Forever Connected

I’ve had a tough time observing Father’s Day since my dad died 5 1/2 years ago. Grief subsides and the hurt fades, replaced with sweet memories. But every year it returns, fresher than ever. Today I thought I’d allow myself time to remember, process…take a moment to share what’s been happening.

I was unmistakably Daddy’s little girl. I followed him around like a shadow. He took me everywhere he went. And at the end of his workday, I’d meet him at his city bus stop where we’d walk home hand in hand. As years passed, he led me down the aisle and placed my hand in Eric’s. But he wasn’t ever far when I needed him.

If you never had the opportunity to meet Lotus Conrad, you should know he always had an arsenal of jokes at the ready, a trickster and gifted storyteller who loved to make others laugh. Sure, he experienced his share of obstacles and heartache in life, but he relied on his witty sense of humor to smooth out the rough edges. He employed this talent right up until his last night. And because we were two peas in a pod, where else would I be?

Friends, I never thought I’d be someone to experience what I’m about to share; and not for a second did I think I’d ever feel comfortable sharing it with others, because some folks may label me any number of things…but it doesn’t matter. See, it didn’t take long after his death for me to realize, he was far from gone.

In life, I followed him, but now he follows me. He’s the blue jay or cardinal that flies alongside me on a bike ride, the limitless contrails when I look up for guidance. We have this strong flight/plane connection as he was in the Air Force…see his pj’s in the photo above? I made those for him.

He’s the cookies that introduced themselves when my mom was having a rough flight to Hawaii, and now pop up on every flight I take.

He follows me in ways I can not explain, like my second trip to Hawaii. Multiple miracles occurred for me to be there to run my first marathon. I don’t even know how I got there, but am assured it was him pushing me across the finish line. As I walked in the door to our condo on Waikiki, it all made sense.

Together, we used to watch Lefty Gardner YouTube videos of P-38s. Now I catch the clock saying 7:27, 7:37, 7:47, etc…all planes. If you don’t believe me, ask my husband…I see those times everywhere, those numbers on license plates, road signs, the sides of semis, my breakfast total at the airport!

Speaking of airports, as my friends awaited their departure from a vacation we shared, they sent me a birthday greeting text with a photo. Little did they know, he was sending his wishes too…see the bald guy in the gray sweats and loose wristwatch, yeah, that’s him…don’t know how, but he photobombed!

Lately I’ve been in the sky A LOT and many of those trips have had his hame written all over them again and again.

How extraordinary to glance out the window to see our plane’s shadow encircled in what I choose to believe is my orb of protection!

I feel that protection everywhere I go. It has even saved my life in a nasty car accident. Always looking out for me, he’s the sticker on a trailhead post I spotted after hiking in Zion; I know he was there, keeping me from plummeting to my death on those narrow ledges!

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Friends, I’m not just imagining these little signs and messages…my imagination is simply not that creative!

I receive these spontaneous little gifts constantly and they leave me stunned, intrigued, sometimes breathless, but always loved. I’m thankful for each one and hope they never stop…we’re connected forever!

Grief is rough, especially today. Those of you missing your dads, I’m so sorry for you enormous loss. Hopefully you’ve experienced some similar events; if you haven’t, keep your eyes and ears open…they are right there by your side!

Happy Father’s Day!

 

 

 

 

 

We Still Do!

Twenty-three years ago today we said, “I do.” And we still do…

It’s official, I’ve now been married to this man longer than not. He has done far more than he vowed to me all those years ago…beyond the richer or poorer, the sickness and health…he’s literally seen me through thick and thin, weak and strong, grief and joy, broken and whole. He’s loved me completely through the rough spots and cheered on my finest moments, unconditionally. This guy, he makes my dreams come true!

I loved him then, love him still…always have always will.

 

Do You Know What Day it Is?

Guess what day it is, Friends?!? It’s National Get Outdoors Day!

It’s a soulful walk for me because nothing makes me feel more alive than breathing in that fresh air and embracing the warmth of the sun. With so many ways to enjoy the outdoors, what are you waiting for?

Friends, what’s your favorite way to play outside?

The Close of a Very Good Chapter

While raising two teenage boys, I often wondered what it would be like to have some girl time. Several years ago I’d seen a booth at a community event promoting a local mentorship program and knew it was speaking directly to my heart. The idea simply refused to leave me alone, so a year ago I acted on it.

Meeting up for a couple hours a week, we’ve had an unforgettable year. Running and bicycling are major components of this program and I love both, but Kiara was less of a fan; so the goal we set was to sample as many experiences as we could squeeze into that year, like Zumba on the Plaza…

Some orienteering and hiking…

 

And more hiking…

  

We worked on some tennis skills…

 

Headed to the pool…

Did some impressive cardio and strength training…

  

We did manage to hop on a bike a few times on open trails and studio cycling class.

 

We even climbed the walls!

  

We took some cooking classes and tried new foods like parfaits and pancakes and hummus, oh my!

We just kept showing up for one another, laughing all the way!

 

Playing hard was our job and we rocked it!

 

We met some great people like former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer.

And hometown legend Darrell Thompson…we’ll forgive him for playing for the Green Bay Packers haha, because he’s the outstanding president of Bolder Options!

Motivational speaker, Inky Johnson inspired us to keep moving forward no matter what!

And that was valuable advice because throughout the disappointment and unpredictability associated with an injury and a halt to my beloved running, Kiara was the constant that kept me focused and determined. We just got creative and kept going…like to the library!

And her first yoga class, namaste!

One of my favorites was taking her on her first snowshoe trek. Yeah, she really blazed the trail!

  

This mentorship never felt like work because we played our way through the year!

  

What a treat to throw animals into the mix!

 

We did sneak in some volunteer “work” but that was fun too!

 

And went right back to play, although sometimes it was one heck of a workout. So proud of Kiara for squatting, lunging and drumming her way through BarreAmped and Pound Fusion. I don’t think we ever sweated more!

 

Where did time go? This week after countless adventures together, we graduated from Bolder Options stronger and more confident than ever. But I don’t think this is the end for us…it’s merely the close of a very good chapter.

Here We Go Again AKA It’s Still Nothing

Last week I wrote about a little test I was hoping to pass…if you missed it, you can catch up here.

Considering the experience I had last year, I wasn’t too excited about waiting a week for the results of that 2D mammogram. I did everything I could to remain positive, to breathe away the worry, to keep myself from emotionally eating my bodyweight in hummus and pita chips. Still, it came as no surprise I flunked that exam and had to return this week for another…here we go again.

Friends, I knew the drill and I was working my way through the order of events last year in my mind…mammogram, second mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy, lumpectomy. How ironic what they found was on the other side this year…would I have matching sharkbite scars when all was said and done? Eventually I caught myself in this useless thought process and gently moved it aside as I returned for that 3D mammogram. If you notice the look in this second photo, that’s me telling myself to shut up already! I knew the results of this test determined the next step.

And dang it, I flunked that test too. As I was immediately ushered down the hall to ultrasound, I reminded my shaky legs that this was nothing until it’s something…so it’s still nothing!

During that ultrasound, the technician seemed to zero in on an area that began to hurt. I could tell there was something there and the longer she investigated that spot, the more concerned I became. When the radiologist arrived to examine her findings, I dreaded his words and my anxiety made it difficult to comprehend them. They’d been looking at 3 cysts that were not suspect. He saw nothing suspicious and barring any new concerns, I was off the hook for a year!

Which, in my head, translated to no biopsy, no lumpectomy AND NO CANCER! Big sigh of relief. HUGE. I could have kissed that guy!

So thankful it’s still nothing.

This experience turned out to be educational because I picked up an important nugget from which we can all benefit. The 3D mammogram technology can reveal breast cancer up to 3 years earlier than the 2D exam and that’s great news in terms of early detection and survival rates. So those of you avoiding mammograms should know there is really nothing to fear here, but fear itself. I will keep that in mind next year when I opt for the 3D right away and convince my shaky legs to chill.

Yet again, I guess the moral of my story boils down to this…

Five Years of Climbing!

Fantastic feelings surrounded me when a fun little memory popped up in my Facebook feed this morning, a priceless reminder of what I embarked upon five years ago this week…

At a glance, I barely remember that lady. But when I pause to recall what it felt like to exist in that body, so many feelings flood back. I see that smile and know it was merely a facade. I was suffering within, physically, mentally, emotionally.

I think back to the continuous hard work and dedication necessary to be where I am today and don’t regret one single day of those five years it took to get healthy.

I liken my transformation to climbing a mountain. It was a giagantic undertaking, one which couldn’t be achieved quickly. Looking up, this task seemed unsurmountable from the trailhead. But, with clear goals, a keen sense of direction and a fire deep within, I put one foot in front of the other over and over again. I encountered many obstacles along the way, but did my best to navigate each of them with focus. I climbed.

Some moments I put forth more effort than others. Often times I gained a lot of ground, others I stumbled. Still others, I fell flat on my face. The true gift in this journey was grace. When the going got tough, I forgave. I picked myself up, brushed off the dirt and realigned my mind with my body and soul. I climbed on.

Sometimes I could see the top of that mountain clearly, others I couldn’t make it out at all. Thank goodness, I knew in my heart it was up there just waiting for me! So I continued climbing.

On the toughest of trials, I stopped to look down, to consider giving up, turning back. But I knew I’d never be happy if I quit…never forgive myself. So I kept climbing.

 My favorite part of the adventure was never being alone. So many wonderful people jumped in to join me for sections of the ascent, and that made ALL the difference.

Reaching the top was a precious gift of an extraordinary view. A fresh new awakening of immense affirmation. As I peered down to where it began, I remember those crushing feelings of heaviness within. Each step upward a bit lighter, a little easier until I reached that summit where I breathed deep, that fresh mountain air, and knew in my heart…I DID IT!

PSA…Don’t Delay!

If you’ve been following me, you know health is a major priority in my life. I’ve spent some time here the past few days…

Not for any reason other than preventive care. Yesterday I took care of my yearly girly-business check-up and this morning I returned in hopes of passing one more test!

Recently, I’ve come to revere the mammogram; this test is of utmost importance to me. Why? Because I put one off for an extra year, and when I got around to the next one, there were issues. I told myself it was nothing until it was something, to keep my nerves in check. Biopsy results came back benign. Nothing.

But when my medical team called back to schedule surgery for removal of the tumor in question, it no longer felt like nothing.  In fact, as a bit of a flight response from the whole situation, I literally ran away. Twice!

 

Avoidance didn’t accomplish anything but prolonged worry. Sometimes you just learn the hard way I guess. It was time to take care of business.

So I did, but you should know I beat myself up over missing that annual mammogram. However, I’m also damn thankful I went in when I did because that precancerous tumor, left undiscovered, could have told a much different story.

Lesson learned.

So, Friends, I am here to tell you…don’t delay! Just as in my case, it could be the difference between nothing and SOMETHING!

Here’s what the American Cancer Society recommends as screening guidelines:

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
  • All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. They also should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away.

Those of you who’ve been scared off by what others have said of the discomfort associated with mammograms should know, this is not your mom’s mammogram. Technology has improved to allow the test to be performed under less pressure. Amen to that!

If you’ve had mammograms in the past but have let them lapse, it’s time to make that appointment! Prevention is great medicine and a wonderful way to put our Best Foot Forward!

Time-Saving Smoothie Hack

Hey Friends, I just got out of the kitchen. I had the ingredients out for my lunch smoothie and figured since I had a little extra time, I’d invest it to save for later!

By pre-measuring and pre-packaging some ingredients, I’ve saved myself the time of taking these out and measuring the next 12 times I prepare a smoothie. I’ve been enjoying this hack for the past two years. If you’d like my little smoothie booster recipe, click here.

Streamlining a task creates efficiency, affording me more time to do the things I love! Friends, that’s just one more way we can all put our Best Foot Forward!

Have You Met TED?

I was getting a few things done around the house yesterday, not really feeling in the zone, when all of a sudden, sheer awesomeness came straight at me! This is not at all out of the ordinary as, thankfully, it happens quite often. I LOVE that!

I got my hands on tickets to last night’s TEDxZumbroRiver in my hometown of Rochester, MN. I knew my attitude was about to make a u-turn. I know this because I know TED!

Have you met TED? Trust me, you would know if you did! TED is not a guy, it’s an amazing idea…rather an enormous collection of ideas worth spreading. TED started back in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design were united. TED is a contagious nonprofit spreading thoughts and ideas all over the world.

I became acquainted with TED talks on a Delta flight, where I found I couldn’t get enough! I watched each talk available on the plane’s entertainment system. These short, yet powerful talks inspired me to think and dream right there on that plane! Hungry for more at the end of the flight, I got on TED’s website and was simply blown away by its abundance…over 2400 talks in more than 100 languages, just waiting to inspire its captivated viewers. I was hooked!

I’ve often thought about how cool it would be to attend a live TED event; and just like that, I found myself at TEDxZumbroRiver!

TEDx events are independently organized community experiences offered all over the world. Last evening’s TEDx program consisted of some fascinating speakers from Southeastern Minnesota and beyond, each sharing insightful messages aimed toward the theme of what’s possible.

Mind blown.

Friends, next time you’re not really feeling in the zone, take the opportunity to explore TED talks. You may lose all track of time, but the inspiration available will be worth every minute you spend there. Fellow FIT BFFs, check out a plethora of health and wellness topics sure to motivate.

Simply stated, you’ll be glad you met TED!

I’m So Excited, and I Just Can’t Hide It!

Friends, I know I’ve been MIA lately. I want to assure you, I’m not slacking! You can always check up on me on Facebook at FIT BFFs.

I’ve been keeping very busy stepping out of my comfort zone yet again. I’ve had a few recent getaways too…embracing adventure, marking things off my bucket list…living the dream, really. But also, I’ve been facing some real life stuff head-on. Through all of it, I’ve continued to take great care of myself and have put my Best Foot Forward each day, every step of the way.

I couldn’t go any longer without letting you in on a little secret I’ve been keeping for several months. A big, huge one really. I just didn’t want to say anything until I knew it was all a go. I’ve been selected to attend an upcoming event I can barely wrap my head around…

Yes, I’m heading back to Vegas, Baby! I just can’t seem to get enough of that place. But what the heck is Idea World Fitness Blogfest? It is the coming together of health and fitness bloggers from around the country for four action-packed days of AWESOME! Not only will we attend some in-depth blogging education sessions, we will show up in a sea of spandex for some exciting celebrity workouts, get our hands on the latest and greatest new products and information in the industry, and if that’s not all…exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the health and fitness industry’s largest conference in the WORLD!

I don’t know how I’m going to wait two months!!! I guess holding my breath won’t help haha! I have a lot going on between now and then. This is a crazy-busy time for so many of us! I plan to keep my head above water, Friends; I will continue to eat well, move forward the best I can and keep my attitude on the sunny side!