Friday, August 30, 2013

"I Will Declare" Written By Deena Gifford

Good morning!  I am so excited for today's blog because I did not write it!  Today you will be reading from my friend Deena Gifford.  I first met Deena while we were in college and I can tell you she is truly one of the most awesome ladies I have ever known.  Whether through incredible laughter, sound wisdom, a listening ear, or a spirit of giving like no other, she truly makes people feel not only loved and valued, but also leads others to be more like Christ.  She is married to a wonderful man named Paul and together they have three beautiful sons.  She is passionate about life and the Lord and I could think of nobody else to write about the topic that was on my mind.  

I asked Deena to talk about body image and worth.  I basically told her to take liberty to come at it from any angle she wanted, and as I expected, she hit the nail on the head and then some.  Deena doesn't just talk- she lives.  Thank you Deena for your honesty, your candor, and your real living example of what it means to be beautiful. 

And now it is my privilege to share the following post written by my friend, Deena Gifford.  

I Will Declare the Beauty of the Lord
By Deena Gifford

       This is the day that Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it. (PS118:24)     Seems like a simple statement right? I can say that now that I have begun to rejoice and be glad and embrace who I truly am each day. I can say that because I make the choice to live out who I truly am in the eyes of the one who created me. I say choice because I have learned through this journey that it has to be a choice that I make each and everyday that I have the privilege to live.  I have learned not to take lightly that God chose me to be a temple that houses the amazing gift of his Holy Spirit.

      This is where I am now but my journey has not always been this way. I have been a professional dieter since I have been 10 years old. I never could rejoice or be glad about anything because I was to busy comparing myself to others and trying to be what this world portrays as beautiful.  A girl in my 1st grade class called me thunder thighs and those hurtful words dictated how I viewed my body for the next 30 years. Yes you heard me 30 years!!! I never wore shorts or a bathing suit without something over it. I did every weight lose plan out there.  I did diet pills and cocaine so I wouldn’t eat and try to attain a body that I thought would make me acceptable to the world and men. I will tell you that through the use of drugs I did get the body I thought I wanted and that I thought would make all of my problems go away and make me feel accepted. I will also tell you it only last for a season. Then it wore off and all I was attracting were idiot guys who only wanted a body, credit card bills for cloths, hair, shoes, and partying that I couldn’t keep up with ($12,000 to be exact).There I sat right back in the same place I started except more empty, more alone than ever, ugly, and still searching. The only difference was it all wrapped in a pretty, skinny package with a designer bow. What I thought I wanted: to be thin, looked at as beautiful, and all of what the world makes us want was not what I wanted at all.  So there I was at a cross road faced with a choice  do a do what I’ve always done (taking the easy way) or do I choose the path that was unfamiliar and work. I chose the work.

      This journey has been a long one and one of the biggest things I have learned is that real change does not occur overnight. Real change takes work, discipline and determination. Real change is a choice one that doesn’t come in a pill, a fad diet, or material things. Real change comes when we begin the journey on the path of finding who God created us to be. He didn’t create me to be like anyone else- I have my own identity in Him. I will never be free or beautiful if I am trying to be anything other than what he created me to be. That includes me comparing and trying to be like someone else. God created you and me for a specific purpose. There are things that he created me to do that someone else cannot and them for things I can’t do. Now that’s beauty.

      My desire is no longer to have beauty by the worlds standards. My fulfillment and desire is that “My life will declare the beauty of the Lord!” He is the only one I want to impress. The awesome thing about that is that he was already impressed that He sent his son to hang on a cross for me. It was not until I changed my perspective and found balance in my spirit and mind that I was able to conquer my body. It was not until I was able to stop comparing stop trying to be like someone else and getting comfortable in my own skin that I was able to achieve my fitness and weight goals. I had to know my identity in the eyes of the one created me first. I needed to block out what the society, TV, even my own friends perception of what beautiful was and focus on what God says beauty is.
That true beauty comes from loving Him fiercely and loving others with a passion. I need to remind myself daily that the beauty is kindness, gentleness, self-control, patients, love, peace, and joy. And live in His truth that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. His truth is that He has a specific plan for me designed just for me. His truth that I am strong and beautiful because I am His child. I no longer eat to be thin or have a great body. I eat to be strong and I put good food into my body in the right proportion because I care about myself and what God created. I don’t lift weights & exercise to compare myself or be better then anyone I exercise and attain to be strong because I desire to maintain this temple that God entrusted me to care for. I take care of myself because I desire to have the energy and health to live out the purpose and plan God has for my life.

      So my friends my declaration to you today is “Declare the Beauty of the Lord.” Clothe your self in the things that matter. Run the race that is marked out for you and stand firm against anything that tries to get in the way of that. Take care of your body, feed it good food, and exercise because you are important and because your goal is to glorify Him. 

Deena and Paul

Monday, August 26, 2013

Let's Talk- About How to Make Bagels!

The bagel blog has arrived!  I have heard your cries for bagels and answered your pleas, lol.  I recorded a very detailed, step-by-step video showing exactly how to make really awesome bagels.  I thought I would be more skilled at editing a video, but it turns out I have no skills whatsoever and therefore you have the full, 28 minutes version of me rambling and cooking at the same time!  So I apologize for the length, but just kind of skip around to get the main points, and if I ever vlog again I will get assistance in the editing department!  (My friend Matt actually was going to help me edit, but I was not even capable of e-mailing the video to him!  Yea, I am a little technologically challenged.  I call my own mother for advice on how to use my iPhone.)

Also, stay tuned because I will be featuring a guest blogger in the very near future!  A friend of mine from college has agreed to write a post on a very deep, very poignant topic.  It is an issue that is very close to most of us, and she has not only battled through it personally, but is a living example to others on finding God and truth through it.  Yes, I am deliberately being vague because I want you to go into it with a clear mind and an open heart.  So keep your eyes open for this post.

Ok, bagel time!  Hope you enjoy and I will see you Friday!

Friday, August 23, 2013

This One's On Me

I went to to check my e-mail a few days ago, and I came across an interesting looking article about a "controversial" tweet from Dr. Phil.  I was curious, so I clicked on it...and it really got me annoyed.

So Dr. Phil has about a million twitter followers, and hosts a daytime show and is all around known generally for his advice and discussions on real life, often deep topics.  He posted a question on twitter asking his followers to give their opinion on whether or not it is ok to have sex with a girl if she is drunk.  There is apparently a news story or a trial going on with teenagers about this topic (I can't comment on it at all since I really do not know the specifics).  Any way, the tweet was deleted hours later amidst a firestorm of criticism.  A petition was launched asking Dr. Phil to apologize and to produce a show that shines light on survivors of rape and sexual assault and begin a national conversation about the specifics of consent...

So somebody- a famous, serious, talk show host- attempts to get dialogue started on a very important topic and instead, people get offended and demand apologies and blah blah blah.  We live in a day and age where everybody wants an apology for everything.  Where the simplest words or phrases are no longer able to be uttered for fear that they will be dissected and taken to the moon and back.

There are so many things wrong with this that I could write for days and still not even hit on the absurdity of what this culture is becoming.  But I don't really want to do that.  I really just want to point this out and use it as an example of what I don't think we should be doing.  Listen guys, not everything needs to be take so seriously.  Not every comment is out to hurt you, or tear you down, or get up on a pedestal for some activists' purposes.  Sometimes a joke is just a joke, a comment just a mindless comment, and a topic just food for thought.

I think about this when it comes to my own illness.  Yes, I am very intense when I write some of my blogs, and that is because I am writing on my own volition, not in response to something from society.  In reality, I laugh.  I laugh like, all the time.  I am the one laughing like a hyena hours after the joke that wasn't even really funny was told.  I do not take myself or this life so seriously that I cannot enjoy the things that were meant to be funny.

When a cashier makes the comment "you're young and healthy, I'm sure you can carry all that yourself!", I don't immediately take to twitter and talk about how you shouldn't judge people based on their outward appearance because you never know what they are going through.  No, I either laugh or I casually say "I know I really should be able to, but I have this medical condition and it makes me weaker than that grandma over there."  Why?  Because the cashier REALLY didn't mean anything by it.  Because I choose not to look deeper then it was intended to be just to make a statement. Because life is meant to be lived, not harped on.

You all know my friend Chris by now.  One of my favorite things about him is the way he cracks jokes about his being in a wheelchair.  Go on his facebook page and you will die laughing at the way he and his friends joke about each other.  Just the other day I texted him a pic of my new (and incredibly large and dorky) pill case I had to get for my new medication.  And you now what?  He laughed and said he needs to get himself one cause his is too small!  Jeff's new nickname for me is "twitchy" because when my pills wear off the pain makes me shake and move very disjointedly...and it looks really funny.  I am not going to go off on him about the insensitivity he is showing and how people with nerve damage should be treated with respect...what I actually do is playfully punch him on the arm while laughing hysterically and making even more exaggerated twitching movements.

Sure, we have our moments where it's not so funny, and there are the times when I just say "this sucks, I don't want to be sick right now."  And yes- as I told you last week- there are times where I am self-conscience and insecure about what I look like or what I am unable to do...but all in all, I feel the most important thing to surviving hardships is to pick yourself up and laugh a little.  Or a lot.  And let others laugh as well because in all honesty most people do not say things to be vicious.  It's usually just a poor choice of words, a slip of the tongue, or just you being way to sensitive and finding what wasn't intended to be there.

My first instinct right now is to apologize if I am being to harsh or if you are a little upset by what I am saying, but somehow that feels a little counterproductive to this post don't you think?  But I'll tell you what- I am going to go ahead and share a few pictures of myself or of things I have laughed at with my friends and I am going to let you jump in, chill out, and have a little laugh on me, ok?

I told Chris this would be him in 20 years.

Cause sometimes you find yourself at the hospital at 4am, so why not take a selfie and show the world how stinkin hot them hospital gowns are.
Hmmm, what to have for lunch...

Picture of me and Chris (no, he did not get offended and yes he laughed)

New pill case.  Super exciting.

Me wishing Chris were in the car with me so I could park closer...

Taken by my son in the middle of the day when I literally was not even awake yet.   Imagine looking like you do first thing in the morning all the time?  That's my life!  Really- it's ok to laugh.

I'm sure I could have found much more amusing pictures online, but I wanted to literally take things out of my own life and my own interaction with my friends to show you that it's ok to make a joke in the midst of difficult times.  I laugh at myself quite a bit.  So go ahead and find some humor in your life, and if you just can't right now that's ok...but at least don't add bitterness or hurt by finding a negative in everything around you.

Love you go enjoy your day, and I will see you on Tuesday where we will be making bagels together!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Let's Talk- Life Skills and Lifting

I am grateful for Tuesdays for a couple of reasons- first, because it is a lot of fun to answer questions you guys throw at me, and second, Friday's tend to be a bit emotional for me so it's a nice way to kind of recover and keep it light.  Friday was tough...not so much because I didn't want to write it, but because writing it makes it feel so real.  So final.  But you guys came out in droves supporting me and I am so grateful to you all of you for walking with me through a rough time.

Today is going to be a miss-mash of topics, because I have a few questions that I have been meaning to answer the past few weeks and they are all just kind of getting thrown together!

1) How did you start/implement your kids' life skills?
Someone asked me about this recently, and I realized that while I have talked about life skills before, I am not sure I have actually talked about the "how tos"- how we started and how I implement them.  In case you don't know, "life skills" is the term I use in my house instead of saying "chores".  Here is a picture of what the chart looks like now:

There are chores listed on the side, and then each kid (that is old enough to do chores) has a color paper, and wherever their paper is, those are the chores they have for the day.  Every Monday I switch the chores around.  They do them before lunch and after dinner, but some of the chores are "all day" ones, meaning whenever it needs to get done they do it, such as empty the dishwasher.  It did not start out this way...when they were all younger and nobody could read, they each got their own little chart with pictures.  The morning list would be things such as "Take off jammies, get dressed, brush teeth, make bed, see Mommy" and the evening list would say "Take off clothes, put on jammies, brush teeth, clean toy bin, see Mommy."  Each item would have a pictures next to it so they could clearly see what they were supposed to be doing.  The point of this was to get them in the habit of having things to do and following guidelines.  The chart evolved as my kids got older and were actually able to do more things and read.  So here's the thing: as is the case when teaching your children new things, it takes a LOT of ground work before they just do it themselves.  When you first start, expect to take SEVERAL WEEKS of you doing every single chore WITH THEM.  Yes, that means you will announce to your kids that it is "life skill time" then you will point to the chart, explain what it means, and do it with them and explaining it until they are all done.  After a few weeks, you will be able to still follow them but give them a chance to do it themselves.  When they do come to the place where they do it on their own, it is very important to CHECK THEIR WORK after- if they do a lackluster job or if they skip things and you do not make them correct it, then you will have trouble later on with bigger stuff.  Yes it's a lot of work, but this is a crucial part of training kids to become functioning, responsible adults- at least thats what I hope, lol.

2) Can you please tell me how to do weight training??  
Arg.  I have my sister to thank for this!  A couple days ago my sister posted a picture on facebook that I texted her, and while embarrassing for me, actually sprung up some of you asking me questions and showing an interest in weight lifting.  It is no secret that I despise cardio...I have lost a lot of weight after each of my pregnancies and with the exception of the year I completed P90X, I have never done it using cardio...and many times I have done it with diet alone.  I weighed 200 pounds at the end of 4 out of 6 of my pregnancies, and I currently weigh just under 130 I am not kidding you when I tell you that diet is enough to lose weight, and that weightlifting really helps burn fat and lose inches.  The first thing I hear from ladies is that they don't want to "get bulky".  Since the pic has already been posted, I will go ahead and just show you:

Does that look bulky to you?  Jeff actually calls me scrawny, lol.  Women's bodies are much different than a man's.  I can tell you that inches are lost rapidly when you lift...and I personally go for low reps with high weight, and these are the beginning of my results.  My goals are strength and me, if you lift you will NOT look like this:

Bulky muscles like that take extreme calorie consumption along with hours of very deliberate weight will not accidentally get bulky, lol.  I personally feel alive when I lift weights.  Whether it is life experiences, my illness, or just who I am, I love feeling strong and powerful and healthy.  I hate cardio and I simply do not have a lot of time or energy to spend exercising.  But weight lifting can take a very little amount of time, use very little cardio-type energy, and can mostly be done sitting down, lol.    Muscle is a active tissue and literally just by existing it burns fat.  So the more muscle you build, the more fat you are burning in a resting state.  

3) Ok, so what exactly do I do?
Ok, you will need a set of dumbbells.  I never buy the set weight kind...I have a set where you can add different weights to the bar, because I never stay on the same weight for very long.  So here is the breakdown for lifting as far as getting the results you want:

High rep + low weight = toning
Low rep + high weight = muscle building

So, if you just want a little toning and to feel good, you will want to do maybe 3 sets of 12-15 reps.  If you want to lose inches and get a little more defined, you will want to do 2 sets of 6-8 reps and then increase your weight once you can do that several times.  I do the latter.  All my teenage years I did the former and never got any visible results.  I was very strong, but not well defined.  Just a few weeks of lifting for muscle building and I can see a difference.  You don't want to life every day, you have to give you muscles a chance to recover- it is actually in the recovery stage that they rebuild.  So maybe 3-5 times a week, or whatever works for you.  This is NOT precise "medical advice" is real me, with real experience, telling you what I really do.  

You can google actual exercises to do, but just keep in mind it is not about "how many you can do or how much weight you can lift" as much as it is about PROPER FORM.  Without proper form you are working all the wrong muscles and can injure yourself. Just keep that in mind ;)

You have to find what you love.  Find what makes you feel alive!  In my constant state of being unwell, I treasure the times when I am able to something that makes me feel like me.  I do not do things because I "should" or because I feel like I need to look a certain way.  I can grab an easy handful of my stomach, and I have back fat.  Oh well.  That doesn't have anything to do with me pursuing and doing things that breathe life into my body.  So find what you love and go for it.  I am not able to lift all the time.  I have to time it right with my medication, and make sure I am having a good week but I take advantage of when I am able to....because when you are doing something you TRULY love, everything else in your life just kind of fades into the background and that is a nice reprieve. :)

I say this every time I talk about weight or exercising, but I will say it again: you are beautiful.  You do not need to lose weight to be pretty.  I am sure men struggle to some degree, but us women ave taken a brutal blow to our self esteem simply by existing in this culture.  It is tough and will knock you down before you even realize it.  So please be deliberate in your self-talk.  Resist the urge to look at yourself and criticize everything you see.  I do it...and I hate it.  Sometimes I know in my head how ridiculous it is but yet I still can't seem to shut the voice out.  But fill your life with meaningful things and do things because you truly like them, and let's kick the crap out of self-hating, shall we?

Next week I am going to attempt something very exciting, and also a first for me.  I am- providing I can figure out how to execute it- planning on doing a video tutorial on how to make bagels! know, about a billion of you have asked me how to make them, and while easy, it is hard to verbally explain.  So I am going to do one of those cool "how to" videos where I stand in my kitchen and try not to ramble on too much while I show you step by step how to make bagels.  So stay tuned and by this time next week you will be able to have your very own carb festival!  

Have a great week, and I will see you Friday.  :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sing O Barren One

I wanted to talk to you about what a wonderful time I had with my family this week, but I just can't put this post off any longer.  I have been waiting to write this...waiting for Jeff to be ready, waiting for my own emotions to surface- and maybe even thinking that by not talking about it that somehow it would change.  But it hasn't.

I am unable to have any more children.

I have known for several months now, but only have told a few people I am really close to.  I will never lie when writing, and sometimes that means I have to put off talking about something until I am really ready to go there.  This has been one of those things.

Honestly I have not even begun to deal with this yet.  Sometimes I am emotionally numb and other times it hits me out of nowhere.  I will never be pregnant again.  I will never create life.  I will never again go through the life changing process of laboring and birthing a baby.  Every stage I go through with David will be the last time I ever go through it again.  I was not prepared for this...I did not have any clue that he would be my last, and I feel like I never got the chance to have closure- to go through each experience with the knowledge that it was the last.  It has just been very hard to accept this.

When the discussions started coming up about my ability to survive another pregnancy, I simply had to check out.  Intellectually I knew that the doctors and my husband were correct- I am aware of just how physically unstable I am.  But emotionally and even spiritually, I was unable to reconcile this decision.  What about my belief in letting God control the size of your family?  Do I still believe that?  Yes.  No.  Yes...I don't know.  I just don't know.  I have been so humbled this past year- I am beyond thinking I know anything outside the sovereignty of God.  I have learned simply that I do not have all the answers- that maybe God knows and doesn't always reveal all, and that He is the One who leads and guides each one of us uniquely.  I gave this decision into the hands of my husband...and he, as the head of our household, decided that our family is complete.  I fully support him, and I am fully broken.

I realize that there are some of you reading this who cannot conceive children of your own.  This must look so selfish to you, and I am truly sorry if you find yourself in this position.  What can I say?  Of course I am grateful for the six beautiful children I have been given and I know just how blessed I am to have them.  But having many children does not take away the aching desire to have one.  I gave up everything to follow Jesus, and willingly poured myself into childbearing because that is where He led me.  Maybe I focused too much on having kids that I took my eyes off of the Creator of those lives.  I don't know.  I just know I am hurting.

I have lost so much this past year.  I feel like I have nothing left...nothing left to give and nothing left to be taken.  It hurts to have this ache so deep inside- it hurts more then the physical pain that consumes me every moment.  I think it hurts so much because it's the process of dying to myself...all this stuff that used to matter is just nothing to me now.  But despite the pain and the inner aching there is this very deep and very real rawness that I have decided to pursue with singleminded determination.  The day I gave my life to Jesus I knew I wanted nothing of this world- nothing.  But that doesn't stop the world from pulling and diluting, and while I lived a very devoted life, I still have my own junk inside.

There is a lot that is born of suffering if you choose to see it.  There are times when I am physically unable to move my arms and legs properly.  There are times when I am laying on the floor and cannot stop myself from vomiting what little food I was able to eat.  Most days I can't even focus because of the pain that is wracking my body.  But when I read what I just wrote I feel like I am reading about somebody else, because while those things are true, it is not as it seems.  My story is not one of is a story of the unfailing faithfulness of Jesus.  That through the darkest of times He has never left my side.  I have been given the chance to put His goodness to the test...and I am able to know without a shadow of a doubt that He is good.  He is everything He said He is, and so, so much more.

I started typing without any real idea of what would come out.  I knew it was time to tell you why I have not gotten pregnant yet.  And I know that as time goes by I am going to be dealing with this emotionally and I need to be free to let it out sometimes.  So now you know.

Please don't feel like you need to say anything...I know how much love and support I have in my life, and I don't want you to feel like you need to say anything.  Pray for me.  Let me grieve.  Let me not know what to say sometimes.  And know that I love you and am so grateful for your constant support.  We are going to make it, friends.  I know it gets hard, and I know what it feels like to lose yourself in it all...but I also know the steady strength of Jesus.  He doesn't ever let go through what you have to, but don't walk away.  

Keep going...because I promise you that is my plan.

Minutes after my all natural, drug free birth.  This was the most amazing experience of my entire life.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Let's Talk- Da Bomb

As you know, I am currently on Long Island for a family reunion, so that means you're getting photo bombed!!  My family is very Italian and very New York...we are loud, eat more than you can imagine, talk all at once with our hands, eat some more, play games, laugh, hug, eat even more...I love them so much and wouldn't trade them for the world!  Hope you enjoy and I will see you Friday!
Me and Joey!
Me with a white flower in my hair that you can't see because of the white background, lol

What it looks like when 2 adults and 6 kids take a 5 day trip!
Big Red can handle it

Sissy and me
Family!  Missy, Kayla, Me, Desiree', and Tricia

The 2am DeLeo raiding of the fridge
Kayla and me...I love her!!

Cousins!  Kayla, Stef (my sissy), Me, and Jessica

My kids with their cousin Nicholas!
My grandma likes to make us play games and give away prizes, and there was one prize left so instead of just acting like adults about it, we were forced to play a grown up game of Simon Says, lol

Aunt Denise, Uncle Ronato, Me

Me and Jeff doing a selfie at the hotel...I am notoriously bad at selfies, hence the camera on Jeffy's head

Not a selfie, lol

Can't keep myself off of my cousin her so much and miss her all the time!!

Those games I talked about earlier- this was me winning one, lol

My dad and mom!!!!
Me holding a signed copy of Donatella Arpaia's cookbook!

Snuggling up to watch Despicable Me
Stayed at a hotel for a couple of nights....half the kids stayed with my parents, half came with us lol

My grandparents surrounded by all the people who were brave enough to marry into this family

Baby David and my sleeping dad

Nanny and Poppy with the blood DeLeos!

My cousin's husband Travis and me

Nanny getting the games rolling, lol
Me and Ryza!!

Ryza sitting on the floor, dirty, and picking her nose- and looking exactly like I did as a kid!

Kid cousins!!
Uncle Richie, me, Aunt them so much!!


Travis, Kayla, Me

Jeffy holding J-dog

Me and my wonderful Uncle Donald!!  

My beautiful baby David!
DeLeos eating

Anthony and me being awesome

Me and my sissy!

This is me facilitating a game of mafia.  If you don't know what that is, you have my pity :)