Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Biggest Loser 15 - Fiery Fall Finale

This is a first for The Biggest Loser.

This season, which began in September, will not end with the usual December finale, which gave past contestants some room to relax over Christmas.  Their seasons were done, so New Year's truly began the next chapter of their lives.

The Season 15 contestants won't have that breathing room.  Tonight was the fall finale, with the next part of the season to start again in January.  So if they want to keep their eyes on the prize, they need to keep the Christmas cookies and eggnog out of sight.  Their season begins in one year but continues into then next.

On tonight's episode, we get an update on Bobby, who was eliminated last week.  He's lost over 90 pounds so far, and had the courage to speak with his father about coming out.  He was pleasantly surprised to find out that his dad supports him all the way no matter what and is proud of him.  But being Biggest Loser, this may not be the last we've seen of Bobby...

Alison informs the players that the game is now moving to singles, and they each receive shirts with their new individual colors.  They then participate in the "Ring of Fire" challenge - each of them must support a rod that weighs 20 percent of their body weight in the middle of a ring to determine their endurance.  If they waiver and the rod touches the ring, it bursts into flames and they're out of the challenge.  The last one standing gets a 1 pound advantage at the weigh-in.  After over an hour and a half, Rachel wins the challenge along with the coveted advantage.  There is a double elimination this week, so this pound might make all of the difference between staying and leaving.

Ali also mentions a special challenge for those who make it to the last week on the ranch...they will participate in the first Biggest Loser triathlon, where the winner will earn an automatic spot into the finals.  Rachel really wants to make it to the tri - especially because she wants to show what made her a champion swimmer in the past and reclaim athletic glory.

The trainers are enjoying this switch to singles, because they now get to work with all of the players instead of just their own teams.  Dolvett is proud of Matt for how far he's come in the past 10 weeks, and Jillian has another talk with David, who gives himself permission to let go of the past and become who he's always known he's supposed to be. 

Bob works with Jennifer, who has trouble getting over her fear of the box jump.  (I have to admit...that would be an intimidating move for me as well!)  Afterward when she's recovering from the workout, she is angry with herself for failing and bursts into tears, worried that she will revert back to old habits and negative self-talk.  Bob tells her not to beat herself up, and to congratulate herself for confronting the fear and moving past the negative to the positive.  Jen feels somewhat better and throws herself into the remaining workouts.

Jay and David decide to exact a little "revenge" on Rachel for beating them in the challenge, and she suggests a pool race.  They give themselves a head start to win, knowing that she's an excellent swimmer and they probably wouldn't be able to best her in the pool.  Rachel is a good sport though, and she delivers them breakfast in bed...from Subway, of course!

When it's time for the moment of truth on the scale, both Hap and Matt fall below the red line and are eliminated.  Alison, however, tells them they may not be leaving just yet.  The two of them, along with all of the other eliminated contestants, will compete to win back a spot on the ranch and back into the game.  With that announcement, all of those already eliminated march back into the gym, ready for another chance.

What will happen in this new twist?  Tune in on January 7th to find out.  I already can't wait to see who makes it back onto the ranch!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Biggest Loser 15 - A Long Trip Home and a "Double Elimination"

After Holley was eliminated at the end of last week's emotional episode, Alison told everyone that someone else would be going home.  They thought it might be a double elimination.
It turned out that they were wrong...but in strange way, there was still a double elimination - so to speak.
Ali was right about someone else going home, but only for a week with their trainer.  After a spin of the wheel with each player's picture on it, it landed on Jay.  Jillian would be going home to Missouri with him, and his weight would be the only one that counted this week for the white team.  The other teams would still count everyone's weight.  Jay was thrilled...Jillian, not so much.  She worried about leaving Marie and Tumi without a trainer, and of course all of the pressure on Jay to pull a big number to keep them all safe.  She needn't have worried TOO much.
On the ranch, Dolvett put his team through an NFL training camp style workout to motivate them.  On top of that, he had Ruben's old high school football jersey sent over to for extra inspiration.  They were both thrilled that it fit again now, and Ruben worked hard to remember the athlete he used to be years ago.
Speaking of former athletes - Rachel was a state champion swimmer in high school, and had received scholarship offers from many different colleges.  She chose her boyfriend over that opportunity, and regretted it ever since, especially when they broke up and she was left all alone to think about what she had given up for him.  That was when she turned to food for comfort.  Dolvett got her back into the pool to swim laps and timed her.  Her first results was decent, but nowhere near her times in the past.  The competitor in her came out, and she kept going until she improved her time over and over again.  Dolvett was happy to see her get some of her old fighting spirit back.  (Hmm...I wonder what ever happened to that old boyfriend?  I'm glad Rachel is choosing what's best for HERSELF now!)
Bob trained both the blue team and the white team, saying that Jillian would have done the same for his team if he'd had to go home with one of his players for a week.  Tumi and Marie were worried about keeping up with Bob at first, but realized they were stronger than they thought.  I love that Bob had Jill's back this week!
Meanwhile, Jillian met Jay's family and friends, then took to torturing him in the barn using various farm equipment and his body weight to get good workouts.  He showed her around the family farm, then explained how not long after his parents got divorced, the family home burned to the ground.  He's been trying to move forward without ever taking time to grieve, but Jill got him to admit that it felt like he had died along with his parents' marriage and home.  They really bonded, and Jill was finally glad that she made the trip with him, acknowledging that everything happens for a reason.
The two of them got back in time for the weigh-in, where it was revealed that Jay lost 12 pounds and definitely kept his team safe.  The other two teams had weird numbers, but in the end the red team had to send someone home.  Ruben fell below the red line and was eliminated, making it a double elimination for him.  He was sent home for the second (and I believe final) time, and next week we'll learn how he's been doing at home.  (As for Holley, things are going well and she's starting to compete at weightlifting again...lifting even more than she did before!)
Next week also promises to be interesting on the scale, and with a possible Jillian meltdown.  I wonder why?  I guess we'll find out in a few days!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Biggest Loser 15 - Ruben Comes Back, Bob's Team Is Blue

What a difference a week - or six - makes.

This week the contestants revisit their old selves, along with having Ruben revisit the ranch due to Jillian's "cheating".  When Jill meets with her team after the weigh-in, she sincerely apologizes to them for putting them in this position, saying that what she thought was helping them backfired.  They all agreed that they have her back and want to move forward.

Ruben is impressed with how great everyone looks now, as they are with him since he kept up the hard work while he was at home.  I'm glad to have him back but feel bad for Craig who went home.  (although in the update we see Craig's lost 110+ pounds, so he's doing well!)

In this week's challenge, the teams have to transport balls to a trampoline, then bounce them to a teammate who bounces them to a target with point values on it.  The first team to get to 30 points wins, and each team member receives $1000.  David really steps up for the red team, helping them gain the victory and the cash.

In the gym, Dolvett wants to keep the momentum from the challenge going and works his team out hard.  Rachel expresses how happy she is that they are all like family now; she works from home and feels isolated, so having the connections and contact with other people is good for her.  (Being someone who does most of my work from home, I can vouch for that...it really is good to get out and get connected!)  Jillian gets the white team to step up, while Bob's blue team is a little nervous after losing their first challenge.

Each team is surprised with a DVD to watch, which shows each member as they were at their initial interviews six weeks ago.   All of them are shocked at their beginnings, but really proud of the way they've changed over the course of time.  David's clip is especially moving, and it's wonderful to see all three teams bonding together without any thought of competition at this point.  This is as is should be:  all of them supporting each other no matter what color shirt they wear!

Last season's winner, Danni, stops by for a visit with - what else - sandwiches from Subway.  (What a shocker...right?)  She gives them advice as they move toward the finale, which isn't really all that far way now.  And of course she tells them all about Subway's Fresh Fit menu!

Ruben and Dolvett head over to Ruben's record producer David Foster's house to hang out in the recording studio.  (David Foster?  Yes...I'm just a bit jealous!)  David is proud of how far Ruben has come on his weight loss journey, and gives Ruben a new song to try out that fits what he is going through.  I have a feeling we may hear this song in its entirety at the finale - just a hunch!  And they even get Dolvett to sing...he actually sounds pretty good!

At the weigh-in, the blue team loses for the first time and Matt falls below the red line.  After a few minutes pondering, Bob decides to use the save on Matt, so nobody is going home.  This, however, means that there are no saves left. 

Next week the contestants celebrate Thanksgiving Biggest Loser style, and not only is one person definitely going home, but we learn there will be a double elimination.  Who will it be?  Looks like we'll find out next week!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Biggest Loser 15 - Jillian Breaks The Rules, White Team Pays The Price

In the past, we've had contestants break the rules and suffer the consequences of their actions.  But this time, it's a trainer's mistake - and it costs her team dearly while giving another player a second chance.
More on that after we recap the rest of the week.  The red team is coming to grips with losing Ruben, who they describe as the light that inspired them.  They know it's time to regroup and get focused, and Dolvett knows it too.  That's why he takes them to meet the ladies of Beat Cancer Bootcamp.  These women have all been through cancer or supported someone who has, and they work out HARD to stay healthy and strong, both physically and mentally.  David is especially moved, since he lost his first wife to cancer and made her a promise to take care of their girls.  The workout became a source of healing for him (for me as well, since I've lost my mom and several family members to cancer).  the bootcamp ladies show all of us what it means to never give up - and are the inspiration Dolvett's team needs to move forward.
Ali leads the players to this week's challenge, which is to cook a healthy meal that not only pleases White House Chef Sam Cass, but all three of our teen ambassadors from last season.  Sunny, Lindsay, and Biingo are judges along with Sam...and Biingo still hates vegetables so the teams have their work cut out for them.  The blue team wins by making a delicious quesadilla that disguises the veggies enough that Biingo goes back for more!  The prize is a year's worth of groceries for each team member, which really pleases Hap...he can't wait to share all of the fresh produce with his family.
While the teens are there, red team member Jennifer has a talk with Biingo and his mom about how they became a healthier family.  Jenn really wants to help her daughter lose weight and get the whole family on a better path, and she got some wonderful advice to take home with her when it's time for her to leave the ranch.
This week's workouts got very interesting.  Dolvett informed his team that Tanya was sick in bed and they would have to work out without her.  Later in the day, she was able to get up and still get some exercise in - the bootcamp ladies had made her realize that she needed to get back up and get going again.  Bob worked his blue team hard, hoping to still save their "save" and keep their progress.  Jillian worked the white team out in the pool, and discovered that Craig didn't know how to swim.  She got him to overcome his fear of the water and start swimming...shades of Maria from Season 9! 
Before the weigh-in began, Alison made a surprising announcement.  Jillian broke the rules the week before by giving her team caffeine supplements without a doctor's permission.  Because of this, the white team would be penalized this week with a 4 pound disadvantage.  And...the blue team's immunity would carry over, keeping them safe again this week.  Furthermore - Ruben would be brought back after the weigh-in to compete again, since the previous week's numbers became invalid.
Jillian's only apology was that she stands by the supplements, and she's sorry that her team was going to suffer.  I feel that if it was in the rules, then any supplements should not be given, no matter what kind they were. I also understand that these types of supplements have been used in past seasons without any issues, so Jillian may not have done anything wrong or unusual.  Being a reality show edited for television, we don't know the whole story or what exactly is set in the rules.  But I do feel badly for the white team members who were caught in the middle of this.
The white team did lose the weigh-in, and Craig fell below the red line, which automatically sent him home.  I'm really glad he had the chance to face some of his fears before he left, and that Jillian used the save on him so he could have those 4 extra weeks on the ranch.
Next week Ruben is back for his second chance - and their are more surprises in store for all.  What do you think of Jillian's supplement debacle?  Please share with me in the comments, or on Twitter or Facebook!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Biggest Loser 15 - Tricks and Treats

After missing last week's Biggest Loser due to work and catching up on it a few days ago, I was more than ready to watch tonight's show when it aired.  And I'm definitely glad that I could - because there was a lot of action this week!

We begin where last week left off...with Tanya, who had just been saved from going home by Dolvett.  She feels the pressure to step it up this week, since the team save was used on her and the next person to fall below the red line would go home.  She wants to do her part to make sure the red team is safe from elimination.

Of course, the next item on the Biggest Loser agenda is the first temptation of the season.  Alison leads the players to a pumpkin patch, informing them that the pumpkins are filled with tricks (candy and pumpkin pie) or treats (cash or immunity for the team).  If someone's pumpkin contained food they had to eat it, or else their team would not be allowed to continue on to play for the immunity.  Several rounds went by before immunity was discovered, causing thousands of calories to be consumed by all three teams.  The blue team, however, took in the least amount of calories AND found the immunity. 

Bob was happy that his team would be safe at the weigh-in, as long as none of them gained weight.  He was also inspired by his team member Holley, who is trying to get back into the Olympics as a weightlifter - just in better shape than the last time.  He wanted her to see women in the 165 weight class lift, so she would realize that she would be even stronger and able to lift more as she lost weight.  Holley also got the chance to lift, proving to herself that she is gaining muscle as her weight goes down and she will still have the power she needs to get to the Olympics. 

In the meantime, the white and red teams worked out furiously to stay away from elimination.  Only the blue team has a save left, so this week someone would definitely be sent home.  At times some of them felt ready to pass out or throw up, but after a short rest they were able to get back to the workout and keep going.  Nobody wanted to be the 2nd person to go home this season.

We also got to catch up with last season's teen ambassador Biingo, who has lost even more weight and kept it off.  His mom is thrilled that he's so active now, because he doesn't sit as much in front of video games anymore. And Biingo's whole family has lost almost 300 pounds with his motivation and encouragement.  It's great to see the whole family become healthier!

Finally, it's time for the moment of truth on the scale. The blue team goes first, and since all of them lost weight they keep the immunity.  All of the teams' numbers are on the lower side (it seems like this season the numbers are much lower overall) but the red team is the one with the lowest percentage of weight loss.  The person below the red line is Ruben, so he automatically goes home.  I'm glad Tanya squeaked by again, but I'm also disappointed that Ruben's time on the ranch was up.  He vowed to continue the hard work at home so he would be soulful AND sexy by the finale.

Next week, it looks like Tanya has a critical breakdown...and it also appears that someone will finally have a big loss on the scale.  I wonder who it will be?  We'll find out in a week!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fresh Start November!

October has been an extremely challenging month.

All kinds of issues have come up - trying to work around my son's school schedule while working retail, not knowing my work schedule each week until the very last minute (and it STILL being subject to change in the middle of the week), trying to fit everything in that needs to be done, and not being able to sleep from all of the stress, then trying to function each day on very little sleep.  And that's only part of the challenge.

Now that November is here, I've discovered that I gained a couple of pounds back...most likely because I turned to food to deal with stress and I've been so exhausted from insomnia that the workouts I have been able to fit into my schedule wound up being cut short - or not being at full speed as I would have liked.  There has been - and still is - a lot of prayer and tears while trying to figure it all out.  At least I finished the editing on my novel so I can look for a publisher, so something was accomplished during this time!

One thing I do know for sure...something has to give soon.  I refuse to let November go by with no weight loss (or a gain), making me feel even worse than I already do.  Seeing pictures of my self from the last couple of weeks only makes me more depressed...but also motivates me to do better. And I'm still catching up on this week's Biggest Loser - since I had to work and was unable to watch/recap.

So on this 1st day of November, I declare a fresh start.  I will find a way to get all of my workouts in, while being more careful about what I eat, even when I'm stressed.  (which is, by the way, pretty much 24/7!)  I will continue to pray that God leads me in the way I should go so there can be more of a balance in my life.  And I will keep the faith - and hope - alive that things are going to improve as long as I set better goals and carry on.

Please feel free to share your goals for the month with me, as we support each other on the journey of life.  Here's to a better, more successful November!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Biggest Loser Season 15 - The Dreaded Week 2

It's Week 2 on the ranch...also typically known as The Week From Hell each season to both the contestants and the trainers.  Weight loss seems to slow down tremendously, causing all sorts of problems and wreaking havoc on the team percentages.  And as it turns out - this season is no different.

Well, at least number-wise it's not different.  The twist this time is that only one player's weight loss from each team will count.  The trainers will roll dice with their players' faces on them to determine who it will be.

The advantage comes to the team that wins the first challenge of the season.  Teammates are tied together and must lug buckets of water to a tank.  The team that fills the tank first gets a second die to roll...and their trainer gets to choose which one of those two people whose faces show up will be the one whose weight counts.  Dice play a role in the challenge as well, as rolling them determines how many buckets of water a team can carry each time. 

It was a close race between the blue and red teams, but red edged out blue for the win, giving Bob a choice at the weigh-in.  That's the other kicker: nobody knows until the dice are rolled at the scale who it will land on, so everyone needs to work hard!

I really wish we still got to see 2 hour episodes, since it's hard to cram it all into an hour. I'm sure we miss a lot this way.  We get to see Ruben's visit to Dr. H - where he learns he has diabetes.  I'd like to see what the other players learned from the doctor as well, so hopefully that will be woven into future episodes.

The tear-inducing moments of the show came from Craig, who feels responsible for his father's death because he, as a kid, didn't realize that his dad wasn't just fooling around...and from Hap, whose wife gave birth to their 3rd child (and 1st son) while he was on the ranch.  He met his new son over Skype - and vowed right then and there that he was going to do his best so he could be around for his family for a long time.  Again...I hope we get to see more of the personal stories, which are hard to fit into the shorter episodes!

We also got to catch up with Lindsay, one of our teen ambassadors from last season.  She looks amazing and HAPPY, and she has inspired her whole family to lose weight, especially her older brother.  It's so good to see her continuing her healthy lifestyle and passing on what she's learned.

At the weigh-in, the roll of the dice gave Tanya the responsibility for the red team and Fernanda the honors for the white team.  Blue had the choice between Hap and Chelsea, so Bob picked Hap to represent.  Everyone's numbers were lower than Week 1, with some players doing better than others.  Unfortunately for the white team, Fernanda only lost 2 pounds to put them at the bottom.  Since Jillian had already used her save, when Fernanda fell below the red line she was automatically sent home.

And it looks like we have to wait until the beginning of next week's show to see how Fernanda is doing since she went home.  Way to keep us in suspense NBC!  I'm looking forward to seeing her progress as well as the new episode, where it looks like someone will have the first zero of the season on the scale.

Who will it be?  Tune in with me next week to find out!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Biggest Loser Season 15 Premiere - Second Chances

Can you believe it's the 15th season of The Biggest Loser already?  It still seems like Season 1 wasn't all that long ago...but here we are at #15!

This season, the theme is Second Chances - which is more than appropriate.  We have people who've weathered a variety of tragedies, lost weight before but gained it back, and even former world class athletes and American Idol winner Ruben Studdard.  It sounds like most of us...well, except for the world class athlete or American Idol part.  But the stories are something we can all relate to.  We have all made mistakes and/or have dealt with devastating circumstances.  We ALL need that second chance.

In this first episode, we learn about two major changes to the show.  First of all, the trainers got to interview potential contestants and choose the final 15.  Then after the initial workout, Bob, Dolvett, and Jillian were able to pick their teams.  I feel this is a good thing; it enables the trainers to connect better with each player, rather than be thrown together with people they may not get along with.  Oh, I'm sure there will still be conflicts.  (This is reality TV, after all!)  But each trainer already feels some sort of connection with their team members.  And that can only help in the success department.

The other big change is the trainer save.  Each trainer gets to save one player on their team this season, when they feel it is best to do so.  Bob commented that strategy will come into play with this, but that's not the only issue.  It has to be hard to worry about a player feeling that you thought they "weren't worth being saved" when saving people's lives is the premise of the show.  It will be interesting to see how each save is used.

On a personal level, a couple of things really stood out for me tonight.  One is, of course, the whole Second Chance theme.  I know I've been through a lot in life, and there are some people who look down on me who don't even know the whole story.  I suspect this is also true for the contestants and all of my friends at home.  There are so many things we keep buried inside that need to be let out.  We all have those inner scars that we've let hinder our progress in life, and we've let people that barely know us determine how we feel about ourselves.  Well - no more of that!  It's time we all look inside of ourselves and realize just how special each of us is...how each person has a unique set of issues yet is worthy of a second chance.  We all deserve that, no matter what.

My second revelation came from Ruben's statement to Dolvett about always being called Big Ruben, and that it's time to lose the "big" part and just be Ruben.  Think about the labels we've let other people put on us - big, fat, weak, stupid, lazy, etc.  (I've even known someone to call me or others untalented or unprofessional - false labels, given just because the person was jealous of some success any of us has had.)  It's important that we don't let these adjectives define us, because we are more than what some misguided soul thinks of us.  What labels to you need to shed in order to be the best you can be?

For the first elimination, Jillian's white team came in last, leaving one player below the red line.  He was supposed to automatically go home, but Jill used her save because she knew how hard he had worked and wanted him to have more time on the ranch.  So we still have all 15 players going into next week.

What are your thoughts on trainers' input and the save?  Please share with me, along with the labels you're going to rid yourself of on your journey.  Looking forward to an amazing season!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

An Open Letter to Valerie Harper

To all of my blog followers:

I don't usually write in letter format, but felt it necessary in this case.  I hope you find some inspiration in my words to Valerie!

Dear Valerie,

Let me start off by saying that I've been a fan since I was a little girl, loving Rhoda and you as much as my mom did.  We both anticipated Rhoda's big wedding episode, laughing and crying all the way through. Over the years you've always been a class act, and that definitely hasn't changed at all.

When I first heard you had cancer, I cried not only for you but for my mom as well.  She battled breast cancer for 12 years...and in a few days it will be 19 years since God called her home.  I still miss her all the time, and only wish she could have been around to watch Dancing With The Stars.

As you've fought and continue to fight this battle, your positive attitude and determination are an inspiration to me and countless others.  And when you decided to compete on this season of DWTS, I was thrilled for you.  There are some people who didn't understand why you would do the show (or thought you were being exploited) who said idiotic things.  But I get it - and so do a lot of people; there are many more that understand than don't.  For that I am grateful.

We all need to live our lives to the fullest, because we all will be called home someday.  Only God knows when that is for each of us.  He doesn't want us to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves about any challenges we face.  He wants us to LIVE while we are here!

My mom LOVED to dance.  She went dancing six nights a week when she was young, up until the time she married my dad.  They both still danced occasionally, but over time working and raising a family gave them less time for it, and often they only time they got the chance was at a family wedding.  Waltzes, polkas, jitterbug...my mom loved them all.  I also love dance, but never really had much time for it either.  So many things wind up taking time away from doing the things we truly want to do.

Every week on DWTS, I get to see you perform - not just learning and trying to remember all of the steps, but dancing for the PURE JOY of DANCING.  Not letting obstacles keep you from experiencing the joys of life.  Showing the world the wonderful woman you are, and teaching others how to live and enjoy each and every day.

I'm also glad you got the perfect partner for you.  Tristan is also a class act...a caring, compassionate person who can teach you the dances while helping you find the right balance so you can be your best while not injuring your knees further.  I'm as much in awe of you as he is, and watching the two of you interact brings every emotion to the surface.  It's truly a pleasure to witness your partnership - God put you together for a reason. 

Even though I am by nature normally a positive person, there are times I get a little down on myself...thinking that I should have things a lot more together than I do.  That I should be further ahead in my writing career and journey back to fitness, even though I am making progress with both.  Being impatient with my financial situation - even though that is also improving.

But then I think about you.  I'm sure you have your moments because you are human, but overall you stay positive.  You pick yourself up after a setback (like your knee) and press on.  You remember to find the joy in each day, no matter what.  You never stay down - you get up and get stronger.

Ever since I wrote for the former Ballroom Dance Channel website, my urge has only grown stronger to learn ballroom dancing...as much as I can.  My budget does not currently allow for lessons, but I'm staying positive that this will change soon.  In the meantime, I use videos, YouTube, etc., to learn what I can.  I NEED to dance.  Not just to learn the steps, but to experience the pure joy like you do.  To live out my passions.

So as you continue on your DWTS journey, know that I am extremely proud of you and honored to witness your experience.  I also know that my mom is smiling down on you, happy that you've found your way back to dancing again.  I pray that you have many more weeks, months, and years of dancing ahead of you - and thank you for sharing your heart and soul with us!

Love and Best Wishes,


Friday, September 13, 2013

Late Summer/Early Fall Playlist

Technically, it's still summer for a few days...with fall right on its heels. This is the time to think about dressing for cooler workouts, along with indoor exercise on the days the weather does not cooperate.

It's also time to update workout music - as we hang onto the last bit of summer and prepare ourselves for autumn, our playlists will include songs that reflect both seasons.

Here's some of what's on my "Change of Season" playlist:

Brave - Sara Bareilles

Overcomer - Mandisa

Mirrors - Justin Timberlake

So What - Pink

Does Your Mother Know - Christine Baranski (Mamma Mia Soundtrack)

Even The Stars Fall 4 U - Keith Urban

Roar - Katy Perry

Gone, Gone, Gone - Phillip Phillips

Blowin' Smoke - Kacey Musgraves

Southern Girl - Tim McGraw

Point At You - Justin Moore

Steve McQueen - Sheryl Crow

I recommend separating "Roar" and Brave", since they have a similar beat/feel to them...but they are such inspiring songs that I wanted to include both on the playlist.  In keeping with my theme of mixing styles to keep it interesting, you'll find Christian, country, pop, Broadway, and more on this list.  (And "Overcomer" is a MUST!!!)

What songs motivate you as we move into fall?  Please share with me here, or on Twitter and Facebook.  Let's head towards the holidays together in our best shape ever!

Friday, August 16, 2013

So You Think You Can Dance - A Lesson in Overcoming

It's pretty amazing what the world of dance can teach us.

It is also remarkable when someone beats the odds, not only surviving a terrible situation, but learns to thrive in spite of it, inspiring others in the process.

Both of these came together perfectly on Tuesday evening during So You Think You Can Dance.  With it being the first week of All-Stars this season, I knew it would be a special show.  I just didn't realize how special until the final pair of the night took the stage.

When the All-Stars were announced, I was already psyched because my favorite dancer ever on the show, Robert Roldan, would be back after missing Season 9.  Why wasn't he an All-Star last season?  It definitely wasn't because he didn't want to be there or the producers didn't want him back - far from it.  They would gladly have had him there if he was able.

The reason was simple yet heartbreaking.  Robert had been in an accident - one where he almost lost his life.  The doctors told him that most people don't survive the situation he was in, and he was lucky to be alive.  On top of that, they informed him that he would never dance again.

Thankfully he is not like "most people".  Robert declared that God still had a plan for him, and he would work hard to get back on stage to dance again.  For just over a year, he has worked his way back through the injuries and pain to not only function on a daily basis, but to dance - and dance well. 

For his first time back on SYTYCD, Robert was paired with Tucker Knox, a contestant on this current season who has also survived a bad car accident, which at one point left him paralyzed.  Tucker also came back from a place where he was told he wouldn't even be able to walk again.  Travis Wall choreographed an incredible routine for them, which represented his relationship with his brother Danny, whom he helped out of a dark place.  The combination of these three men together was the perfect storm of talent and emotion.  God knew what He was doing putting them all together - at the right place and the right time.

All of them have LIVED this story in their own way.  I was in tears watching as both Robert and Tucker poured out their emotions in the dance, portraying everything they had been through in front of the world.  At the end of the routine, Robert ran to hug Tucker, and they embraced as only two people who had been through the same difficulties could, with total love and support.  At this point I completely lost it, because even though I haven't actually walked in their shoes I could FEEL what they did.  And that is the mark of a true artist.

I have friends who have gone through, or are currently going through, recovery from an accident.  I know that Robert (and Tucker) went through a lot of pain, both physical and emotional, on the journey to overcome the trauma and get back to fully living.  It's not easy to work through the various feelings that attack you as you recover, but you can't let those feelings keep you down.  You have to have the FAITH that God is with you on your journey and you will beat the odds.  That the negative words that others, even doctors, may say is not going to be your reality.

For myself, I need the lesson that was provided on Tuesday night as much as anyone else.  As much as I try to stay positive, from time to time anxiety, depression, and fear threaten to get the best of me.  I always fight it - because I'm not about to let the devil win.  God created me to be someone special, and I will fulfill his purpose for me.  And just when I'm having one of those really rough days, He sends me a message through these amazing dancers and beautiful human beings. 

God uses our gifts to bless others.  While He speaks through some of us through our words, He speaks through Robert and others, without words, through dance.  The blessings may come when you least expect them, but they are always right on time.

Robert is right.  God does have a plan for him - not just to dance again, but to speak through that talent to inspire others to have faith and courage to be their best and not settle out of fear.  He also has a plan for each of us, and I pray we all have the courage to live out those plans.  I also pray for Robert as he continues to recover - and thrive.

Most of all...I thank God for speaking to me through dance when I really needed it, pulling me from the darkness into the light.  He is ALWAYS on time!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Faithful Balancing Act

I was just learning how to balance everything in my life - then I was thrown another ball to juggle.

I certainly wasn't perfect in coordinating my family and home, writing, fitness and health, and everything else. Who is?  We're all learning the fine art of balance.  And it is a constantly changing craft.

I had been looking for a part-time job to help with all of the bills, since the writing isn't covering it all quite yet.  Of course I'm making money freelancing, with more coming in than before but not enough for right now.  And the novel won't be making me any dollars until it's published and out there for everyone to read.  So we need other income in addition to that plus my husband's job.

I've applied to many places, but hadn't had any luck until recently.  In this economy, each position has so many applicants that chances aren't as good as before...but I prayed and trusted God to bring me to the right job for me, that would use my unique talents and abilities and work with my other activities.

It turns out that He was just lining up the perfect job for me.  I now work about 20 hours a week in a bookstore.  Now, what's more perfect for a writer than working in a bookstore?  I get to talk books with customers and help them find what they need.  Now I realize why no other job application worked out - God knows what He is doing!

The trick is learning to balance it all with the new job thrown into the mix.  The first couple of weeks were tiring, since I worked extra hours during training to get familiar with everything at the store.  It was worth it, to learn what needed to be learned...plus the additional money sure helps.  But now the schedule is evening out, and I'm finding  a way to get everything balanced again.  Retail hours mean the schedule changes somewhat each week, but I'm being creative at getting the writing, workouts, etc. done along the new job.  It's a challenge, but one that is making me stronger each day.

All I know is if I continue to trust God and let Him lead me, I will get to where I'm supposed to be.  I can do this with His help.  And I'm thankful each and every day for what He is doing in my life.

Balance?  It's getting there.  The main thing to remember:  if you don't put God and faith first, you will never achieve it.  Faith is the key to balance - and peace!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Extreme Weight Loss - Mehrbod Sets Records, Good and Bad

Due to the All Star Game, I got to watch Extreme Weight Loss in its entirety tonight.  I am, however, going through So You Think You Can Dance withdrawals...

But I'm glad I got to watch this one right away.  Mehrbod is quite an inspiration.

Mehrbod and his family are from Iran, where they often didn't have enough to eat. To compensate, he learned to stuff himself with food whenever it was around, since he literally didn't know where his next meal was coming from.  By the time he was in the United States and didn't have to worry about starving anymore, the pattern had become ingrained and he gained weight - a lot of it.

Though Mehrbod began his EWL year at 434 pounds, he had been at 498.  He lost 64 pounds on his own before Chris Powell came into his life, so part of his transformation had already taken place.  He was inspired by his girlfriend Mona, who loved him at almost 500 pounds and stayed by his side no matter what.  He was hoping they would get married, but since he had to ask her parents first he wanted to lose the rest of the weight so they would feel he would be able to take care of himself and her. 

Mehrbod lost 137 pounds in the first phase and kept going strong through the second phase.  He even got to ski again, something he hadn't been able to do for 12 years due to his weight.  Chris enlisted Olympic champion Picabo Street to get Mehrbod moving on the slopes again, and he did a fantastic job.  You could tell he was enjoying the freedom to do things that his body had held him back from. (As someone who was just learning to ski before I gained weight, I could relate to the feeling - even though I'm not quite in skiing shape yet!)  On top of that, he no longer needed to use the sleep apnea machine that kept him steadily breathing every night.  What a relief it had to be, not to worry if he was going to wake up in the morning or not. 

Unfortunately, Phase Three did not go smoothly for him.  He gathered the courage to speak to Mona's parents about marriage, but they were not receptive because they didn't like his career choice.  They hated his DJing work, and wanted their daughter to marry a doctor or a lawyer.  When he set up a meeting with Mona to talk, she stood him up.  (In her defense...I have a feeling she was highly influenced by her parents and probably forbidden to even think about marrying Mehrbod.)  This sent him into a downward spiral, eating all of his old comfort foods constantly.  Once again, I could relate...to having people tell you that you need to be what THEY want you to be or else you're not good enough.  I still deal with that from some people!

Chris thought all was still going well - because Mehrbod rigged his scale to show continued weight loss when he did his video chats with Chris.  He thought he could get back on track before the next big weigh-in, but that didn't happen.  Instead, he had to confess what he did to Chris.  And he had gained more than 60 pounds back in that short amount of time.  Chris was livid...wondering if he could ever trust Mehrbod again and if he could really reach his goals.  Mehrbod had set a weight loss record in Phase One, but he also set a weight GAIN record in Phase Three. 

As it turns out, Mehrbod was able to get back on track in a big way.  By the end of the year, he had reached his goal weight of 230.  He looked amazing and happy.  Plus, he and Mona are back together again.  No word on an engagement, or how her parents feel about this...but it seemed like they worked through whatever was keeping them apart.  And Mehrbod set a 3rd record - for the biggest weight loss in Phase Four!

What can we learn from Mehrbod?  Don't let setbacks set you back forever, find a way to work out your problems without turning to food, and NEVER let other people tell you you're not good enough or shouldn't be yourself.  I'm rooting for him to do what he wants to do with his life...and can't wait to see what his next goal is!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Musical Inspiration

Does music inspire you?

I know it really inspires me...to dance, to dream, to get moving, to have faith.

For this reason I started posting an Inspiring Song of the Day a few weeks ago on my Facebook page. The music ranges from Christian and Gospel to Country, Broadway, Pop, and even Alternative Rock.  I draw both happiness and strength from all types of music.

Some of these songs are ones that you probably know, while others could be new to you.  I love sharing music, especially if it's something that not a lot of people know about, but should because it's just that good.  Sometimes the hidden treasures are the best!

So...what songs inspire you?  Feel free to leave a comment here, or on Facebook once you "like" my page.  And I hope you enjoy the music I post there as well!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

An Inspiring Evening With Author Taylor Stevens

Two weeks ago, I was blessed to be part of a very special evening. 

It's always special when you get to meet a best-selling author.  But this time it was even better.

I first met Taylor Stevens through my friend Kim, who was able to get some of us galleys of Taylor's first book, The Informationist, to read and review.  The story and characters were so amazing that none of us could put it down until we finished reading the entire thing.

Since then I've also read the next two novels in the series, The Innocent and The Doll.  Each time Vanessa "Michael" Munroe winds up with an assignment, I learn more about what makes her tick and why she does what she does.  And each of her assignments is so fascinating, you want to read MORE.

In The Doll, Michael is kidnapped into taking an assignment, leading her into the world of human trafficking.  You can read my review at my Goodreads page.  But I would also like to tell you more about what made the evening of June 18th so important to me.

I had met Taylor at another gathering in the Cleveland area back in the fall.  It was a wonderful experience, other than the fact the coffeehouse where it was held completely acted like they had no idea we were coming and we were placed in what basically amounted to a storage room.  Taylor was a trouper and made it special despite the lack of welcome at this establishment.  (And the coffeehouse is no longer in business...why am I not surprised?)

This time, Taylor was speaking at the Strongsville library and she arranged (with the help of a wonderful librarian!) for her Cleveland friends to have dinner with her beforehand.  We met at a Friday's and had wonderful service. We all got to talk with Taylor over dinner, where we learned more about her, the next two books on the way...and her love of bacon.  ;o)  Hearing someone speak - up close and personal - about her passion for writing and her literary goals is such an inspiration; I know it motivated me even more to accomplish my own goals.  It was also fascinating to talk with the librarians who were there, and to learn more about how libraries order e-books and hard copies.  All of it is important information if you want to be a published author and get your work out there!  (The only thing missing was Kim...she couldn't be there and we really missed her!)

In addition, Taylor's talk at the library further pushed me to get my novels published.  She grew up in a cult and was not formally educated past 6th grade...but Taylor is an extremely intelligent lady who learned on her own and through others after she got out of that atmosphere.  It's proof that you can get past whatever circumstances you have dealt with or are currently dealing with - the past is only one part of your story. 

Late last week I received a message from Taylor that I had won one of the items she autographed for a giveaway, and yesterday I was able to pick it up at the library.  It's a giant poster of The Doll.  This, to me, is further comfirmation from God that He wants me to write and get my stories out there.  I'm in the midst of organizing my office, and now I have a huge reminder to write, write, write!  In the middle of all of the stress and madness of life  - He made sure I got the message.

So please check out my review and Taylor's books.  You will love them.  And keep her in mind whenever you wonder if you can live your dreams.  Taylor Stevens is proof that you CAN beat the odds!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Workouts, Dancing, Writing - Oh My!

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted here.  So far it's been a really busy summer...

So I thought I'd just check in and let you know some of what's going on.  Someone had the bright idea to air both Extreme Weight Loss and So You Think You Can Dance on Tuesday nights, thereby driving me crazy. ;o)   So I still have to catch up on the this past episode of EWL because I watched SYTYCD.  I did see some of Ryan's story during commercials, but not enough to write a recap. 

I was moved, however, by SYTYCD - which I always am.  There's nothing like dance to awaken the soul, and so far this season I'm very impressed by the Top 20.  I can't wait to see what next week brings!

As for myself, I've been working out, writing, editing, and attending other authors' speaking events.  I will post more on that this coming week, because it's been inspiring to see people who love writing as much as I do reaching their goals and seeing their dreams realized.  To say God uses them to keep me going when the going gets rough would be an understatement!

In addition, I'm working on some other possible business arrangements, so I would appreciate your prayers.  If you have any prayer requests, please send them my way and I would be happy to pray for you as well.  We also have several graduation parties including one tonight!) and other events keeping us busy.

Here's to a wonderful summer weekend for all of us.   I will check back in with you in a couple of days!

Friday, June 7, 2013

School's Out! June Workout Playlist

School's - out - for - summer!

Now that you have Alice Cooper running through your head...have you started thinking about your workout music for warm weather?  I always love to mix things up - to keep workouts fresh.  If you change up your music from time to time, you're more likely to avoid being bored...and more likely to stick with your run, walk, cycling, etc.

So in addition to "hangin' with Mr. Cooper", here are my latest additions for summer:

Try - Pink

Next to Me - Emeli Sande

I'm a Keeper - The Band Perry

Little Bit of Everything - Keith Urban

Roller Coaster - The Partridge Family

Sunshine and Summertime - Faith Hill

Fortunate Son - John Fogerty with Foo Fighters

Hush Hush - Pistol Annies

Voulez-Vous  -  Mamma Mia Soundtrack

Thing Called Love - Bonnie Raitt

Rolling in the Deep - Adele

Black Horse and the Cherry Tree - KT Tunstall

Please leave a comment with your favorite workout songs...we're always looking for more suggestions.  And get out there and WERK it!!!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Extreme Weight Loss - Meredith's Marathon Journey

There are two special things I learned about Meredith on tonight's Extreme Weight Loss.

First off, she is completely adorable.  And secondly - she is a VERY STRONG WOMAN.

Meredith is only 24, but she shows more wisdom than many people twice her age.  Oh, she's still a girl who wants to have fun - as her Baywatch fantasies prove - but she also has learned how to deal with the curveballs that life can throw...even if they were pitched at birth when you're way too young to know why.

One of my favorite things about EWL (yes, the show has shortened its title, probably to help us all keep our tweets under 140 characters) is that one or two people get to focus on their personal journeys for the year, without competing against anyone except themselves.  Of course I love my Biggest Loser...but some people thrive better when they don't have to "play the game" and can just concentrate on the main thing - physical and emotional health.  For Meredith, this format perfectly fit her situation.

Meredith was given up for adoption at birth, and her parents always loved her.  But she always felt like she didn't really fit into the family, because she was so different from them, especially in size.  Her sister is her parents' biological child, and has always been the "thin one".  Although Meredith's dad had put on some weight over the years, her mom and sister remained thin while Meredith only got bigger.  Her struggle with not knowing her birth mom or why she gave her up played a major role in the weight gain.  She wanted to lose the weight not only for herself, but also to prepare herself for the chance that she might get to meet her biological mother.

Chris showed up at a kids' talent show rehearsal that Meredith was in charge of, surprising her by walking onstage dressed on a carrot suit!  It was just too cute, and just right because it made the kids feel comfortable with the surprise.  He promised that he would take good care of Meredith while she was gone and she would be back soon.  I'm sure the kids are super proud of Miss Meredith.

At her first weigh-in in California, Meredith stood at 314 pounds.  She was once over 400, but she lost weight and had "Believe It, Be It 155" tattooed on her stomach to keep her motivated toward her goal of 155 pounds.  She put some of the weight back on, and I'm sure she felt as if her tattoo was mocking her at times as she went in the opposite direction of her goal.  Chris decided that 155 would still be her goal for this year-long journey. (By the way, "Believe It, Be It" was/is the motto of Ali Vincent, the first female Biggest Loser.  It's also the title of her book.  I'm betting that's where Meredith got the idea!)

At the beginning, there were times Meredith wasn't so sure of herself - especially running on the beach the first day to the tower and back.  She broke down halfway through, with it really hitting her that she felt unloved from the beginning, knowing that she was given away.  Chris sent her home after the first week to complete the first 90 days at home with her family.

That proved to be a problem, as her family tried to support her but at times didn't understand what she needed.  Her sister really didn't get it - she brought cookies and snacks into the house that Meredith couldn't eat and kept them in the pantry where they would tempt her.  I know it's hard for some people who don't struggle with their weight to understand why something like this would be such a big deal...even when it's explained to them.  Chris wound up coming to town after 45 days to help Meredith stay on track for the first phase.  She needed to lose 80 pounds - and beat that by losing 84!

Chris decided that Meredith would need to lose 50 pounds in phase two, and she would train for a marathon.  She wasn't totally sure about that, since even though she'd become a runner, she had never run more than 10 miles.  One thing that helped her focus was her sister moving out into her own place.  It made things easier for her (and her parents) to keep their eyes on the prize.  She didn't hit the 50 - but she did lose 32 pounds.  I'm sure the torn meniscus and accompanying knee pain that developed didn't help.

Meredith and Chris did run the marathon, with support from her parents and friends. At about 19 miles her knee gave her a lot of trouble, along with her other leg which she favored because of the injury.  But Meredith never quit; she slowed it down to a walk or jog at times but finished the entire 26.2 miles strong.  It built her confidence even more.

During all of this, Meredith found the courage to write a letter to her birth mom, in hopes that they would get to meet.  She didn't hear back from her, but Chris got some information from a private investigator to help Meredith find peace.  There was a picture of her mom, along with one of her mom's run-down house.  Chris thought that maybe mom was embarrassed about her living situation and wasn't ready to meet her daughter.  Meredith found herself OK with that - she still hopes to meet her one day but is at peace with her past and herself. She realizes that they may not get to meet...and if that's the case she will still be fine. She also realized her parents really do love and support her, no matter what.

At the end of phase three Meredith weighed 176.  Chris wanted to hold off on the skin surgery until she reached her 155 goal, because that way she still had the tattoo as a reminder until then.  At first she was disappointed, but it wound up only making her more determined to reach her goal.  Chris did have a special treat for her though...he brought Nicole Eggert from Baywatch to the beach where Meredith ran the very first day, and the two women ran together.  Nicole has had her own weight struggle, so she was happy to come out to support Meredith.  Now THAT'S a true role model.

At last it was time for the big reveal.  Meredith stepped out to greet her family and friends in a gorgeous blue dress and shiny silver shoes - but the true sparkle came through her eyes and smile.  She overcame so much to get to this point, and looking out among her loved ones she could finally see the light bulb go off for her sister.  She gets it now!

Oh, and the 155?  Meredith hit it right on the nose.  Quite appropriate to go with the tattoo!  Now she won't need it though, since she will have the skin surgery and it will be gone along with all of the excess weight.

Now Meredith can focus on new goals - and I know there won't be any stopping her now!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Extreme Weight Loss - Chris Powell Takes On Twins!

It's the start of a new season of Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition, and I couldn't be happier.

I need a summer fix of motivation when Biggest Loser is done for the season, and fall seems far away. (which is OK with me, since I love summer!!!)  And let's face it...summer can be a time when people slack off from their fitness and healthy eating habits, whether they are on vacation or just enjoying favorite summer foods on a 3-month staycation.  Those staying at home are more likely to binge on treats, because they feel they deserve it since they can't afford to go away somewhere special - and they don't have the incentive to fit into certain clothes for a trip. Plus, people who go on a vacation tend to splurge only while on the trip, not for months on end.

Enter Chris Powell, who begins the third season of EMWLE taking on twins, brother Dave and sister Becca.  They are 23 years old and live with their dad, who is extremely hard on them about their weight.  My first thought was the fact that their dad needs to lose quite a bit himself and get healthy, and that he isn't helping their self-esteem.  The next thought was that he probably wants better for his kids than for himself, and doesn't quite realize that the example he sets hurts them as well.

Chris surprises them on their birthday, and takes them away for the first week of training.  He gets them to open up about things that have bothered them for a long time, such as Becca's admission that she feels she never made her father proud.  The real kicker was Dave breaking the news that he was once addicted to painkillers and alcohol, and was ready to commit suicide when an out-of-the-blue phone call from his dad stopped him.  Even Becca didn't know this - only Dave's close friends knew.

Chris decided that he needed to separate the twins for the first 3 months, because they were so close and so good at sabotaging each other's efforts.  At first they were upset, but as the days went on they realized it was the best thing for them.  Dave went home while Becca went to Arizona and worked with Chris' wife Heidi, along with one of last year's success stories, Jacqui.  (It's so wonderful how Jacqui wants to pay it forward!!!) They both did well during the first 90 days...but slipped a bit when back together again for the next phases.  It got to the point that they could hardly even speak to each other.

After 9 months, they weighed in and met the doctor to discuss skin removal surgery.  Dave qualified for the procedure, but Becca did not.  A light bulb went off for Dave that his sister had worked much harder than he did, but he was the one who qualified.  Chris makes the decision to separate them for the final 3 months of the journey.  Dave needed to recover from the surgery; Becca needed to go home and keep working toward her goal of getting the surgery. 

During this time Dave finally talked to his dad about the addictions and overdose.  His father was already beginning to realize how he had affected his kids for years...but this admission from Dave really sent him over the edge.  He wanted to repair the relationships with his children and be a more positive role model for them. Becca and Dave also came to the conclusion that even though they love each other, being separated for now is better for them physically and emotionally.

By the final reveal, each of them had lost over 200 pounds.  Becca qualified for the surgery and decided to go back to nursing school.  Dave chose to go out to Arizona for college. They both look amazing, and it shows from the inside out.  Look for these two to take on the world now!

And also look for more inspiring episodes of EMWLE this summer.  Help yourself stay motivated and keep going - I know I will!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Inspiration - Courtesy of Kellie Pickler

Inspiration comes in many forms - people, music, dance, writing, and more.

For me, it arrived as all of the above...in the form of a sweet, hard-working, determined Southern lady who faced her fears and insecurities on Dancing With The Stars.

If you've followed Kellie from her early days on American Idol, you already know that she's a sweetheart.  You also know that she didn't have the best childhood growing up - not even close.

Her mother abandoned her.  Her dad was in jail.  Her grandparents raised her, but her grandmother passed away from cancer when Kellie was 15 years old.  She lived in a beautiful small town, but her family did not have much money.

But Kellie persevered, even with all of those possible obstacles.  She rose above the challenges and went for her dreams.  She didn't let the things that life threw at her stop her.

I was reminded of Kellie's heart and determination as she took on Dancing With The Stars this season.  She always has a joke, word of encouragement, and ready smile for everyone watching.  She worked many long hours to learn and perfect all of the dances, including Derek's amazing but challenging choreography.

By the time the finals came around, Kellie also let us see her vulnerable side - the part of her that still felt the pain from her past but wanted to overcome it all.  And I could relate.

I've always been the one who encourages others, finds the humor in a situation, and smiles to get through my challenges.  But I still have a vulnerable side.  I'm learning to show that side a little more often - some people can't handle that I'm not "perfect"  (whatever perfect is supposed to be!) and decide that I'm only good enough for them when I help them.  That's OK...not everyone you meet is supposed to stay in your life forever.  Sometimes they are there just for you to learn a lesson.

Thankfully, there are still plenty of people who understand that we are all human and have issues and challenges to face - that we don't have to be "on" all the time.  That love and friendship is a two-way street and we should support each other through the good AND the bad.

I cried as Kellie and Derek performed their Freestyle.  I could see that she was being very real with all of us.  She let us all the way into her world, and we love her for it.  This is why she is a true champion!

Thank you Kellie, for sharing your heart and soul on the dance floor along with the proper technique.  You taught me (and countless others) that it's OK - no, VITAL - to be yourself  and share who God created you to be. And that hard work and prayer will get you far, no matter what life throws at you.

I'd love to be in the physical shape that Kellie is in...and I'm working on it.  But it's also important to work on that inside beauty, which she has in spades.  This is one lesson I will carry with me every day!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ugliness at Abercrombie & Fitch

Even Marilyn Monroe, who was admired by men (and women) all over the world, would not have been able to shop at Abercrombie & Fitch.

Why?  Because the clothing company doesn't make clothes for anyone who isn't "thin enough".  They only make clothes for "beautiful" people...and they only hire these "beautiful" people to work in their stores.   At least that's the messed up line of thinking that CEO Mike Jeffries has - only "perfect" people can wear his clothes.  Only the "cool" kids count.

Way to go, Mr. Jeffries.  With this policy, you are promoting anorexia, bulimia, and plastic surgery for teens anxious to fit in - and giving them a reason to turn into despondent adults who think they will never be good enough.

To Mr. Jeffries and his company, you're not cool if you don't fit his version of beautiful.  Women's clothes only go up to a size 10, which could technically be an 8, because the clothes are cut smaller than many other clothing brands.  Girls who want to wear what their super-thin friends are wearing can't...which may cause them to turn to unhealthy practices like bulimia and anorexia.  And what if they apply for a job at A & F and don't get it - because they aren't "beautiful" enough to wait on the customers?  I can only imagine teens trying to "fix the problem" by getting nose jobs, botox, etc.  to fit this ridiculous standard.

Even when I was 20 and reached my goal weight, I would not have been able to wear A & F clothes.  I went a few pounds under that weight in an attempt to fit into certain brands, and not only was it still not enough, but I saw pictures of myself taken at that time and was horrified to see my sunken cheeks and protruding collarbone.  I decided it was better to go back up to my original goal weight and wear what looked good on me, rather than continue to starve and be unhealthy just to wear a certain size or brand of clothing.  I was much happier donning cute outfits that fit me as I was meant to be - without feeling lightheaded or dizzy for lack of nutrition.

The last thing in the world teens need to be told is that they aren't good enough for you, Mr. Jeffries. They are ALL beautiful, no matter what size they wear or makeup they use, or what facial features they possess that YOU don't approve of.  We are ALL created in God's image - and He never makes a mistake.  You aren't really promoting beauty.  You actually promote ugliness, with your bad attitude and closed mind. 

There are so many people who are beautiful both inside and out.  Ironically, with Mr, Jeffries advocating bullying and discrimination, his inside is ugly - and does not even come close to my standard of inner beauty.  Beauty starts on the inside, and he needs to get a makeover!

Don't listen to the lies...discover your own true beauty and the beauty of others!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spring Power Playlist

We are now further into spring, and even though there are still days that feel like winter there's been much improvement in our Ohio weather.  I am able to get outside more often to walk/run and still do indoor workouts on those other days.

It's been a crazy month and a half, going to so many wakes that I hope and pray there are no more for a LONG time.  I even found out an old friend of mine passed away months ago...from cancer at age 51.  She and I were really close for a long time and then life got in the way.  Needless to say, it was a complete shock that a woman so positive and full of life is gone so soon.  I'm still trying to process this one - almost like I just had a nightmare and it isn't real.  Except...it is.

So I added some power songs to my workout playlist, to lift my spirits and keep moving forward on my journey of faith, fitness, and life.  Annette would be the first to tell me not to wallow in the sadness and just get on with it.  And since she was a fellow Parrothead, of course I included a little Buffett in my list!

Here is my latest playlist:

DONE. - The Band Perry
Don't Stop Believin' - Journey
Live for Today - Natalie Grant
Walk Away - Megan Hilty
Troublemaker - Olly Murs
People Like Us - Kelly Clarkson
Set Fire to the Rain - Adele
I Will Wait - Mumford & Sons
One Particular Harbour - Jimmy Buffett
Boys 'Round Here - Blake Shelton featuring Pistol Annies & Friends
Jump Right In - Zac Brown Band
Lay All Your Love on Me - Amanda Seyfried/Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia movie soundtrack)

Please share the songs that get you moving as well.  Let's power up this spring and live life to the fullest!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter's Fresh Start - And a Brand New Month!

Yesterday we celebrated Easter Sunday - the day that Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified, giving all of God's children forgiveness of their sins and a fresh start in Christ.  We get to do away with past mistakes, and look to the present and future to be the people God created us to be.

This year, Easter's renewal is followed by April 1st...a brand new month, with a chance to improve upon what we did last month (or in the months before) and strive to be better.  Better at our relationship with God and relationships with others, better at breaking bad habits...really, better at whatever we have discovered we need to be better at - and what God had told us we need to do to be better for His purpose.

I know for me (and most of you who read my blog) this includes being better at health, fitness, and nutrition.  There are times we don't do well in these departments, but we need to shake that off and start fresh.  Did you eat a lot of Easter goodies yesterday?  Did exercise fall by the wayside as you prepared for the celebration of the Resurrection - including both religious activities and fun stuff for the kids and other family members? 

I gave up diet soda for Lent, already knowing it was bad for me yet having had a problem giving up the addiction in the past.  I decided giving it up for Lent would cause me to do it for Jesus - not myself.  With this mindset (and plenty of prayer), I was successful in staying completely away from it from Ash Wednesday all the way through Holy Saturday.  On Easter, I had one sip of Diet Pepsi...and one sip was it.  It didn't taste all that great, so I didn't have any more.  But I know addictions can creep back up if you're not careful.  So I'm continuing to abstain from diet soda from Easter on, still as a sacrifice to God who gave me a body, mind, and soul that I need to take care of for Him.  I also need to cut back on sugar again after those Easter treats!

No matter what happened, you don't have to stay in that rut.  Ask God to help you out of it and into His grace.  You are forgiven for your sins...AND any slacking off you may have done taking care of your body - God's holy temple. 

It's the day after Easter...so remember all that Jesus has done for you, and take April and RUN with it!!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Biggest Loser 14 - Finale Thoughts!

It was a shorter season than usual...but packed with much more inspiration than the last one.

Last night, Biggest Loser's Season 14 contestants had their big finale, showing off amazing transformations and astounding numbers on the scale.  And determining the winners came down to the last second and tight margins.

I was going back and forth between this finale and the Dancing With The Stars season premiere, so I didn't live tweet or blog last night for fear of missing anything important.  Now I can collect my thoughts on BL and look back at a wonderful night that capped off an even more wonderful season.

What made this finale extra special was having the teen ambassadors ot only come out all dressed up, but also fulfilling some of their dreams on the stage.  Lindsay performed with the cheerleading squad...and was the top of the pyramid! Sunny looked amazing and she is taking her role as ambassador seriously.  And Biingo was surprised on stage by the coach letting him know he made the baseball team.  We need kid ambassadors every year!

Looking back on everyone's journeys was inspiring, and as all of the at-home contestants weighed in, the leader kept changing.  How awesome is it that Gina was the last one standing for the $100,000 prize?  She really was a big threat in the game!  I've heard some people say they wished someone else had won, while others see what I see in her and realize that reality shows are edited...meaning you might get to see mostly good moments from someone and hardly any bad, and vise versa.  What you see on TV might not be the only side to each person!

Jackson won America's vote into the Final Three, which is exactly what I thought would happen.  He, Jeff, and Danni all got on the scale for the grand prize, and all of them really did an amazing job.  Danni wound up winning - beating Jeff by one pound!  I would have been happy with any of the three winning, as they all were worthy of the title.  But I'm so proud of Danni!

Hopefully we won't have to wait quite so long for another season, but if Biggest Loser can get another set of people on the show like this group - it would be worth waiting for!

Now...let's all get moving and work on our own transformations!!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Biggest Loser 14 - A Look Back and a Wild Ride to the Finals!

It's all come down to this.

Eleven weeks on the ranch; plenty of blood, sweat, puke, and tears; emotional roller coasters for both the contestants and the trainers.  (Not to mention those of us watching at home!)  During the last week on the ranch before the finale, we looked back at the beginning all the way to where they are now...and added some more pivotal moments to the mix.

I was very happy to see that our teen ambassadors got to join the Final Five adults for the last week on campus.  Our look back began with them, as Sunny, Biingo and Lindsay sat with the trainers and watched their journeys on film from where it all started through all of their ups and downs.  All three kids have done a tremendous job, and the trainers were right when they said these three have set the bar high for kids who participate on the show in the future.  I really hope they have a set of kids each season from now on...they inspire people of all ages and really motivate their peers.  Just look at ten-year-old Breanna, featured tonight as a girl who lost 72 pounds at home with the help of her mom.  Now that's inspiration!

The teens also visited again with Dr. Joanna, who was able to give them much better news than she did the first time she met with them.  Lindsay is no longer pre-diabetic and Sunny's cholesterol is now normal.  Biingo lost 25% of his body weight...and his mom has gone down five dress sizes while doing this along with him!  Dr. Joanna mentioned to me on Twitter how gratifying it was to work with the three, and how proud she is of them for all of their hard work.  She also said that it's amazing how well kids do without doing anything drastic (no drugs or deprivation) - and just by changing their eating and exercise habits, they are able to regain their health.  This is a good lesson for our kids...and for us as adults as well!

Dr. H got to give his own good news to Danni.  Over just 11 weeks she gained 19 pounds of muscle.  They sure played the right song for her segment, because Danni IS a girl on fire!  The adults also got their trip down memory lane with their trainers, and it still hits me every season when each player's "before" self is speaking to the "new" self.  You always have to remember where you started, in order to realize how far you've come and to keep yourself motivated to never go back.

The familiar "put the weight back on" challenge had a new twist.  Each contestant pulled a sled up a mountain, starting at their current weight and adding the pounds back on in reverse order to the sled so at the end they were at their starting weights to reach the finish line.  The prize was one pound advantage, which Joe and Danni fought for until the end.  Joe wound up just beating Danni for the prize.  He hoped he wouldn't actually need it on the scale, but was glad to have it just in case.

The kids said goodbye to the trainers and other adults before the weigh-in, and it was heartwarming to see not only how much the teens bonded with the adults, but how the adults all bonded with each other.  What a difference from last season, with all of the backstabbing, nasty remarks, and claws coming out.  This season, Biggest Loser came back around to what the show is all about.

This was proven at the last chance workout, when Jeff continued the conversation he had with Bob earlier in the week about Bob being a father figure to him since Jeff's own father isn't here anymore.  In the gym, Bob had to compose himself and took Jeff outside to tell him how much it means to him, and that he was happy to be that father figure.  He told Jeff that he loved him and how proud he was of him...and mentioned that he could relate to Jeff because he always wanted that fatherly approval himself.  There was a lot of crying, not only between them but here at my house as well.  I'll bet it was the same for you.  I'm so glad the show is back to being about inspiration amd motivation.

At last it was time to face the scale.  Joe and Jackson each lost 5 pounds, but with the advantage Joe was ahead.  Gina only lost two pounds, perhaps due to her foot injury even though she still worked out really hard all week.  It was beginning to look like everyone would pull low numbers...until Jeff weighed in and lost 11 pounds.  Then Danni stepped up and also lost 11 pounds!  Jillian was so happy and proud and we had another warm moment between trainer and student.  Danni and Jeff came in 1st and 2nd, guaranteeing themselves spots in the finals.  Joe and Jackson fell below the yellow line, so America must vote on which one will get the 3rd spot.  Gina fell below the red line and was automatically eliminated, but she took it graciously and has now lost 100 pounds since we checked in with her at home.

So Danni, Jeff, Joe, or Jackson will be this season's Biggest Loser, depending on America's vote and the numbers on the scale.  Make sure to cast your vote at the Biggest Loser website and tune in on Monday to see who wins the at-home prize and the grand prize.  I know I can't wait to find out who it is!!!

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Official "I'm Sick of Snow!" Playlist

It's March, and technically almost spring.  But Mother Nature doesn't seem to care, as usual.  Snow is still falling in many places, with winter winds still whipping us around and cold temperatures to keep us dressed in heavy coats, hats, gloves, etc.

I am very thankful (and so are my friends!) that the big storm that hit a lot of states this week missed us here in Cleveland, but we've still had our share of the white stuff...and we're tired of it.  And I know my friends in Indiana, Illinois, and on the East Coast are even more tired of it.

So it's time to think warm weather and summer fun if we want to keep our sanity.  Whether you run outside in the cold or exercise indoors while watching the snow fall beyond your window, you need to remember that soon we will be free to work out in more enjoyable conditions.

This is why I've come up with a Plan B - Beach Boys, Buffett, and Beyond.  Introducing my I'm Sick of Snow Playlist:

Summer's Coming - Clint Black
Long Hot Summer - Keith Urban
Soak Up the Sun - Sheryl Crow
Some Beach - Blake Shelton
Summer in the City - The Lovin' Spoonful
Summer Days - The Partridge Family
Summer Nights - Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta (Grease Soundtrack)
Pontoon - Little Big Town
Heatwave - Martha and the Vandellas
Knee Deep - Zac Brown Band with Jimmy Buffett
California Dreamin' - The Mamas and the Papas
Island Girl - Elton John
Barefoot Blue Jean Night - Jake Owen
Fins - Jimmy Buffett
Fun, Fun, Fun - The Beach Boys
Summertime - Kenny Chesney

If you have more to add, shoot me a comment.  Let's all find a remedy for this cabin fever and look forward to spring!!!