hope we smile at the lessons it taught us. Some things are near impossible to overcome, but we tried so hard. Because of our stubbornness, we each became shatterproof individuals on our own, yet unintentionally and passionately destructive when we were together. Each time life tried to knock us down, we got back up and fought harder than before. In my darkest moments, you saw the light in me, even when I couldn’t see it in myself. I’m sorry that we both got to a point where we hurt each other so deeply. Walking away was the scariest, yet most comforting decision I have made to date. It will take time to adjust to our new normal, but I want you to know that today I am choosing to let go of the wounds of our past. I am choosing to forgive you. I am choosing to cleanse the wounds from hatred and resentment, so that my heart and soul may heal. I will choose to use the scars as reminders of everything we have been through that has made me resilient and all the more stronger. Although our circumstances have changed, I will always be believing in you as you chase your dreams and crush any goal that you set. I’m confident that when our children are with you, they are in good hands. Although we didn’t get our “happily ever after” together, I want you to know that because of our past, I promise to be better in the present to shape a better future for our precious children. I’m hoping we may peacefully reach compromises as we navigate co-parenting over the next decade or two. You will make someone so incredibly happy one day, but more importantly I hope you find the courage to discover confidence within yourself; and I want you to know that when the time comes, I will honestly be overjoyed for you. You deserve unconditional love, respect, and unending happiness. I cannot fathom what life was like before you, and it’s hard to imagine what each of our futures will hold. But through everything we’ve endured, I’m forever changed for the better. There will be beauty from these ashes. Through this next season, and every moment that follows, I hope you bloom.

Your Former Wife & Forever Fan,

Tiffani

Love, Marriage, Baby Carriage

Love, Marriage, Baby Carriage

“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.”

Who else remembers singing that tune on the playground in their cootie-fearing prime? But should we be implanting these ideas into the minds of young girls that this is the ideal goal in life? As a young girl, I dreamed of getting married young like my parents. They were only 17 when they had me, they got married, and have been happily married for almost 29 years. However, most relationships don’t have the “happily ever after” ending. Some marriages start off feeling like a fairy tale, only to end in devastating divorce. Maybe it’s okay to walk away from something that is no longer serving you or your overall well-being. Maybe it’s okay to accept the good times as they were; really good memories. Maybe it’s okay to change your mind and switch directions at any point in your life if your current path is no longer benefiting you or the others around you.

Most people don’t end up meeting the person they are going to marry when they are only 13 years young. I had the wonderful experience of growing up with the person I ended up marrying. We experienced so much life together. Learning to drive, switching to a dual credit high school together, attending senior prom, getting married at 20 years old with the most beautiful destination wedding at the Hotel Del Coronado, moving to three different states together, and having two healthy, beautiful babies together. Many people openly told me they envied our relationship. As a perfectionist, I am good at making life seem incredible during even the stormiest seasons in my life. However, as I get older and wiser, I am realizing that it’s okay to be transparent and share the lows along with the highs. It helps others relate to you and feel like they are not alone in their struggles.

Back in 2005, my dad become the youth pastor at a church in “Sin City”. Oh the irony! My ex-husband and I met at our church youth group. Each week after the church service for middle school and high school students on Wednesday nights, we would sit in the alley behind our church and listen to his Apple iPod Classic together with one earbud each and sing along to emo boy bands. It didn’t take long for us to confess our feelings to each other, and he asked if I wanted to date him. However, my parents had a rule that my siblings and I couldn’t date until we were 16 years old. So he said he would wait for me… and he did. Three long years. Although I hated it at the time, it actually was such a blessing because it gave us time to grow a solid friendship first. Plus, I mean, we were 13 and definitely not even close to mature enough to be dating yet. During these years, we would meet weekly at “our spot” which was a grassy amphitheater behind the recreation center in my neighborhood. We would read a few chapters from our Bibles together, discuss, and pray for each other. Naturally, we also began to share our hopes and dreams with each other. Often we would walk several miles to Arroyo Grande Park and swing together while figuring out life as teenagers. One afternoon, he confessed that he wanted to get married sometime after we turn 18. As we walked toward my house, we stopped on the sidewalk to make a pact that we would get married young, and we sealed it with an official pinky promise.

After finishing our sophomore year at separate high schools, he and I enrolled into a magnet program called Nevada State High School for our Junior and Senior years of high school. We were able to earn two years of dual credit, meaning we received college credits and high school credits simultaneously for the same course. It was quite the experience being able to make the same college class schedule as my best friend and boyfriend. Each morning, he would pick me up for school and we’d blast Metro Station and Taking Back Sunday. In May of 2009, we graduated from high school with an added bonus of 26 college credits on our transcripts, High School Honor’s Diplomas, and we both received the Millennium Scholarship which paid for a large portion of our in-state tuition. That fall, he enrolled at UNLV and I continued at College of Southern Nevada to save money, since I was paying for my college tuition all on my own.

As a young girl, I also always envisioned myself becoming a pediatrician or a teacher because I wanted to work with children. Since I was married at the shy age of 20 years old, I also desired to have children young. Therefore, the doctoral route just didn’t seem practical for me at the time. Two years into my Nursing program, I had decided to switch majors to Education (which also happened to be the month before my wedding). Truthfully, I have an extreme phobia of blood and needles, to the point where I literally would blackout. My family thought I was insane when I told them I was going to be a nurse, and eventually, they were right. I loved caring for patients, but could not get past the gruesome sights. I could not start an I.V. started without getting squeamish, and I passed out the first time I saw a wound vac. Nursing was not for me, and so I sought out other career routes.

One semester before my wedding, I enthusiastically enrolled myself into education courses at my community college and continued my college education for that solo semester. Newly married and a fresh UNLV graduate, my 21 year old husband was offered an exciting opportunity to begin his career as an accountant with HCA Physicians Services in Nashville, Tennessee. At the time, we were thrilled to get out of Vegas and begin an adventure on our own. I was supportive and encouraged him to pursue his dreams. 

After arriving in Tennessee, I met with an academic adviser and enrolled in courses at Middle Tennessee State University to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree to become an elementary school teacher. Transferring credits from out of state was a huge headache in itself. Thankfully, the adviser I was working with was able to substitute many of my two years of nursing prerequisites for education prerequisites. After taking on a full load of courses each semester, I was on track to graduate in December 2013. Driving 45 minutes each way without traffic to attend classes 4 days per week while also working at the after school program at an elementary school in the evenings became exhausting. But my parents didn’t raise a quitter. I continued pursuing my degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and then during this already busy season, I got knocked up in college.

No one prepares you for the first moment you discover that you’re going to be a mother. One early November fall morning in 2012, I stood in my bathroom staring at a plastic stick with two very distinct pink lines. Although my husband and I had been trying to conceive, I found it difficult to believe what I was seeing right in front of eyes. I found it even harder to process into words to share the exciting news with the father of my rather soon-to-be child. Turning on the water, I hopped into the shower to try to wake myself up so I could process my thoughts. A simple act of peeing on a stick had confirmed my suspicions, the hot dog craving was no coincidence, and my whole entire life was about to change. Was I ready to become a mother? I could barely keep house plants alive.

The next months that followed were filled with cramming in as many university courses as I possibly could, saving as much money as our tight budget would allow, and pacing aisles of baby stores in all of our free time. My husband at the time also started his Master’s program and was working long hours at work and then going straight to classes in the evenings. Chaos would be an understatement. 

In August 2013, we welcomed our first son into the world. The same week my first child was born also just so happened to be the same week that I was supposed to begin my last semester of student teaching. So I took that entire semester off to stay home with my precious newborn. What an amazing experience it was to spend uninterrupted, five, quality months bonding and making memories with Steven. It may not have been the delivery I was expecting, since I was rushed in for an emergency C-section after 13 hours in labor. But, I believe all things happen for a reason and that God has a plan. I’m thankful for my healthy, precious boy. I’m thankful for the memories I’ll make as I watch this sweet boy grow up. Although it was terrifying in the moment, in hindsight, my delivery was perfect.

There truly has never been a dull or boring moment in my life thus far. I went back to school in the spring of 2014 to finish up student teaching. At the same time, my husband at the time was finishing up his MBA program and had to travel abroad for his last course, which happened to also be the same week as my graduation. One of the most important days of life, in May 2014, I walked across the stage as a college graduate with Magna Cum Laude honors for my 3.9 GPA. The only people I knew in the audience were my 9 month old baby and my amazing, younger sister who flew down from Boise to entertain my baby, so I could walk at graduation. Although I dropped everything and went wherever he needed me to go for his job, the one day I needed his support, he wasn’t there. He had other options for locations and dates that he could choose for his trip. But his dad wanted him to come to China, where he runs his own business. It crushed me that he didn’t view my college graduation as a priority.

In fall of 2014, I started my first year of teaching in 4th grade at one of the top elementary schools in Tennessee and was blessed with the most supportive team. One month into school, I found out that I was expecting my second baby. As if your first year of teaching isn’t stressful enough, let’s throw some morning sickness and sprinkle mood swings and frequent urination into the mix. Miraculously, I finished (aka barely survived) my first year of teaching while being pregnant basically the entire school year (I had her exactly one week after school got out).  As I was finishing my last month of my first year of teaching, I was informed that I would need to change grade levels for the next school year due to the low number of students in my current grade. Then in Fall of 2015, I had to leave my 8 week old and 2 year old to go back to school. That was one of the most difficult seasons of my life. After teaching a full day of 3rd grade, I picked up my two babies from daycare, headed home for the evening routines, and then struggled to sleep through the night since my youngest was still waking for a night feeding and my son was having trouble transitioning to a “big boy bed”. On the outside, life seemed pretty great. Inside, I was slowly losing my identity and my sanity. I often felt like I was raising two babies alone while teaching full time, since my husband had urgent matters that continuously needed his time and attention and kept him at work for long hours. Thankfully on the weekends, he would play football in the living room with our oldest, or he’d take the kids for a drive so I could get a workout or nap in.

The next few years, I tried to focus on balancing mom-life, teacher-life, and wife-life while also trying to become healthier. Madison completed my life in ways I didn’t know I needed. Her joy is incredibly contagious and she reminds me that I need to live in a way that I would want her to mimic. Being her mother and role model makes me want to become stronger, braver, more confident, more compassionate, more free-spirited, and patient. When I was 9 months postpartum, I began taking control of my health by creating healthier eating and fitness habits. I got into the best shape of my life in a matter of months thanks to good old eating healthy and working out. As my physical health improved, my mental health also began to blossom.

Optimism is a wonderful gift. However, being unrealistically optimistic can be disastrous. This is magnified when you struggle with depression and perfectionism. Happiness comes in waves, rushing in quickly before vanishing from where it once was. Perfectionism continuously reminds you that your best is not quite good enough. Once I finally got into a groove with balancing teaching full time while raising two kids, the person I was married to moved our family to Texas in Spring 2017 for a job promotion. By age 26, he had earned the title of a Director of Strategic Planning and had doubled his salary within 5 years of his career. I couldn’t have been more proud and supportive of him and was quick to once again drop everything in order to help him chase his dreams; even if it meant sacrificing mine while moving to a place that I hadn’t even ever visited before, nor did I know a single soul there.

Everything that could have gone wrong with a move did when we moved to San Antonio. I’m sure it could’ve been worse, but that is what it felt like at the time. The company that we used to move our belongings somehow “lost” the truck that carried all of our things because the driver quit halfway between Tennessee and Texas and abandoned the truck. I was stuck in a small two bedroom apartment with two suitcases full of clothes, bedding, and two energetic youngsters. It took almost an entire month for us to receive our belongings. On top of that, my children’s father had to stay in the office for roughly 12-13 hours on weekdays and then was asked to come in for the majority of his weekends the first few months that we lived there. Both of us were becoming increasingly frustrated and exhausted. My closest family was 1,000 miles away and  due to the circumstances, I didn’t have much time or energy to make connections with other adults. I felt more utterly secluded and alone than I had at any other time in my life. Instead of dealing with my emotions in a healthy way, I tried to escape my reality through unhealthy vices. I made unforgivable mistakes. I was so desperate to feel anything besides the other emotions that I was feeling, that I was willing to destroy myself in the process as I numbed the pain with even more painful replacements.

That fall, I started working at a 2nd grade teacher with a team of nine total second grade teachers. The next two years were the hardest years of my life and led to my first downward spiral into diagnosed depression. The next two years of my life, I began to self-destruct. I was desperate to take drastic measures to distract myself from dealing with the other issues going on in my life. I did things I never thought I was capable of doing. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. Often times, circumstances or situations are out of your control. However, you must learn to acknowledge what you contributed to the outcome and recognize that you have the power to decide what you will do in the aftermath of what happens. If only I had taken my own advice back then, and I’m sharing this in hopes of encouraging others to seek healthier alternatives that using a destructive vice to try to escape your depression. Seek professional help if possible, or at least find a trusted friend to confide in to help hold you accountable. My mistakes in those months led to extreme guilt, and consequently I dove head first into an even deeper, darker place than before.

Once again, the person I was married sought out other opportunities elsewhere, and ended up moving back to Las Vegas in March 2019 by transferring within his company to a location out west, where he had been longing to ultimately get back to. Since my son was in kindergarten at the time, I was teaching 2nd grade, and we were committed to a rental home until summer, I decided it was best for the kids and I to stay in Texas to finish out the school year and our lease agreement. For four months, I got a true taste of what life would be life as a single mom. I grew significantly during those few months as I was given space to grow and focus on changing my past ways. I was able to have more quality time with my kids since I was their sole provider at the time and constantly looked for ways to go on adventures and make the most of our last few months in the Lonestar State.

The kids and I moved back to Las Vegas with their father in mid-June of 2019. It was a breath of fresh air being back in a place where I felt comfortable and familiar with. I began teaching 3rd grade at a brand new charter school last school year, and I am loving it! After ignoring our relational issues for years and years, my husband and I had finally fund a therapist who we saw weekly. Things began to improve before they got worse. There were things in each of our pasts that we both had a difficult time moving on from. We convinced ourselves that we would work through it. However, very early in 2020, we made the difficult but necessary decision for me to move out as we went proceeded forward with a divorce. The timing was whack, with all of this happening right before a pandemic hit, which caused us to be quarantined and secluded from our former support systems. I’m thankful that for the most part, we have found ways to successfully coparent. It will take time to heal and adjust to a new normal since we were part of each other’s lives for 15 years. But we both truly feel that this decision was in both of our best interests.

In retrospect, we both made the vital decision to focus on trying to discover our own identities since we had been so codependent on each other since our teenage years. In order to personally grow, I began to truly reflect on what things I needed to change. I finally gained courage to seek professional help to begin the healing from my past mistakes, a failed marriage, along with other unrelated painful experiences. Once I took initiative to admit my own mistakes and flaws, is when I could truly begin to grow and learn from the past. Some things are difficult to recover from and move past. Sometimes the hurt causes wounds and scars that constantly bring up pain from the past. The past decade may have nearly destroyed me, but still I will choose to keep getting back up and striving to thrive in 2020 even despite the current circumstances. Amidst the chaos, I recognize the value my past struggles had on shaping my present and future. Through the difficult times, the mistakes, and the turmoil, I am consciously deciding what I will and will not allow to continue in my life. I am learning the importance of budgeting, balance, boundaries, reflection, and self-care.

Dare yourself to reach for a bright future.

Imagine your ideal self – what are you willing to accept?

What do you need to let go of?

How can you place boundaries on what no longer serves you?

What can you do today to become a better human tomorrow?

“When you start to feel like things should have been better this year, remember the mountains and valleys that got you here. They are not accidents, and those moments weren’t in vain. You are not the same. You have grown and you are growing. You are breathing, you are living, you are wrapped in endless, boundless grace. And things will get better. There is more to you than yesterday.”
― Morgan Harper Nichols

Six Months to Live

Six Months to Live

Six months is equal to approximately 180 days, 4,320 hours, or 259,200 minutes. To some, six months seems to be an excruciatingly long amount of time. To others, six months may seem to go by in the blink of an eye. Think of how much or how little one can accomplish in six months. Unfortunately, an unexpected circumstance may interrupt our lives and alter the rest of our future. It is at that time when we finally realize that six months may not be so long after all. In the past, I have been guilty of getting caught up in my daily routine that I did not take time to cherish each moment. Now, I know that I will never take a heart beat for granted again.

There was an unexpected incident that occurred in the year 2007 that changed my life forever. My mother was out showing homes in Henderson, Nevada; a town that is just outside the outskirts of Las Vegas. A town that I am now living in again. It was a typical warm, dry, and windy summer afternoon. My mother, who was 34 years old at the time, was stopped at a red light. This intersection also happens to be only three miles from my current home, 13 years later. A car behind her was traveling at a speed of approximately 35 miles per hour and had rear-ended her. This accident caused damage to my mother’s car, whiplash to my mother, and painful bulging discs to protrude from my mother’s spine. The other and vehicle was completely unharmed. This moment had also marked the beginning of my mother’s current twelve year journey through a serious and rare heart condition.

Prior to this moment, my mother had a healthy heart. She exercised often, did not smoke or drink alcohol, and she was at an ideal weight for her age and height. A normal heart will pace at an average of about 60 to 80 beats per minute, unless the person is exercising. Almost immediately after the accident, my mother’s heart would race over 180 beats per minute by simply standing up out of bed, getting ready in the morning, and walking from the front door to her car. My mother spent months traveling all over the country, from UCLA to Vanderbilt and many places in between, in attempt to find a doctor who could figure out what had caused this. Each doctor replied with almost an identical response as the previous doctor, “I don’t think I have ever seen a case like this. We have no idea what is going on.” After many frustrating doctor visits, there was a doctor who discovered that her symptoms seem to relate closely to a rare heart condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. It was somewhat encouraging to have an idea of what was the cause of her symptoms. However, the condition of her heart was worsening and the cardiologists could not determine how they were going to fix her heart. Over the next few years, the walls and ventricles in my mother’s heart were weakening severely as her heart began to go into heart failure. I still clearly remember getting a devastating phone call from my father telling me that the doctors said my mother has less than six months to live. At the age of 16, I was told that I would have only a mere fraction of time longer to spend with my mother; the woman who gave birth to me, who raised me, and who had become my best friend. I was in complete shock and absolutely devastated.

Anyone who has met my mother will tell you that she is one of the most inspiring, encouraging, and joyful people they have met, despite her daily battle. My mother did not drop everything in her life and lay around like the doctors suggested. She also did not give up hope; rather, she used this situation to take advantage of however much time she had left. Although she would to go on with life the best she could, there were still some necessary changes that she needed to make. First, she could no longer exercise because it would cause her heart to race over 200 beats per minute and she would nearly faint. Secondly, my parents used to walk several miles a night together; however, they had to discontinue those as well because it would cause my mother severe chest pain and dizziness. In a one year period from February 2011 until February 2012, my mom had undergone six major heart surgeries. I am unable to count the times she was admitted into the hospital or how many times I have visited her in an Intensive Care Unit. Each hospital stay, my father would willingly stay right by my mother’s side until she was stable enough to go home. Sometimes it would be several days, other times she was at a hospital for several weeks. After having several different types of pacemakers implanted into her chest, my mother’s surgeons decided to perform a complete ablation of her SA and AV nodes of her heart. The surgeons also put in a bi-ventricular three lead cardiac re-synchronization therapy device. This device is usually only implanted in patients with extreme heart failure or very elderly patients, and is treated as a last resort option. Her heart is currently one hundred percent relying on a machine to control her heart rate; However, her mind is one hundred percent trusting in God and his plan for her life.

What do I know that others may not know much about? I know that unexpected events can happen in our life that will change our lives forever. I know what it feels like to be told at the age of 16 that your mother may not live much longer. I learned that attitude means everything and choosing to have a positive outlook no matter what you are going through will help you to push forward in any circumstance life throws your way. I’ve realized that sometimes it takes a difficult or even tragic situation to bring people closer together. I know that even in the midst of my mother’s constant struggle, God is still faithful and has blessed my family tremendously. I know the overwhelming feelings of fear, anxiety, and concern while waiting in a hospital waiting room for up to eight hours at a time to hear whether or not my mother’s heart surgery was successful or not. I know more about the intricate parts of the human heart than the average person. I know that my mother has exceeded her diagnosed remaining life expectancy and has made it at least thirteen years longer than her doctors expected. I know that my mother is strong because of all she is continuing to go through. I know that no one is guaranteed forever, and that not one moment of our lives should go to waste. Most importantly, I know that I will never take a single heartbeat, a mere minute, or any person for granted again. We all only have one life to live, and I want to make the moments count – as if I had only six more months to live.

To read more about my mother’s 13+ year journey with her pacemaker, click here to read her blog, or follow her on Facebook where she regularly posts inspiration and is transparent about the highs and lows of her continuous and current heart health journey. My mother is currently unable to continue working at her dream career as a real estate agent due to her health conditions. A sweet soul set up a GoFundMe, which you can find here if you feel led to bless her and my father with helping them pay for their medical and living expenses while they rely solely on my father’s income.

Getting Disordered Eating in Order

Getting Disordered Eating in Order

Personally, I believe you cannot fully love others well until you first give that love to yourself. Be mindful of the words that you are allowing yourself to hear, and the words of others that you allow yourself to dwell on. Around the time that I was in eighth grade, is when I first remember having depressed thoughts and disordered eating habits. Like most girls my age, my self esteem took a plummet around the time puberty hit. One girl, who I called one of my best friends, made demeaning comments about the shape of my nose. Later on she ridiculed me for my weight and the anatomy of my feet. It left scars on my mind that I will never forget.

At first I started out by just skipping lunch at school. I would pack my own lunch because my mom would ask if I made my lunch, and then I’d throw it away at school. Then, it turned into an obsession to see how few calories I could eat. I would go all day without eating, but then I would ultimately end up binging and eating my daily calories within an hour or two in the evenings. Also in the evenings, I would spend hours scrolling through pictures on Tumblr searching for “thinspo” idolizing girls who weighed around 80 pounds and clearly had disordered thinking. This further fed my inner demons reminding me that I was never good enough for my expectations.

From there, my depression spiraled downward, but I was so good at faking happiness and acting like everything was perfect. No one ever noticed. Not only did my metabolism dramatically slow down, I also started having issues with my menstrual cycle. Although I was not sexually active, my doctor prescribed me birth control to help get my periods back on track. I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism due to my thyroid not working correctly. Each morning I had to take a prescription to normalize my thyroid levels. I’m terrified of needles and had to get my blood work done at least once a month to check my thyroid levels. In addition, I also became anemic and had to take an iron supplement along with increasing my consumption of high-iron foods.

Besides my physical health, my mental health was also in shambles. I began to journal and write down my thoughts. I would have days where I felt optimistic and wanted to get healthy because I realized what I was doing and feeling was not normal. But I couldn’t seem to get off of the path of self-destruction. On the pages of my diaries and journals, you’d be able to read broken words and disordered thoughts in the form of poems that I wrote years ago.

Due to several years of restricting calories along with periods where I would binge eat, my metabolism was all out of whack. I lost a few pounds at first, but definitely gained it all back…plus more. Even once I started eating on a more normal schedule, it took YEARS for my body to adjust. It wasn’t until later on in life, after having two children and two c-sections, that I learned to truly life a healthy lifestyle.

While I was pregnant with Madison, people would tell me my body would never be the same after I had two kids. There is truth to that. Growing a child inside you is the most wonderful experience a woman can have, and I feel very blessed to have that opportunity. However, after having two kids at a fairly young age, my body, energy levels, and eating habits changed significantly. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I love more than being a mom. But, I needed to feel like me again. More importantly I needed to be a healthier example for my growing children. I was also desperate for anything to improve my mood, and exercise has always been successful at giving me an endorphin rush. When I set aside time for self care, I am allowing myself to take steps toward becoming the best version of me.

Ways to Overcome an Disordered Eating:

1. Find a Guide

 Over the past few years, I have mostly worked out in the comfort of my own living room using online workout programs that I purchased and download to my phone. In 2016,  I had stumbled across @fitgirlsguide on Instagram. After stalking their page for several months online, I finally made the leap and bought the 28 Day Jumpstart ebook from their website, which included full meal plans and at-home workout plans. I took my before pictures while holding my sign with the phrase “Operation Self Love” to enter into their monthly prize giveaways. I really wanted to win an Amazon gift card y’all! I eventually did too, 4 months into my Fit Girl’s Guide journey.

After finding Fit Girl’s Guide, I finally learned how to properly fuel my body with the food I eat. I also become much stronger through their fitness routines. Currently, I go through periods where I take “treat yo self” a little too far. But I was able to maintain and continue my overall progress over three years because I learned to find my balance while eating healthy 80% of the time and allowing myself to splurge on indulgences the other 20% of the time. 

Eventually, I needed something different, so I created an at home 8 week long fitness program called Slay at Home, which helps people implement fitness and exercise into their busy routine. You can check it out by clicking HERE !

2. Find Your Tribe

Find people who clap for you when you’re winning. Surround yourself with people who help and encourage you to keep growing. As a teacher, many of my coworkers become closer than family. I’m blessed to have like-minded people in my life who inspire me, check on me, and encourage me to keep growing. They are there to hike with me, go for a jog, or even to go get drinks when we need to relax and vent about life. I’ve learned over the years the importance of doing a pulse check and asking yourself if the people in your life are uplifting you or draining you? Let go of the toxic people in your life. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

I’ve realized that I worked so incredibly hard and owe much of my personal growth to myself. However, there is one key ingredient that I could not do without. That is the community of women that are my tribe. On my old fitness Instagram account, I had gained over 13,000 followers within three years. The extra accountability was super motivating. The encouragement and inspiration from so many people is truly what keeps me going. There is something so powerful about women coming together for the sole purpose to encourage and empower each other.

Through Instagram, I have met so many amazing women who have become my real life best friends. From attending a 5K in Chicago together, yoga in the park in Nashville, to drinks at a bar in San Antonio… there is never a dull moment when I get together with my “online” friends, and it feels like we have known each other forever.

3. Live Your Life

Honestly what truly helped me was by first working on having a healthier relationship with food. I did this by paying attention to how I felt after eating certain foods and learning what foods make me feel energetic and good inside. Then I started looking at exercise differently. I used to view it as punishment from eating too much by working out for literally hours on cardio machines. Instead of punishment, I began viewing exercise as a privilege and a blessing. Instead of “ugh I have to workout,” I replaced it with, “I have the ability to workout, and I want to make myself feel good with an endorphin and adrenaline rush, so I am choosing to work out!” Little changes like that over time led to HUGE mindset changes about my body. Also, I threw away my scale and measuring tape. Instead, I track my progress by how my clothes fit and how my energy and mood feel. I definitely have days where I am in a dark place mentally, but overall I have a much healthier mindset and no longer struggled with the eating disordered thoughts that formerly consumed my entire life.

Slay at Home – 8 Week Fitness Challenge

Slay at Home – 8 Week Fitness Challenge

Do you remember those 2020 goals you set to get healthier and fitter? IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN. With many gyms and fitness studios still closed around the country and with social distancing the new norm, there has never been a better time than now to start your at-home fitness journey! Before starting my fitness journey, I would stress-eat my emotions and drink wine excessively at night to attempt to relax amidst the chaos that is/was my life. Thankfully, I discovered that eating healthy and working out makes me feel empowered, energized, and enthusiastic about life. I want every woman to feel fierce!

In today’s world, it seems there are a million different ways to eating healthy or losing weight. I no longer go on crash diets like I used to years ago, which only left me frustrated, hungry, and with additional weight gain. I’ve learned to find my balance. I eat healthy most of the time, but still enjoy pizza, beer, and chocolate.

I know for awhile after having children, I felt like I lost my personal identity as my time and energy were rightfully consumed with raising my two precious children. I was married at 20, had two kids by 24, and divorced by 28. After having two c-sections at a young age, I had so many people tell me that my body would never be the same. I cannot tell you how thankful that is not the same. What is fiercer that being able to grow humans inside of you? Those stretchmarks are proof that you grew LIFE inside of you. Those dark circles under your eyes are proof that you are busy raising your babies into healthy, happy human beings. I know motherhood and/or adulting can be tough, but so are you!

Over the past four years, I have had many friends and family members ask how I lost all my baby weight without being on a “diet” or stepping foot into a gym. With education being my passion as a licensed, full-time teacher as well, I’m here to teach you all that I know about becoming the healthiest, happiest version of you… no matter who you are or how busy you are! What are you waiting for? Start living your best life today!

This comprehensive Slay at Home – 8 Week Fitness Challenge is in a digital eBook format that is sent instantly to your email for immediate download. It is yours to use as many times as your heart desires and includes:

  • 40+ nutritious and delicious meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks
  • 8 week detailed workout plans that will help you see results with minimal equipment and without leaving your home
  • 5 unique cardio workouts that will make you fall in love with cardio
  • A guide to create your own cardio circuits
  • Printable weekly workout worksheet to schedule your workouts and goals for the week when you use the “create-your-own” section
  • How to create a home gym for under $70
  • Tracking your progress without being a slave to the scale
  • How to create lifelong healthy lifestyle habits

Gypsy Soul

Gypsy Soul

It is safe to assume that most people probably haven’t experienced 21 different homes, 13 schools, and six different states during the course of their childhood. It always baffles me when I meet a person who has lived in the same state and city, let alone one house their entire life. Yet, there is part of me that is slightly jealous. Being an adventurous and spontaneous spirit, I was always up for the challenge and the thrill of all the newness. However, I did not realize just how challenging the constant change would be.

Let’s take it back to the beginning. Once known as the “Rust Belt” due to the abundant production of steel, Youngstown, Ohio is a city that you’re glad to be from and not moving to. My father had just graduated high school, and my mother was in her senior year in May of 1991 when they brought me into the world. Shortly after my birth, my parents were married and my father went to school to become a pastor while he also worked at a local grocery store stocking shelves. My mother left her dream of becoming a beautician and started working nights as a waitress at a local diner. When I was only six months old, my parents decided they wanted another child. Being the focus of my parent’s attention lasted a few short months before I had the honor of sharing it with my best friend and sister.

When I was about three, my father finished seminary and became a youth pastor at a church just outside of Youngstown. My sister and I grew up in church and became involved in programs like Missionettes and attended VBS in the summer. As young parents of two, my parents were busy trying to provide for us. They even made sure we were able to go on memorable family trips like camping in the Smokey Mountains and going to Disney World. We even had the chance to stay with my aunt and uncle for a month near the beach in Florida. It is true that my parents certainly made sure we experienced all that we possibly could.

When I was five, my parents decided to have a third child. It gives me a slight panic attack to think about how my 22 year old mom managed to raise three kids who were all younger than five. She truly has always been the strongest and most determined woman. While they were busy working, my grandparents and aunt took care of us. I have many fond memories of riding on the back of my grandpa’s bike or hearing the rustling of leaves as we jumped in piles that he carefully raked. Although living near family is important, my parents knew there was so much more to life than what Youngstown could offer. My dad was offered a position in Parker, Arizona and off we went.

We packed up a Penske truck and headed west to start our next adventure in Parker, Arizona. At the time, I believe the population was a whooping 2,000. We learned to avoid tumble weeds and dust storms while riding our bikes or jumping on the trampoline. That school year, I began 2nd grade at a school around the corner. I will never forget that school year. Mrs. Smith was my teacher, and she was possibly the crankiest and craziest teacher. There was a boy in my class that she couldn’t stand, and one day she proceeded to drag him across the classroom tile by the back of his shirt. That year at recess, I remember making friends easily. You could always find us playing Spice Girls on the side field of the playground.

My dad was the youth pastor at a small church in Parker. Shortly after, the main pastor had to resign due to being caught with viewing pornography at his office at the church. We were there for a short time before my father moved us up closer to Phoenix. The church was healthier and my dad seemed happier. I went to two different schools for third grade. That year was a blur and it was the starting point to where my self-fulfilled prophecy as the shy, new girl began. It was difficult switching schools at the start of a new year, let alone mid-year. Everyone already understood the expectations and routines. Around this time, my mom was suffering from a severe case of bulimia. When the pastor of our church found out, he asked my dad to step down and to focus on helping my mom get help. We moved back to Ohio for about nine months and lived with my grandparents. My mom received intense rehabilitation to overcome her eating disorder. In the fall, I began 4th grade at the elementary school in my grandparents neighborhood. As my mom regained her health, my dad began pursuing youth pastor opportunities out of the state. After almost moving to Washington, he ended up accepting a position as a youth pastor at a church in the San Diego area of southern California. Once again, we packed up a Penske truck and headed west once more. I was excited to be within a 30 minute drive from the beach.

We first lived in Rancho Penasquitos, a suburb of San Diego. That year, I was in 5th grade. This is the same year that the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened. I remember being in the car on our way to school and hearing the tragic news on the radio. Although I didn’t realize the extent at the time, I did know it was something horrible, and I felt scared and heartbroken for our country. That also happened to be the day that we rescued our dog, Shadow, who turned out to be quite aggressive and a terror as well.

A year later, we couldn’t stay in the house we were in due to the incredibly expensive cost in that area. The church my dad worked at had a tiny, abandoned three-bedroom house across the wash behind the church. It measured approximately 800 square feet, and smelled like horse manure thanks to the horses directly behind the house. After weeks of renovating, we finally moved into our quaint home. My sister and I shared a room and my brother had his own room. I attended the same middle school for 6th, 7th, and almost all of 8th grade. We actually moved three weeks before I finished 8th grade. During these years, my confidence was boosted as I came out of my shell and made friends.

There was a period of time where it was constantly raining in southern California. Shortly after, my family kept getting very sick and there was an undeniably strange smell in our home. We discovered our house had toxic black mold that had been colonizing and growing along baseboards, inside our closets, and behind furniture. Our house was immediately condemned and we lost everything inside our home that wasn’t in a sealed plastic container including clothes, furniture, toys, and linens because they were contaminated with mold spores. Our community heard about the news and our schools put together a fundraiser to collect gift cards, backpacks, clothing, and blankets. It was evident that we would be unable to stay in California with my father’s pastoral income while trying to provide for a family of five while owning hardly anything. In my opinion, losing our home to toxic mold was more difficult than if we lost our home to a fire. In a fire, you can visually see the destruction of the contents of the home, but with mold you just had to leave the contaminated contents behind.

In 2005, only a few weeks before finishing middle school, my parents decided to move my family from sunny San Diego, California to Las Vegas, Nevada. My dad was a youth pastor at the time and he was offered a position in “Sin City”. Oh the irony! Shortly after moving to Las Vegas, I met a boy at church who I developed feelings for. He waited three years to date me, since I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16. We dated for four years before getting married on my 20th birthday.

Newly married and a fresh UNLV graduate, my 21 year old spouse at the time was offered an exciting opportunity to begin his career as an accountant with HCA Physicians Services in Nashville, Tennessee. At the time, we were thrilled to get out of Vegas and begin an adventure on our own. We packed up our U-Haul box with the few treasures we owned and shipped it off. It was going to be expensive to ship our cars, so we both decided to drive across the country and make a road trip out of it. After arriving in Tennessee, I transferred to Middle Tennessee State University where I completed my Bachelor’s Degree to become an elementary school teacher. Over the next few years we had two beautiful children while living in Franklin, TN. We bought a town home, and I also taught for three years at one of the best elementary schools in Tennessee. On the outside, life seemed pretty great. Inside, I was slowly losing my identity and my sanity.

Once I finally got into a groove with balancing teaching full time while raising two kids, the person I was married to decided to move our family to Texas in spring 2017 for a job promotion. By age 26, he had earned the title of a Director of Strategic Planning and had doubled his salary within 5 years of his career. I couldn’t have been more proud and supportive of him and was eager to help him follow his dreams, even if it meant sacrificing mine and moving to a place that I hadn’t even ever visited before nor did I know a single soul there.

Everything that could have gone wrong with a move did when we moved to San Antonio. I’m sure it could’ve been worse, but that is what it felt like. The company that we used to move our belongings somehow “lost” the truck that carried all of our things because the driver quit halfway between Tennessee and Texas and abandoned the truck. I was stuck in a small two bedroom apartment with two suitcases full of clothes, bedding, and two energetic youngsters. It took almost an entire month for us to receive our belongings.

The new boss of my spouse was a micromanager and workaholic. On top of that, he criticized even the most impressive reports. Most days, he kept my children’s father in the office for roughly 12-13 hours and then asked him to come in for the majority of his weekends the first few months that we lived there. Most of the tasks he had to work on during his late nights and weekends in the office seemed tedious and unnecessary. Both of us were becoming increasingly frustrated. My closest family was 1,000 miles away and  due to the circumstances, I didn’t have time for myself to make connections with other adults. I felt more utterly secluded and alone than I had at any other time in my life.

That fall, I started working at a 2nd grade teacher with a team of nine total second grade teachers. The students in my class were horribly misbehaved and the parental support was relatively non-existent. It was the hardest two years of my life and led to my first downward spiral into diagnosed depression. The next two years of my life, I began to self-destruct. I was desperate to take drastic measures to distract myself from dealing with the other issues going on in my life. This led to extreme guilt and consequently I dove head first into an even deeper, darker place than before.

Once again, the person I was married to became bored with his job and felt he wasn’t climbing the corporate ladder fast enough. He ended up moving back to Las Vegas in March 2019 after transferring within his company to the location out west, where he had been longing to ultimately get back to. Since my son was in kindergarten at the time, I was teaching 2nd grade, and we were committed to a rental home until summer, I decided it was best for the kids and I to stay in Texas to finish out the school year and our lease agreement. 

The kids and I moved back to Las Vegas with their father in mid-June of 2019. It was a breath of fresh air being back “home” or in a place where I felt comfortable and familiar with. I began teaching 3rd grade at a brand new charter school this school year, and I am loving it! After ignoring our relational issues for years and years, my husband and I had finally sought out a therapist who we saw weekly. Instead of what we had hoped for, things grew more and more toxic. There were things in the past that we both had a difficult time moving on from. I had been ignoring my conscience since the beginning of our marriage, and once again convinced myself that we would work through it. After a traumatic Christmas trip that year, I decided enough is enough. It took several weeks for my plans to come to fruition. But in February 2020, I finally moved out all on my own (with my two kids half the time) for the first time in forever. Metaphorically and literally, I was finally free. After 28 years of being on the move at the hand of others, I’m finally at a place in my life where I am free to stay or go. As much as I truly would love to settle in one place, my gypsy soul is already craving the next expedition.