Category Archives: Writing

I Am A Guillain-Barre Survivor.

At 4 years old, you never expect to end up in one of the largest hospitals in Boston, surrounded by doctors in white coats, enduring test after test, prick after prick, all in the name to walk again.

But I did.

Let me back up. 25 years ago this coming April, started out like any normal month. I was an active four-year old. An only child of two wonderful parents. I was in pre-school, and was getting ready to enter kindergarten in the fall. I loved arts and crafts, playing on the swing set, and just being a typical kid.

At 4 years old, I had learned to walk just a couple of years prior. I was starting to become more independent. I was finally becoming a big kid. I wasn’t a baby anymore. Well, at least in my mind I wasn’t.

But in a just a couple of day’s time, that all changed. I had been fighting a virus. Like every other child that spring. Except mine had ulterior motives other than to keep me off the playground.

The details surrounding my diagnosis are a bit fuzzy. I was four after all. So bear with me.

This is what I can remember from that fateful April morning, in bits and pieces.

FullSizeRender
Riding my bike in the driveway and garage, right before falling ill with Guillain Barre.

I remember riding my bike in a circle in our small garage. I still wasn’t feeling well. I remember falling off, and landing on my knees. But I was having trouble standing, and walking. I remember my parents rushing me off to my pediatrician’s office and him asking me to walk down the hallway. My pediatrician knew what was happening just by my gait. A rare illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

I remember being rushed to Boston in the back of my parent’s blue station wagon, while lying across the backseat. I can’t remember if falling off the bike and going to my pediatrician’s all happened in the same day. But I know it was pretty close together.

My parents told me when I was older that my pediatrician wanted me to go by ambulance. That I would get to Boston faster. He made a call to Mass General Hospital and they were ready for me. But my parents didn’t want me to be traumatized, or scared, by the ambulance ride. I was 4. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I just thought I was having trouble walking.

They also told me later on that they had never driven so fast. They were pulled over as they neared the city, and my dad explained what was going on to the police officer. He told them to go. To get me there as fast as they could. If I could meet that cop today, I would thank him. He didn’t keep my parents waiting for a speeding ticket, when they could have at the hospital, trying to figure out what was happening to me.

They were ready and waiting for us. They whisked me off for test after test. I remember being surrounded by doctors on a hospital bed and covered with white sheets. I was in the pediatric ICU. I underwent a spinal tap, along with multiple other tests, to see what was still working (legs, arms, etc.)

I was treated by one of the top pediatric neurologists in Boston, Eileen Ouellette. If anyone reading this knows her, I would love to get in touch with her. The last I found of her is either she is living on Nantucket now, and she was elected vice president of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2005-2006.  Without her, I don’t know what my life would be life today.

She confirmed the diagnosis. Guillian-Barre. And at the time, a very rare syndrome. So rare, in fact, that the Boston hospitals had yet to see a child with it. They consulted with doctors across the country trying to determine a course of treatment.

I spent 3 days in the pediatric ICU. I was isolated. My parent’s had to stay in a small room down the hall. I was alone. And at 4 years old, completely petrified. I remember screaming for my parents and buzzing my buzzer. I didn’t want to be myself. I was in a scary hospital, in a scary room, hooked up to all kinds of machines, and I couldn’t get out of bed without help. But after three long days, I was transferred to a regular room in the pediatric unit for the remainder of my stay.

IMG_2390
Off to my first check-up in Boston after recovering

I stayed at Mass General Hospital for a total of 7 days. 7 days of rigourous treatment. 7 days of painful therapies.

I have two very vivid happy memories from my stay. The first? Playing in the children’s playroom with other pediatric patients. All of us in wheelchairs. Laughing. And completely forgetting that we were in a hospital. Most of us probably didn’t quite understand what was happening. And the second was my bath time with one of the aids. She was just wonderful. Her and my mom wore raincoats one day, and kept adding bubble bath to the tub so I could splash and play like a normal kid.

My worst memory? My IV got infected one night. They had to rush me to an OR to replace it. Thankfully, I don’t remember too much about it. But I remember how painful it was and how scared I was.

But after 7 days, things started to get better.

I was sharing my room with a baby. I’ve always thought her name was Renee, but I could be wrong. She had spina bifida. I remember my parents being there and we had some other guests in the room, including our priest that we were very close to when I was growing up, Father Jamie. I heard her crying. I kept saying ‘Mommy, the baby is crying’ but no one heard me. So I did the only thing I could think of. I climbed out of bed, holding on to whatever I could find, and walked over to her crib.

IMG_2392
Kindergarten – rocking my denim skirt and hot pink socks.

Yes. I walked. After nearly 7 days of being essentially paralyzed, I got up from my bed and walked. It was second nature. It made sense to me. But when I turned around to say she was crying again, everyone was staring at me with their jaws on the floor.

The treatment was working.  At least that’s how I remember it.

I was released from the hospital in mid-April. I can remember vividly driving into my driveway to our forsythia bushes in full bloom. And laughing because I reminded myself that my Papa could never say ‘forsythia’ so he just called them yellow bushes. At 4, I probably couldn’t say it either. I was probably trying in the car, which is what got me laughing.

Even though I was home, walker in tow, I wasn’t home free yet.

I endured weeks of intense physical therapy. Painful physical therapy. Guillian Barre is the only disease that paralyzes you from the legs up. I was lucky. Well, lucky in the sense that my legs were paralyzed and my arms had some paralysis, but nothing more than that. It can be much worse. The disease has the potential to paralyze your respiratory system and so much more.

I endured both occupational therapy and physical therapy. My therapists were sweet, caring and pushed me hard. It took some grueling swimming, stretching and every other kind of exercise to get my legs and arms working again. It was horrible. Remember I was only 4. I hadn’t built up any kind of pain tolerance yet. And being in that much pain at 4, and still being able to remember it at 28, I know it was painful.

Even when I was in pain, crying and wanting to quit because I just wanted to go home and watch TV, they pushed me to take that extra step, and to go just a little harder. They refused to let 4 year old me quit. And I’m glad they didn’t let me.

Because it worked. All of their hard work paid off.

FullSizeRender2
A nice family vacation in Disney World after I fully recovered.

I went for follow-ups through the years, until I was probably 6ish (again, fuzzy on the details). At the time, my doctors had told my parents they weren’t sure if I would be able to participate in sports, or normal activities. I had (and still do not have) any reflexes in my knees, elbows or ankles.

Boy did I prove them wrong. I played the gamut of sports (softball, soccer, swimming, ice skating, skiing, and so on), but didn’t find my one true love of horseback riding until I was 9. And even that was painful. I worked so hard at it because I loved it. But would come home crying and in pain. But I worked through it.

I also suffered from a pretty depleted immune system from the treatment. As I got older, it got better, but for a long time, I was always that kid sick with something. Just another side effect.

But here I am, 25 years later. Still without my reflexes, and possibly a bit more injury prone (but that’s probably just because I’m klutzy), but I’m here.  Thanks to some wonderful doctors who decided that they were going to cure a little girl who contracted a rare disease that they had never seen in a child before.

Not only was I walking, and running, just a couple of short years after, but I was an athlete. A strong athlete. Proving that, you can do anything you put your mind too.

1923902_514811417085_616_n
Showing my beloved horse, when I was 16. Nearly 12 years after falling ill and recovering from Guillian Barre.

I am a Guillain-Barre survivor.

I can’t write this post and not thank my parents. I was four. I was their baby. Their only child. They were my rock through this. Alternating nights on the pull out sofa, driving me to PT, and everything else. Seriously. You are the best. I love you both.  (And my family, and friends, and everyone else that was around during that trying time. I wish I remember more of the ordeal, specifically the love and prayers that surrounded me and my family.)

New Signature

Tax Season: How I Plan to Keep Myself Organized for 2015

First, Happy Birthday to my Dad! I hope you have a fantastic day! XO.


Let’s talk about taxes. Because I’m in the middle of getting everything organized for mine, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so stressed out doing them! Ah… tax season.

I used to have it easy. A couple of W2s, some student loan interest and bank account interest, and viola, taxes were done easy peasy with TurboTax or HR Block.

But now, with a business, it’s a whole different ball game.

Tax SeasonUnsplash // Aleksi Tappura

If you didn’t know, I run a photography business. I started in 2011, and each year it’s grown (which I’m very thankful for.)  It’s my fun side business. I have a full-time job which I love, and I teach riding lessons on the weekend (which I also love.) But I love watching what started as a side hobby turn into a successful business.

Every year, I panic. I do it to myself. At the beginning of every year, I promise myself that I’m going to keep all of my receipts, track my mileage, and print out all of my monthly expenses and invoices as they come in to keep my life easier at the end of the year. And at the end of every year, I struggle to remember what I need to print out to get my taxes done.

This year has been no exception. And having the photography business really pick up this year, it’s been even more of an adventure. Two years ago. I used HR Block. It was fine. It got the job done. Nothing special. In fact, I probably should have just done it myself instead of spending the amount of money I did. Last year, I used TurboTax Professional and it went nice and smooth. This year, I just don’t want to be bothered to do my own. Especially with everything going on with TurboTax.

The good news? I meet with an accountant next week to get my taxes done, and I have almost everything I need. I just need to print a few more things out and call a couple places to get a receipt and make sure I’m not expecting anything from another place.

The bad news? I might have killed a couple of trees in the process. SO MUCH PAPER.

In an effort to keep myself more organized for my 2015 taxes, I’m already beginning to keep myself organized.

Keeping everything organized

It’s great if you print everything out, but not so great if you lose everything right away. I’m planning on buying an accordion file folder that I can label and put everything right into.

Checklists

I have lists for my lists. It’s bad, but it does help me to keep organized. I plan on keeping a checklist in the accordion file folder with all of the monthly expenses listed, as well as each month, that way I can check the month off as I go. Same with other invoices.

Printing out monthly receipts

With my photography business, there are a lot of monthly expenses that I just forget about since they get automatically paid. In an effort to remember, I set reminders on my phone to print out all of those monthly receipts around the middle of the following month. I have monthly expenses from various places ranging from the questionnaire on my website to my monthly Etsy fees for posting new products.

Printing out client invoices monthly

Another area I’m horrible about is printing out my client invoices. I do everything electronically, but still need print outs for the end of the year. So, just like the monthly receipts, I’ll be doing a check once a month for a client invoices (sessions, Etsy and client galleries), and printing everything out.

Tracking my mileage

This probably seems like a minor one, but it’s one that I can write-off and always forget to do every year. My plan this year is to track any mileage relating to photo shoots. It’s usually pretty minimal, but that way I can keep track!

Don’t panic at the end of the year

Hopefully by the following the above steps, I won’t get completely overwhelmed by my taxes at the end of the year! Panicking only makes it worse for me, but I hope that by the end of 2015, I’ll be super organized and ready to get my taxes done.

How do you keep yourself organized for tax season?

New Signature

 

 

 

PS – Because you guys rock, use code ITSERYNE20 at checkout in my Etsy shop to receive 20% off your entire order!

The Soundtrack to My Life

Have you ever had a moment where you’re listening to the radio, your iPhone, or music player of choice, and a song comes that sparks something deep inside of you?

Not just a ‘I LOVE this song,’ kind of reaction or a ‘This is my jam!’ thought, but more of a moment where you feel like you’re suddenly in a movie or a TV show and the song that starts playing represents your life at that exact moment.

Anyone? Or is it just me?

I’ve had it happen several times. I could be walking, working out, driving, shopping in a store (and the song comes on over the speakers), or listening to music as I work. And suddenly all sorts of emotions stir. Depending on the song, it could cause me to relive an exciting moment with friends, an event, a concert, even a sad moment.

I like to call these songs The Soundtrack to My Life.

The Sondtrack to My LifeUnsplash

Going deeper, these songs are not just my favorite songs. In fact, some of them I don’t even particularly like. And I honestly don’t even know why I have them. Probably because they are part of my life soundtrack and felt obligated to own them. These are the songs that would play during the movie of my life.

And I would like Mila Kunis or Jessica Alba to play me, just for the record. Even though we look nothing alike.

Here are just a few of the songs that make up my soundtrack:

  • MMMbop – Hanson: I was in 6th grade when Hanson become a pop sensation. I listened to this song over and over and over while jumping on bed and pretending my Hanson poster was real and I was hanging out with them. (I’m ashamed to admit that). But now whenever I hear it, it brings back fond memories of my childhood.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Deep Blue Something: I don’t particularly know why this song makes me so happy, but it does. Ever since the first time I heard, I can’t help but rock out to it.
  • Let It Shine – Joanna Pacitti: I downloaded this song back in the Limewire/Napster days. I downloaded it thinking it was someone else, but turns out it wasn’t. I listened to this song on repeat before every class in my showing days. Well, once I had a discman I listened to it over and over. It was my pump up jam. Every time I hear it, I think of showing my horse. Wonderful memories.
  • I Believe in a Thing Called Love – The Darkness: My first introduction to “rock”. Senior year of high school in our small Photo 2 class. We used to listen to this song on repeat. It drove the teacher nuts. I know every single word, and I’m totally not ashamed.
  • Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson: Freshman year of college. The first couple of weeks. I was having a hell of a time adjusting. This song just represented my life at that moment.
  • I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Whitney Houston: I think all women/girls have this song on their playlists. It’s the best. And everytime it comes on, I want to dance. Mainly because in college, my roommate and I would have spontaneous dance parties to this song every time it came on our iTunes. Even better, she played it at our wedding so we could have another dance party there.
  • Bleeding Love – Leona Lewis: There are MANY songs that remind me of Nick and I when we first started dating, but this one that really stands out. I was on quite a bit when we first started dating, and we both still love it. Definitely a highlight song of our relationship.
  • Summer Sunshine – The Corrs: Driving home on the first sunny day we had in weeks, on a June day, back in 2009, after I started my first career job at Kiva Systems. It was a beautiful day and I had glorious day at work.
  • All I Do is Win – DJ Khaled: Ah. Yes. DJ Khaled. Nick and I are competitive people. And when we play games, we need to have competitive songs. This is one of them. It stems from our days of Mario Kart competitions. He used to play this all the time. And yes, he usually won. It’s now a pump up song for me. I enjoy working out to it, and I laugh everytime I hear it because I think of the Mario Kart adventures.
  • Brave – Sara Bareilles: This song came out just as I was looking to switch jobs in 2012. I was concerned about doing it. It was big step. But this song made me feel so empowered. And every time I hear it, I still feel just as empowered as I did the first time I heard it.

There are SO many more. But, I don’t want to bore you with 50 different songs and why they are part of my soundtrack!

I want to know – what are some of the songs on the soundtrack to your life?

New Signature

What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?

When we are small, we all have dreams of what we want to be when we grew up. Some aspire to be firefighters, or police officers. Others hope to study to become doctors or lawyers. Others want to work with animals. And as we grow, some of our aspirations may  changed as we were exposed to different things through sports, school, our friends and family. Some know exactly what they want for a career and stick to it.

Looking back at what I wanted to be, I would have been through many career changes by now. Or paying for numerous student loans, possibly even still being in school! Here are four of the careers I had aspired too as I grew up.

GrowUpGratisography

  • Veterinarian. This was more when I was really young, around 5. We had just gotten our first pet (a cat named Melanie), and I was enamored with her. I decided that I wanted to be a vet so I could be with animals all day everyday, and playwith them. Obviously, I know now that being a vet is so much more than just playing with animals all day.
  • Pediatrician. This one lasted from the time I was in elementary school until I was in middle school, maybe even a little longer than that. I guess it stemmed from adoring my childhood doctor who was so kind and wonderful. She made the job seem easy. But as I got older, when I began to learn more about what a doctor actually does and the amount of school that goes into it, I started to rethink it. Not too mention, I don’t handle needles well (I think this is what really clinched it for me…) or blood. And germs. Okay, being a pediatrician would have been a horrible idea for me. But I loved kids so… the next one career aspiration made sense.
  • A Second-Grade Teacher. This was one was certainly attainable and almost did happen. My junior year of high school, I had an epiphany one day. I had been assisting with riding lessons for a little bit at this time, and realized how much I enjoyed teaching children. So I decided that I wanted to become a teacher, much like my father (who taught middle school for over 30 years!). Except I wanted to teach the younger ones, ideally second grade. I stuck with this until my freshman year of college. I even looked at colleges based on their education programs. Once I got to college, about 2 months in, my career path changed again.
  • Journalist/Writer. I realized that while a teaching career would have been wonderful, I wanted to do something I truly loved. I loved to write. I loved the news. I loved every aspect about it. I was even offered an internship with Saddle Horse Report, one of the major publications in the Saddlebred world, and jumped at it. I went through school, completely in love with every aspect of my Communications classes. I loved being able to write. I felt like I had found my calling.

Sidenote: It probably didn’t help that I also discovered Sex and the City at this point, and wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw. I wanted to write for a newspaper or a popular women’s magazine in New York City and live the grand life. Thankfully, I realized that that was all make-believe and reporters don’t make that kind of money to live that kind of life. But I still dreamnt about it every day anyways.

When I graduated, it was around that time that newspapers started to disappear, and I was trained in print journalism (I was even the Associate Editor of my college’s newspaper!). So, it was time to rethink my career again.

Which is how I ended up with a Masters Degree in Marketing. I figured it combined my love of creativity and writing with some logic, and it went well with my Communications degree.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

New Signature

Why I Chose Online Graduate School

As I drove to work a couple of mornings ago, the radio station I listen to daily was discussing with a listener about online degree programs. As I listened to their conversation (the mother was discussing how her daughter wanted to leave college because there was too much partying and she was considering an online degree), I couldn’t believe what the words that came out of the DJ’s mouth. The DJ uttered the words, “Online degree programs are a joke and a waste of money.”

I’m a longtime listener of this particular station, and I immediately turned it off. It takes quite a bit to offend me. But this hit a nerve. Why? Because I chose an online graduate program for my Master’s Degree. And for me, it was the best decision I had ever made.

Grad SchoolUnsplash

As a freshman in college, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school. Not because I needed too. But because I wanted too. I planned to finish my undergraduate degree, take a year off and start my journalism career, and then begin a Master’s program in the field of Journalism.

Fast forward to 2009.

After learning that print journalism may not be the best career choice, or one that would be around for much longer, it was time to look at my options. What could I do for a career that could incorporate my love for writing and creativity, into a job that would be useful? I landed on Marketing. A major that would open me to up to numerous career choices, companies and industries. I knew I couldn’t afford to attend a school in Boston, or closer to the city, even though it was my dream to go to Emerson. I also knew commuting all the time for classes wasn’t going to feasible and I would be pretty likely to call my program quits if that was my only option. I needed to work AND focus on school. As I searched, I discovered Southern New Hampshire University. They were close enough that I could get to campus if I needed too, but my classes would be solely online. Exactly what I was looking for.

Why did I choose to go with an online graduate school when I was only 40 minutes outside of Boston? Here’s why.

Convenience

I didn’t want to live by a schedule, other than my work schedule. I didn’t want to have to commute. I didn’t want the hassle of a classroom setting again. I wanted to be able to get up in the morning, log in to my courses, and begin my work for the week, from the comfort of my home. Or be able to do some of my discussions during my lunch break.

Cost

Graduate school is expensive. And since I was paying for it on my own, I didn’t want to go someplace where I wouldn’t be able to pay my loans back. I wanted a good ROI. Southern New Hampshire University fit that bill (no pun intended).

Real-Life Experience

As many of you know, a lot of your undergraduate coursework is a lot of classes you just don’t care about with information that you’re just not ever going to worry about again. At least until you get deep into your major’s classes.

I wanted a graduate school experience where I was in charge of my own learning. I wanted a school where my classes weren’t just about teaching the material, but rather applying it to real situations. Much of my coursework involved creating Marketing Plans for Mock Companies, Social Media Platforms, Contracts and so forth. I even had the opportunity to create my own company and all of the marketing that would be involved, as well as my own sports team.

These exercises not only prepared me for a future career, my assisted me with my own goals of a creating and running a business.  And much of it I got to use, while I was taking my classes, at my real-life careers. Not internships. CAREERS. Yep, I was creating marketing plans before I even had my Master’s degree completed.

Discipline

Going to school online taught me a lot about time management and discipline, even more so than my undergrad. It prepared me for ‘adulthood’ and managing a work/life balance. I had to make time for my classes, and make sure I was checking in throughout the week. No one was going to make me do it. No one was going to check in with me. It was all on my shoulders. If I didn’t do it, the only one who would suffer would be me.

Learning On My Terms

You’re probably reading this thinking “Yeah, well you can get that even at a school with in person classes.” Yep. You can. The difference? Each class is different and they run three days a week (depending on the school and major of course). My classes began on Sundays and ran through Saturdays. Each week was a new module, or theme, and we had readings and assignments for the whole week. Discussions? Oh, we had them. And boy could they be intense. How you ask? Discussion boards.

“But that’s not very personal. You don’t get a feel for your classroom and your classmates.”

Sure you do. Each of my professors had their own teaching style, even online, and you learned your classmates nuances. Even over the computer. Believe it or not, I still keep in touch with friends from my courses, who for the record, were all over the country and world.

If I wasn’t going to be around for the weekend, I made sure to get all of my work done with plenty of time. My posts in the forums happened at the beginning of the week instead of spread throughout the week. If I didn’t feel like studying on a particular day, I didn’t have too. Purely because I didn’t have to be at class the next day.

I was responsible for every bit of knowledge I acquired. If I didn’t do the readings, or the discussions, I wasn’t going to succeed. Just like if you were to go to class. You go to class, listen to the lectures, take notes, do the readings and assignments, and then go back to class. My difference was my classroom, was at home in my bedroom, or on my screened in porch, or on the beach. I could learn from anywhere.

In fact, here is a video I had to create for one of my online classes my final year of graduate school. I was asked to use it as a tool to recruit other potential online students as well.

Still not convinced about online programs? That’s fine. This post wasn’t meant to convince you. It was simply to show you why it was the best option for me.  And for all those online-program haters out there? It’s not a joke. I have a Master’s Degree in Marketing with a Social Media Marketing Graduate Certificate. I have a fantastic career where I utilize my knowledge daily.

And Southern New Hampshire University?

Yep, they’re getting coverage all over the country now for their cutting edge and affordable online programs. The amount of people I’ve met in recent years who have told me they did their program online at SNHU is amazing.

Do I wish I had been able to go to a large school in Boston for my Masters? Of course. And I easily could have.

Do I regret choosing an online program? Absolutely not. At the time, it was what was best for me. And I am now a huge supporter and encourager of online programs.

So I ask you: Have you ever taken courses online? Have you considered furthering your education online? If you already have, what was your experience like?

Untitled design(8)

What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self: Tips for Happiness, Overcoming Anxiety, and Tackling Life Head-On

Life goes by in an instant. One day, you’re 18 and off to your freshman year of college, and the next you’re nearing 30.

Recently, I’ve found myself looking back at my life so far. Nostalgic? Perhaps. But I’ve been thinking more about what I’ve learned so far in my short life, more than I have been reminiscing.

And as I thought about what I’ve learned, it made me think about the things I wish I could tell my younger self; the lessons I’ve learned, how to handle the bumps in the road and to remember that even those dark moments, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If I could go back in time, these are the things I would tell myself.

YoungerSelfUnsplash

Kick your worries to the curb. Worrying is normal. Letting your worries overcome your day is not. Some worries are worth fretting over. While others, like saying ‘no’ to someone isn’t worth it. Worrying takes up too much energy.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.  You may have a fear of what others think of you, but don’t let it hold you back from trying something you’ve always wanted to. Letting what others think of you get in the way of life will only cause missed opportunities and regret.

You will suffer from debilitating anxiety and depression. And you will get through it. Anxiety and depression run in your family. You’re bound to face it at some point. It just so happens that it will be your first semester of college and your first time living away from home. A very common time. You will battle with it all through college. Panic attacks and debilitating depression will become a normal part of your day. But in the end, you will get through it. You will learn how to cope. You will learn how to fight back. And in the end, you will want to help others simply by telling your story and letting others know they are not alone.

Exercise is necessary.  Just because you rode horses and practically lived at a barn, does not mean you will stay skinny and in shape forever. Learn to enjoy going to the gym, going for runs, and being outside. Because once you have a full-time job, finding time to exercise will become an excuse. And you will end up having at least 10 excuses every day for not going to the gym. If only you developed a routine in college, you’d be less likely now to fight the idea of working out.

Ask questions of family members before it’s too late. Your family members hold the key to your history. Learn everything you can before it’s too late. Find out more about your great grandparents. Ask your grandparents about their families. Listen intently. Your grandparents love to tell stories from their younger years.

You will know when you fall in love (and it will happen when you’re 22). It’s life-consuming, mind-altering and the best feeling in the entire world. When movies describe finding your soul mate, they most definitely got it right.

Friendships come and go. Some friendships will fade away on there own as you grow up and grow apart. Some will disintegrate before your eyes and there is nothing you can do. Others will end abruptly and painfully for various reasons. Others will grow stronger than ever, and you realize that they are some of the best people you know. Some will be new; that will develop over college and your career. And you can’t imagine life without them now.

Life will challenge you. As cliche as it sounds, life will throw you curveballs. And you will have times where you question how you are going to overcome them. But you will, and you will come out stronger than before. Life isn’t supposed to be easy. Without challenges, we as people aren’t able to grow and change. Take those challenges head-on and know that you will rise above.

Your best laid plans will change. At 16, you had a plan. You were going to graduate high school. Go to college. Become a teacher. And teach 2nd grade. Suddenly, as a freshman in college, you discover you would rather be writing, change your major, and focus on Journalism. As graduation nears, it hits you that print journalism is disappearing. You flounder. Take a few odd jobs, and end up at a company that changes your direction. You start a Master’s program in Marketing, and focus on a new career path. You end up in financial marketing for 2 years before landing a career that you are both passionate about and enjoy.

Sometimes those initial plans are meant to be disrupted. Because without the disruption, you may not end up where you are supposed to be.

You are responsible for your own happiness. The actions of others can make you happy, but they are not responsible for your happiness. Find ways to enjoy life. Find your passions. And do them everyday. Life is too short to not be happy.

Untitled design(8)

My Must-Haves for Fall

I’m in denial that summer is officially over. Today is the first official day of fall, even though fall has been teasing on and off for a couple of weeks now. Up here in New England, we’ve had a variety of 50-60 degrees, sprinkled in with a few 80-90 degree days, and a lot of 30-40 degree mornings!

While I’m in denial that summer 2014 is behind us, I am looking forward to fall. I love everything about fall. The flavors, the clothing, the colors, the crispness in the air, the lack of allergies (until the leaves start to fall of course…), and the holidays that follow. What I don’t like? Our cold New England winters. Dislike.

As fall approached, I started to think hard about what items I have to have for fall every year, along with what things I really wanted for fall this year. I hope you enjoy!

1. Pumpkin-flavored anything. Pumpkin Coffee. Pumpkin Beer. Pumpkin Bread. Pretty much pumpkin everything. I love pumpkin!

2. Riding Boots. And not the kind I actually ride in. I have a few pairs of these already. I love them. They look cute with jeans, dresses or sweaters. While I probably won’t need to buy any this year… I would LOVE to be able to own a pair of Frye Boots. Or maybe these adorable boots.

3. My camera. Probably a given. I mean… I always have a camera with me. But I love taking fall photos. I feel like the sunsets are always better. The colors are always better. And the lighting in general is just better. At least until daylight savings kicks in. Then I don’t leave my house.

4. My space heater. Okay. Let’s be honest for a quick minute. I need this stupid thing year-round. My office is quite comfortable temperature wise. But I’m ALWAYS cold. Like even on 90 degree days with the AC going. Freezing. But the second the temperature dips below 60 degrees, that bad boy is running overtime. I wish I wasn’t such a cold person (cue mocking jokes here…) but I freeze.

5. Crockpot. I love my crockpot. I don’t use it nearly as much as should. And I always forget that I can dump stuff in it in the AM and go to work, but on weekends it’s a god send. Specifically for Patriots games. When we make pulled pork (which is happened this weekend.) But my goal for fall is to use it much more often.

6. Ugg boots. Part of me doesn’t even want to admit to owning these… but I love them. And I always will. I used to go through at least 2-3 pairs of the bear paw boots every year. I finally sucked it up and bought real Uggs three years ago. And another pair two years ago. And neither pair need to be replaced. I swear, they are indestructible.

 7. Sweaters. I think one of the reasons I love fall is for the adorable sweaters. And I’m always on the lookout for cute new ones. Thankfully, I bought a bunch last winter, and hadn’t worn them yet, so I should be able to get another season out of them.

And my latest addition to my Must-Haves for Fall….

Hot Pink Crutch Covers. Obviously… this isn’t something I intended or normally would suggest for fall. But since I’ll be on crutches for the next 4 weeks, I might as well enjoy the way they look for the time being!

So tell me… what are your fall must-haves?

Untitled design(8)

#TransformationTuesday

As an avid Instagram user, I always try to keep up with the latest trends. I don’t always participate, but as someone who loves social media, and uses it daily both in my life and career, I like to know what’s popular. Social media is always evolving and changing, and it’s important to me to keep up with those changes.

One weekly hashtag that I’ve had an interest in has been #TransformationTuesday. Search for this particular hashtag and you will have thousands of photos in front of you, of people who have made incredible weight loss transformations. Whether it be from a weight loss pill company flaunting the results of their products, or the hard work of someone over a couple of years to reach their goal weight, these are truly incredible and inspirational transformations.

CREATIVITY.

Someday, I’d love to be the person flaunting my huge weight loss. It would be a great feeling to have a #TransformationTuesday like that. But, since I’m nowhere close to that, it made me think long and hard about what #TransformationTuesday means.

Is it about weight loss? Or is it a representation of a new you?

My own personal #TransformationTuesday – it represents a new me.

At 18 years old, I was 50 pounds lighter then I currently am. I was an avid horseback rider who spent most of her high school years living at the barn, where I was the happiest. The four-legged creatures were my favorite. I was a freshman in college. I had a core group of friends from home. I was a homebody. I was shy. I didn’t handle meeting new people well. I had never been in a serious relationship. And I was ashamed of my body. Even though, looking back now, I would love to be back at that size.

Fast forward 10 years later. I’m close to 50 lbs heavier. I don’t ride nearly as often as I would like, but I still get to the barn at least once a week, nor am I as active I should be. I’ve graduated with my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. I’m engaged to the love of my life. I grew out of my shyness. I’m not afraid to speak up and express what’s on my mind. I enjoy meeting new people. I have a career I love. And I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Yes, I don’t like my body. But I’ve learned to accept it and know that the only one who can change it is me. But the difference is, I’m happy. I may be overweight and not in good shape, but I’m happy.

10562506_10100146174202975_5170983196039126486_oOne of our engagement photos done by the talented Jaclyne Beaupre Photography

So what’s my transformation? I may have gained 50 lbs, but during that time, I found a sense of happiness and well-being that I never fully allowed myself to have.

I fully believe that we are never done ‘transforming’ ourselves. In a world that moves fast to move forward, we are always in need of some form of transformation to stay relevant. My next transformation will be working on getting to a body I’m 100% comfortable with. Not a weight; a body.

And from there, my next transformation will be continuing to live, love and learn and enjoy every day to the fullest. While not a normal transformation, continuing to open our lives to those three things every day will help up to transform as human beings.

So let’s change the traditional #TransformationTuesday from a weight-loss inspired hashtag to one that shows how our happiness has transformed.

 What defines your #TransformationTuesday?

Untitled design(8)

What’s On My Bucket List?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself wanting and hoping to accomplish more and more things in my life. And it seems like my newsfeeds are constantly filled up with people accomplishing their own items on their bucket lists. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’ve never put these items to paper (or blog in this case) and thought it might very well be time to do just that. Especially since I want to make sure that in the next few years, these items get accomplished! Make sure to scroll down after since I asked several friends and fellow bloggers for their own Bucket List items too!


Run a 5K: This has been a goal for several years now. I’ve been sidelined with injuries a couple of times and other times my training has just stopped for lack of motivation. So instead of it being a 3 month goal, it’s a bucket list goal.

Learn to Paddleboard: This has/was a goal for the summer, but with summer quickly winding down, and my schedule getting busier, I’m not sure if this will actually happen this year. It will happen though!

Learn to Surf: This has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember. And I plan on doing it before I’m 30. Two more years to go!

Surf in Hawaii, or someplace super tropical and known for their surfing: Obviously this would be after I learn to surf of course!

Travel to new places: Greece (Greek Isles specifically), Italy, Ireland, England, Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii, and multiple islands in the Caribbean: I LOVE to travel and explore new places. It’s one of my favorite things to do. If only I didn’t hate flying so much, and if only I had way more money. If I could, I would constantly be exploring new places.

santorini-greece-2Source

Write a novel: I’ve written on the blog before about my goal to write a novel, and publish, before I’m 30. I’ve been working on one since I was 19 (nearly 10 years!) and finished my first draft last year. I’ve been since picking away at editing and hope, and plan, to self-publish it in the next couple of years. Maybe I’ll finish it up during National Novel Writing Month this year.

Have a post or photo go viral: In a world where everyone is linked into social media, and constantly sharing things, my goal is to have something I’ve created get an insane amount of views, and get coverage on Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Distractify, the homepage of Yahoo!, etc. It would be such a huge feeling of accomplishment to see something I’ve worked so hard for succeed in that way!

See my Etsy shop succeed: This one is a bit tough because everyone’s definition of success is so different. But I would love to see consistent sales from it. I know it can take a while for this to happen, but it would be a dream come true to have my artwork and photography consistently selling.

Win the lottery (I’m pretty sure this is on everyone’s bucket list!): And I’m not saying a $400 million PowerBall jackpot. I would be thrilled with a $100,000 Megabucks win! I know it’s an insane longshot, but it’s still on the list!

See a Great White Shark in the wild: Okay, so this is a strange one because I’m actually scared to death of sharks; however, I find them so interesting. And incredible creatures. I don’t want to go cage-diving with them, but I would love to be on a boat and see one. That would be close enough for me.

Own my own horse: This has been my goal since I was a little girl. I’d be happy with a rescue that I can just play with it. But either way, horses cost money and right now, money does not allow for a horse. Hopefully someday!

1923902_514811382155_8773_nCompeting with my first horse when I was about 15 – we leased her for 3 years at High Tail Acres, LLC, where I still ride today.

Those are just a few, okay 11, items on my bucket list! I asked many friends and fellow bloggers what there top item on their bucket list is and here are their answers!


Cara at The Marblehead Marathoner – “My number one bucket list item is to complete all 6 world Marathon Majors ( London, Tokyo, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, New York). I only have Tokyo left!”

Heather at Run Eat Play – “The #1 thing on my bucket list is to run a half marathon. I was training for a half marathon over a year ago and got injured and was unable to run. I did physical therapy, had MRIs and Xrays. I was finally able to run again so a year later I signed up for the Disney World Half Marathon. And then my pain and injury came back. I had to drop out of the race again! Three weeks ago I had arthroscopic hip surgery to shave my hip bone and repair laberal tears and I am still in bed recovering. But I’m not going to let all that stop me! Although it might seem like an easy goal to most people, running a half marathon is #1 on my bucket list and I will accomplish it one day!!”

Beth – “My number one item was to visit the Great Barrier Reef and see it from every aspect. Swim with sharks, snorkeling, diving and sailing. And I got to, while living on a boat for a few day with a bunch of awesome Australian folk. While every night sitting around with drinks, discussing all of the different cultures aboard the boat, with no cell phones or computers… just people.”

Robin – “Cage dive with Great White Sharks”

Lesley at Greater Fitness – “My bucket list goal is the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in D.C. It was the Princess Half in Disney but I crossed that off this year!”

Sierra at Mind Over Matter in This Crazy World – “Bungee Jump”

Kristen at Run Away with Kristen KMy #1 thing on my bucket list is to run a race in all 50 states. I love to travel and think it would be an amazing way to see the rest of the country! Each time I run in another state I get to spend a few days getting to know the area and it’s been such a fun experience. I started last year and I’m currently at 5 and will be adding #6 in September.

Courtney at The TriGirl Chronicles -“My number one bucket list item is to run an Ironman triathlon, 140.6 miles!

Shannon: “To be, work for and represent something bigger than myself.”

Michelle at Trials and Tribulations – “#1 on my bucket list is to achieve my goal weight of 135Ibs. I’ve been working on it for years and still not there! There are so many exciting things to do in life though, I really DO need to actually make a “proper” bucket list!!”

There you have it!

Now I want to know – what is the number one thing on your bucket list?

Untitled design(8)

 

 

I Am Stronger Than My Anxiety

I’ve been wanting to write something about my own struggle with anxiety. I’ve seen many bloggers out there telling their stories (check out Lindsay Weighs In and Kaila at Healthy Helper for their stories) and I wanted to find a way to do the same. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to do a series of posts, a short post, or something a little more in-depth. So what you see below is what I decided on it. A one-time post about my 10-year journey. A journey that is not over, but has made me a much stronger person. While therapeutic, it was still very hard for me to write. It’s very personal, and I don’t get super personal on this blog. Be prepared; this is a long post, and potentially hard to read for some. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

It’s not the whole story, but rather the more important parts of the story. It’s my anxiety story and I finally feel strong enough to share it.


All it took was one look at the screenshot of a scam viral video and I was in a tailspin. There was no rhyme or reason to it; it just happened. And the worst part, it was an image that I had seen circulating on the web just days before. It wasn’t new to me. In fact, the first time I had seen it, I could have cared less about it.

But that’s the different between a high-anxiety day and a low-anxiety day. On a high-anxiety day, it doesn’t take much to send me swirling towards a panic attack.


The only way I can describe my own battle when I’m in the depths of anxiety is like falling into dark underground cave. As my anxiety starts to build, it’s like falling into the cave, but landing on a ledge so close to the top you can still see the world above. But you’re already starting to struggle to figure out how you’re going to get out.

As the anxiety builds, and the panic starts to set in, it’s like that little ledge letting go and you start to fall deeper in to the cave. Each time you struggle to climb to try to get out, you slip and fall a little deeper. It’s the same way with my anxiety. Just as I feel a little reprieve coming on, something sets me back, and I’m right back in it. Only worse.

Let’s back up to the beginning.

My anxiety didn’t rear its ugly head until I was a freshman in college. Looking back, I definitely started to suffer from some of the symptoms of anxiety as I was growing up and, more than likely, had already begun to suffer from chronic anxiety in my pre-teen years. Even though I wasn’t properly diagnosed until college. When I hit middle school, I was suddenly nervous all the time. Nervous to raise my hand in class, nervous that the teacher would call on me, nervous to get up and ask to use the restroom, nervous I would be late for class, and so on. Just plain old nervous.

In high school, I stuck to my daily routines and lived by the clock. If I had to be somewhere for 3 PM, I needed to be there by 2:45 PM for fear of being late. If someone told me they would be at my house by 6 PM, and hadn’t shown up by 5:59 PM, my nerves would go haywire. Cutting it close to any set time fed my nervousness.

I know, you’re probably thinking ‘You just don’t like to be late to anything.’ It’s true, however; I’ve been this way since I could tell time on a clock. Being late to anything is a trigger for my anxiety. It’s much better these days, but back then, it could send me spiraling.

Once I left for college, my mental issues quickly sprang to the surface. I was now in a world where I had to find an entirely new group of friends instead of living in my happy bubble of high school friends that I had known my entire life. I was completely out of my comfort zone and not quite sure what to do. I stayed in my dorm room, went to class, ate dinner and did homework. It was similar to my routine at home, minus the horses, so I stuck to it. Only it didn’t work.

Most students thrive when they go off to college. I did the complete opposite; I fell apart.

I was sobbing all the time. I was miserable. I hated being away from the comfort of my home. I hated being away from my family. I hated being away from my barn. I hated it all and began to think that going to college 2 hours away was a mistake.

But after about 2-2 ½ weeks, the homesickness began to subside. My parents came to visit. I went home for a weekend here and there. And realized I could do it. But once the homesickness went away, it was still clear to me that something more was going on.

Even after I met people and started to really have a life away at school, things still weren’t perfect. But I hid it under the surface. I smiled on the outside, but was unraveling on the inside. I didn’t tell a soul how I was really feeling, even though I appeared as happy as could be.

That was until I came back from Christmas break.

After being home for a month, and going back, I knew it would be a little easier this time. I had established myself in a group of friends. We had talked all break and couldn’t wait to get back to one another. I was ready to conquer my second semester of college.

Instead, I was met with debilitating depression and anxiety. I knew something was wrong.

I couldn’t snap out of it. All I wanted to do was sleep. I didn’t want to go to my classes. I found myself taking every opportunity I could get to drink with my friends. I wanted to escape how miserable I felt.

In the end, after a massive blowout with my roommate at the time, followed by a typical night of college fun (except it wasn’t so fun for me), my depression and anxiety finally showed that they were here to stay.

The next morning, I called my parents, sobbing. I was hungover, but told them I was sick. Like so sick that they needed to come take me home. I just wanted them to come get me; help me escape how awful I was feeling.

I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t stop crying. They drove the two hours out to see me; to take me out for lunch thinking I just needed to get out (seriously, best parents ever. Love you!) I was just homesick again.

I stopped crying long enough to get in the car and get to the restaurant. Instead of eating, I broke down sobbing in my mother’s lap in the middle of the restaurant. I was nearly 19-years-old and losing it in a busy local restaurant on a Saturday afternoon.

I wasn’t just sick. I wasn’t just hungover. I was having a nervous breakdown. I needed help. And I needed it immediately. We all knew it.

We paid the bill, and back to campus we went, where I packed up whatever clothes I needed, any school supplies so I could keep up with my schoolwork and anything else I needed. (These were the days before iPads and laptops… think desktop and iPod mini).

I said my goodbyes to friends, explained what was going on, and off we drove back to the eastern part of the state.

While driving home, phone calls were made and appointments were set up for therapy and medication. I was on my way to getting better.

I spent a week at home. I like to call it my ‘healing week’. My professors were incredibly supportive and understanding. If I didn’t keep up with the schoolwork, they promised to let me make it up when I came back. I just focused on feeling better, and feeling more like me.

I read. I went to the barn. I wrote in my journal. I saw the few friends that were still lingering in my hometown. I spent time with my family.

I just tried to remember that I was on my way to better.

And when I went back to school, things DID get better. My roommate apologized, and became incredibly supportive when she discovered what was going on. My friends rallied around me, both at home and at school. And I began to see that I could get through this. And I did.

Fast forward through the years:

I’ve been on and off medication three different times. The first time I went off was while I was still in college, around sophomore year. That only lasted about a year.

I ended up back on a new medication during my junior year of college. I ended up spending another week at home to get myself ‘better’ again. Thankfully, I hadn’t suffered a breakdown like the first time. I just knew something was not right, and wanted to fix it before it got worse.

The second time I came off it was in 2009. I did it cold turkey. I just stopped taking it. I was in a great relationship (with my now fiancé), I finally started to find my way, career wise, and I was just happy. I felt like I would be fine without it.

In 2010, I realized that my anxiety was getting worse again. Nothing had changed in my life, but I found myself falling back into that hole. I tried natural remedies (turns out I’m allergic to St. John’s Wort). I tried therapy, which didn’t help. It turned out I needed to be on medication. So back on it I went, for another 3 years, until this past May.

After learning the medication I had been on, on and off for since my junior year of college, had a side effect of weight gain and knowing that I had been having a really hard time taking the weight off, I thought back to the various times I had gone on it and saw a possible correlation between gaining weight and being on the medication. I made the decision, with the help of my doctor, to switch to a new medication. Unfortunately, this one didn’t help (in fact, I felt worse), so I decided it was time to go without again. I wanted to see how I would do.

I mean, I’m happy. I’m in love. I have a great job and a great life. I have the best support system there possibly could be. I would be totally fine without it.

6 weeks later, I’m back on it.

Turns out, I’m not totally fine without it.

But what have I learned? I am STRONGER than my anxiety. Yes I need to be on medication, but I will not let anxiety control my life. I won’t let it. It certainly tried during my six-week hiatus without medication, but I refused to let it win.

If I’m not on a low dose, my anxiety essentially takes over. And it doesn’t feel like I have control over my own thoughts. Unless you suffer from anxiety, or something similar, it’s pretty hard to explain or describe. Even with the medication, I still have to fight it. It’s just enough to quiet it. It’s still there, waiting to come out (and believe me it does), but it’s not constant like when I’m not on medication. And when I say constant, I mean from the moment I wake up until I fall asleep at night.

If you know me, you know that I’m really good at hiding when I’m suffering with a horrible bout of anxiety, or dealing with it at all … unless I say something. Only those closest to me know when I’m having a hard time. I’m much better about talking about it now-a-days compared to 10 years ago.

If you don’t know me, you would never even know that I suffer from it (you do now!). It’s not visible on the outside. It’s an internal battle.

But it’s a battle that I fight day in and day out. And I am the strong one in the fight. No matter how hard it works to bring me down and break me, I am always able to stand up and fight back.

I am STRONGER than my anxiety.

 

Have you struggled with mental illness? How have you overcome it? I’d love to hear from you!