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How Israel Saved My Life

27 Jan

There are so many reasons that I shouldn’t have gone Israel this summer. Heck, by the time the trip came around, I was 10 days past the age cut-off! Travelling with complete strangers, without the security blanket of familiarity, put me out of my comfort level, to say the least. At JFK, I constantly called E, sobbing, asking him to let me come home. I was grateful for the opportunity, but so unsure of why I had it.

I’ve been home for almost 6 months, and it’s taken me this long to fully absorb the situation, to understand the why’s instead of the how’s. Long story short? It was meant to be.

In ten days, I saw so much of the country, and was constantly on the move. I learned to make a tour bus feel like home, to have almost 30 strangers feel like family.


I was surrounded by art, mysticism and amazing falafel in Safed; rode a camel in the middle of the desert. I prayed at the Western Wall, sat in the same place on Mount Masada where I was Bat Mitzvah’d. I had (a vegetarian!) dinner in a Bedouin tent and swam in the Mediterranean. I cried at Yad Vashem, and  laughed loud and long, covered in mud, and floated in the Dead Sea.

















I hiked, swam, rode and rafted; sometimes in the front, and others in the back. Not once was I alone, physically, emotionally or spiritually. When I struggled, there was someone to carry me through, and at times, I was that person for others. Not once did I count a calorie. Not once was I ashamed of my arms, stretch marks or thighs. Not once did I hold back from a conversation or activity out of fear  or feelings of not being good enough. Not once was I ever not good enough.

Pictures may say thousands of words, and for the first time in a very long time, they’re written all over my face. See that smile? The one in every picture? 100% genuine, my friends.

I went to Israel, looking for a free trip, and I ended up taking quite the journey. At some point, at some time, that nagging little voice inside my soul went silent, as if the Universe was whispering, “shhhhhhhh”.

Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle. It’s work to get through the day, and it takes prioritizing, evaluating and learning to step back in order to do it. The difference between before Israel and after Israel? I want to make it work. I want to grow, to breathe, to be better. I want to be the kind of person that others look up to, and be involved in my community. I want to be a positive force, and be a wife, sister, daughter and aunt that my family is not only proud of, but likes and respects. It’s not about the next 10 pounds or 5 years, even though I’m still aiming for those. Some days might be awful, and some may be filled with light and laughter. And that’s okay. It’s okay to have good days and bad, and even ones that are just okay. I’m not making excuses or giving up; I’m allowing myself to feel, and to be human. Now that I’ve tasted happiness, I’m not willing to give up the craving.


Wk 1 Check-in, 26 to 27

24 May

Hey everyone!

Hope y’all had a rocking weekend – mine was certainly busy! Between family events, working in the yard and my store having a 40% off sale, it certainly flew by. Is it just me, or is the year flying by ridiculously fast?!? I wish there was a way to make it slow on down.

One week ago, I put myself on the 26 to 27 challenge, and it’s time for the first check-in. This week’s highlight was seeing my father and stepmother for the first time since October, which was around 25 lbs. ago. She gave me the best compliment ever, and told me that I looked like I did when I was a little girl, pointy chin and all. I tell ya, it warmed my heart! I weighed in yesterday – I went to take a picture of the scale, and it never occurred to me that the camera would add on weight…duh! Guess you’ll just have to take my word for it. I’m not one to put my weight out there, but for the challenge’s sake, why not?

Beginning challenge weight: 220.9 lbs.

Current weight: 218.7 lbs.

Total lost: 2.2 lbs.

I’m going to be honest, I was not expecting that at all! Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled; I thought I’d be stuck in the 220’s forever. I ate, for the most part, in a way that honoured my body without sacrificing enjoyment, which I’m really happy about. As always, you can check out what I eat on my SparkPeople food tracker. I don’t know how you feel about me posting meals and calorie counts every day; it’s great for accountability, but I really don’t think it’s all that interesting. Agree or disagree?  Either way, here’s a sampling of (most of) what I’ve eaten this week:
Chicken, Black Bean & Rice Burrito

I’m not perfect, and this is definitely proof of that.

  1. Hydrate! The goal was to drink at least 2L of water a day, and I did okay with this one. Most days was between 7 and 8 glasses, with a couple of days at 10. Hot decaffeinated tea has been a big help, as is the water bottle I keep at work, but this is still a huge challenge.
  2. Cut the crap I feel like I did pretty good on this one – I made the best choices possible in most situations, and really thought through what I was eating and why.
  3. Take some Zzzzzz I’m calling this one a big ol’ fail – I think I made it to bed at or before midnight once all week! I woke up at a decent hour most mornings, with one being 9:30 am and one being at 10:30 am. Better, but nowhere near good.
  4. Make meals matter NEED to work on this one more – I haven’t had set or regular meal times all week, and it’s messing up my sleep schedule.
  5. Caffeine-a-no-go Caffeine’s been almost completely cut out; I’ve had half-caff coffee one morning, and some diet orange soda another, but the rest of the week has been caffeine-free.
  6. Shake it! Another success – went to the Y twice this week, worked out once at the hotel while on mini-vacay, and did some arm-busting yard work this aft.
  7. Smell the roses I had a ton of fun this week! We saw David Copperfield and Chicago in concert, saw The Losers, walked, talked and planned some projects we’d like to start on the house. My biggest advancement, though, was to go with the flow. It’s hard to be a planner when you’re trying to be the most accommodating, and with my dad and stepmom in town, I feel like I gave up a lot of control to be able to allow them to have the best trip possible. I’ll admit, it wasn’t too bad, and it did make it much easier to enjoy a short but sweet visit with the ‘rents.

All in all, not too shabby. This week I’m pushing for major hydration, regular meal- and bed-times, and four days in the gym (I’m hoping the pool will be open!). I feel stronger than I did last week, and I think it has to do with making a plan and sticking with it. Despite issues with school and scheduling, I’ve stayed fairly focused, and I’m starting to see the connections in work and play. I need to stay focused and breathe, and everything else will follow in line.  Plus, the more relaxed I am, the more gets done, which translates to more time I get to spend like this:

Have a great week!


16 May

Happy Sunday, and welcome to the new site! It’s in a state of transition, so pardon the dust, and please update your readers!

It’s been a crazy week, but a good one, with the days I spend at JamieHuntington’s Kitchen being a definite highlight – how could it not be? That place is pure happiness! The semester’s over, grades have been posted, and I feel like I can breathe again. All in all, a ton of weight feels like it’s been lifted off of my shoulders. Unfortunately, it hasn’t come off my ass. I haven’t lost any weight in a month. I also haven’t gained an ounce, but despite the fact I still fit comfortably into my clothes, I just don’t feel right. With everything that’s been going on, I haven’t made exercise a priority, and my eating is a whole ‘nother story. My life isn’t always about a number on the scale, but add up the lack of energy, insomnia, bloat, and general meh I’m feeling on a daily basis, and a change has to be made.

My 27th birthday is in 26 days, and I’m celebrating by challenging myself, making 7 changes to start my new year off right!

  1. Hydrate! No wonder I feel so blah!!! Most days, I don’t even think I reach my full 8 glasses. So the new plan is to drink AT LEAST 2 liters a day.
  2. Cut the crap There’s a huge difference between eating like a normal person and eating for the hell of it. Food is fuel, and I’ve been running on fumes. So, it’s simple – make better choices. Eat more whole foods, up the protein, and limit sugars and sodium.
  3. Take some Zzzzzz My head usually doesn’t hit the pillow until after 1 a.m., and I’m struggling to wake up in the mornings. Two alarms and a vibrating disc can’t wake me up, and my schedule’s all out of whack. Challenge? Short of being on the town for an event, I’m hitting the pillow before midnight, and waking up at 8 a.m., no matter what.
  4. Make meals matter I’m not eating regularly, so by the time nourishment comes along, I’m hangry and stuff my face. For example, Friday’s meals had breakfast at 10:30 a.m., lunch at 4 p.m. and dinner at 10 p.m. with a snack at 1 p.m. Not bad, but I hit a few walls. New rule? Breakfast within 40 minutes of waking up, followed by nourishment of some sort every 3 hours after, for a total of six ‘meals’. No running on fumes for this gal!
  5. Caffeine-a-no-go I’ve been guzzling on caffeinated beverages like they’re about to go extinct, with Diet Mountain Dew being the king of the castle. It’s no wonder I can’t sleep! I’m not willing to cut caffeine completely, but there’ll be none of that after 7 p.m. No unsweet tea, coffee, or diet sodas; caffeine-free is a-okay, but only 16 oz. per day.
  6. Shake it! Now that school’s out of the way for a little while, I have no excuse not to get physical. The gym needs to become a priority again, so the goal is to exercise 4x a week. It doesn’t have to be inside, but it does need to happen. It could be yoga, swimming, cardio, walking, strength training or what have you – the sky’s the limit. I have a 5k trail walk in a couple of weeks, and if I don’t get back in shape, I’m going to be huffing and puffing.
  7. Smell the roses As E would tell you, I’m a little on the tense side, and I need to relax. I’m giving myself permission to do something relaxing at least once a week, and enjoy the moment.

Looking at the list, everything’s connected – I can’t sleep because I’m tense and full of caffeine, I feel sluggish and tense because I’m not sleeping or exercising and I’m eating like crap. I’ll be checking in every 7 days, with my last check in on June 10th, my birthday. Want to join in and help celebrate my last 26 days of being 26 in style? Leave a comment, and let me know what you’re changing for the next 26 days. Don’t forget, you can still help me reach my goal of 50 to 50 for the Epilepsy Foundation; each comment is now worth a dollar, and I’m 17 away, so head on over and make yours count.

Race for Hope 5K, and whatever happened to C25K?

2 May

There are very few things in my life that I need answers to. I know why I gained so much weight, why I’ve had problems with school and social relationships, and what I need(ed) to do to right some wrongs I’ve done to myself and others. I’ve had one nagging question since I was a little kid, and I’ve never gotten an answer.

“Why do I have Epilepsy???”

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it before on the blog, but I’ve suffered from had Primary Generalized Absence Seizures for almost 19 years, and it’s greatly affected my life. I have memory, coordination and balance issues, and I’ve had to give up a lot of activities I loved, like video games, some concerts and clubs, skiing and gymnastics. Like 67% of all epileptics, I’ve also had the co-syndrome of depression and, for me, it’s been the biggest challenge. 70% of all kids with PGA seizures outgrow them, and I did at 12. However, when I was 18, it reared its little head again, and I became one of the few adults with childhood epilepsy. I don’t like to be called a victim or a sufferer, because it could always be much worse. I’ve lived on my own, have no brain damage and having been seizure-free for 9 years, I can drive a car. I’m on medications that have few side effects, and my last brain scan three years ago showed a normal brain.
If I’m okay, then why am I talking about it now?
Because with all I know about PGA, the one thing I don’t know is why.
It’s idiopathic, meaning there aren’t known causes in every case, but can be hereditary. I’m the only one in the family as far back as four generations that I could trace with epilepsy, so it’s a really frustrating answer, and without further research and education by the scientific community, I’ll never know. One way to raise money for research is to participate in fundraisers, so when I heard that the Epilepsy Foundation of Cincinnati was coming to Huntington to start the Race for Hope 5K on May 1st, I knew I needed to sign up. I ended up deciding to walk instead of run, thinking about how much easier it would be.

There was nothing easy about it.

5k is about 3.1 miles, which sounds like nothing, right? It sounded so simple, and every time E would bring it up, I’d brush it off. Never mind that last January, I couldn’t walk a half mile without stopping 2 or 3 times. Never mind that I hadn’t been to the gym in the last week. Whatever, it’s just a 5k. Before the race, I gave myself 2 requirements: finish in 60 minutes, and don’t finish last. I didn’t want to be the one everyone was waiting on or the one that got left behind. I never once took a moment and patted myself on the back for signing up, showing up or doing my best, and I should have.

When the walk started, I power-walked for a little bit, but literally two minutes in, my shins were on fire. Right away, I freaked out, and knew I wouldn’t make it. The walk became more about making it to the next volunteer than leaving folks in the dust, and somewhere along the way it became more about the hope than about the race. I realized that I’ve wasted so much time beating myself up over all the things that I can’t do that I’ve never given a thought to all that I can and that so many people can’t, including walking. I walked for the me’s that I have been, am and want to be. I walked by a funeral and walked on for the someone in the hearse that couldn’t. I walked by Marshall University, and walked on for the people who thought I’d never make it there and those that did. I walked by my bank, our favorite restaurants and city hall. I didn’t stop walking, not even once, not even for a second. I stopped checking the time, my heart rate and the calories burned, because in the moment, they just didn’t matter. At some point, I snapped out of my internal dialogues, and realized that I was almost there. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried as I got closer and closer, and it was so amazingly cathartic. I could feel the pressure, pain and anger slip away, and what was left was just me. I crossed the finish line exhausted and calm, and met up with E, who was waiting for me.
So, how did I do?

With an official time of 52:27 (16:53 pace), I ranked:
81 out of 107 participants
18 out of 42 walkers
5 out of 6 overall in the 25-29 division
38 out of 53 overall females
2 out of 3 females aged 25-29

Yup, I placed!

Every time I try to brush it off as an accomplishment, all I have to do is look at this moment and that medal and I realize how awesome I truly am. I never stopped or looked back, and no matter how challenging it felt sometimes, I kept on keeping on, and for that, I rock! I don’t always have to be the first or the best; by showing up and taking charge, I can keep being the best Carly that I can be.

“Life is a positive-sum game. Everyone from the gold medalist to the last finisher can rejoice in a personal victory.” – Unknown

So why didn’t I run?
Pretty soon after starting C25K, I realized that at least for right now, it’s not the right program for me. I’ll admit that it was really hard for me to come to the decision to put it on the back burner yet again, but I truly believe that had I kept pushing for it, I would’ve resented it. For me, the whole point of doing C25K was to have a new adventure, a new activity, and a reason to keep reaching for a goal, and it was just not doing that for me. I’m kind of jealous of everyone I admire who are having a blast with the program, and hope that one day, I’ll be back to follow in their footsteps.

P.S. I’m donating $0.10 $1.00 to The Epilepsy Foundation for the first 500 comments made on this post before June 10th, which is also my 27th birthday. This is a cause I believe so very strongly in, so go on and get cracking! Tweet, re-post and help make sure that I’m a little poorer. Every comment counts.

St. Louis and Ethical Eating

16 Apr

This past weekend, I was in St. Louis to help celebrate my friend Amanda’s wedding, which was a blast, but one of the harder ones of the last year. I knew there wouldn’t be a lot of options for me as an ethical flexitarian, but decided in advance to make the best of it. I wanted control over my food choices and my budget, so I made sure to bring along some corn thins, a packet of Justin’s honey peanut butter, a couple of Luna protein bars and some oatmeal, figuring I’d at least have breakfasts and lunches covered. I ate one of the protein bars on the way there, and decided to have oatmeal for lunch. When I arrived at the hotel, I quickly discovered that there was no coffee maker or microwave, and the hot water was permanently set to around 80 degrees – hot enough for showers, but not for oatmeal. Strike one.

I ended up heading to a Walgreens with Amanda’s mom and aunt to pick up some snacks for her son, and bought some dried fruit, a spicy V8 and a cheese stick. Not the best options, but having landed at 9:30 am and it being almost 3 pm, I was starving!

Then the rehearsal dinner came around – let me preface this by saying that I in no way ask, demand or expect to always have my food choices catered to – and it was really hard. Pizza and Applebee’s appetizers were served, and I realized that I had three choices: eat in a manner that would go against my ethics, eat crap that would make me feel bad both mentally and physically, or just not eat. Option 3 just wasn’t going to happen. Option 1 meant that I could eat chicken breast and the beef out of some burgers, and make do, but the thought of it literally made me gag. Option 2 meant eating pizza and mozzarella sticks, with a few sticks of celery on the side.  Guess what I went with? Option 2. I decided that eating meat was just as ridiculous a decision for me as not eating at all, and couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I ate the celery (which quickly ran out), the pizza and the mozzarella sticks. I’m not proud of it, nor am I proud of how much of it I ate. It was, however, the best choice at the time – I’m glad I followed my gut. Plus, I knew that I’d be doing C25K the next morning, which would at least negate a slice of pizza 🙂

I got up bright and early the next morning to “run”, and guys, it was rough. Between the fried foods and the dehydration issues from the night before, I was lagging, and every interval was painful. 15 minutes and that was it. I called it quits, and headed back to the hotel. I noticed there was a Starbucks in the hotel lobby, so I grabbed an iced coffee and a cup of hot water and headed upstairs for some oatmeal, and it was glorious! The rest of the day went pretty well; went to the salon with the rest of the bridal party to get our hair done, had lunch with the bride, groom and their families (they had egg whites and fruit, thank G-D!), and helped Amanda get ready. The wedding was beautiful and went off without a hitch, and then it was party time!

The reception turned out to be even tougher than the rehearsal, and my dinner consisted of cheese, crackers and fruit. Even though I know I did the right thing, it was really hard watching everyone enjoy the delicious meal, and choosing not to partake in it – I’m starting to understand how tough it can be for E as a vegetarian. I made a choice on what I choose to eat and how I choose to spend my dollar, and it’s not always going to be easy, and this weekend was a great way to learn that lesson. By the end of the night, I’d devoured two pieces of wedding cake – tasted awesome, felt horrible. I’ve been hearing about this cake for months, and wanted to try both flavours. I usually split with E, but since he wasn’t there, I figured I could half of each slice. It’s times like this when I forget about ED, and I was quickly reminded. Emotion and stress overtook, and it was like I had no control over my fork or the hand that guided it, and it sucked. It sucked real hard. It was bad, but it could’ve been much worse, and I’m thankful that I was able to stop myself before I had a full-out binge.

The next day, everything was good again – headed to the airport, hopped on a couple of planes, ate some tofu and veg at CVG which was very necessary, reconnected with E, and all was well with the world.

Long story short: had a great time and was glad to be there, but I’m glad it’s over!

Picture Time:

Room Tour!
The entryway

The bathroom –
modern, clean and see the shower behind me? 
My blogging station/classroom,
thwarted by the $9.95 daily internet fee

4 pairs of shoes for 2 days – 
I obviously like to be prepared for anything!

Rehearsal dinner-ready
The bed

The beautiful view from my room

Busch Stadium, home of the Cardinals and the ceremony location