Will You Make the Choice to be Healthy?

This blog post thought started when a ripple went through the nation about the most recent Biggest Loser Winner and how she may be TOO skinny. I’ll be honest, I’ve always had the fear of this happening with that show, especially for people who are former athletes (super competitive) and/or have addictive personalities. I fear this because I’ve walked in those shoes. I’m a former athlete and also a former exercise anorexic. I’ve felt the thrill of losing weight and wanting the numbers to KEEP coming off even when there really were no more pounds to shred. I know the “joy” of stepping on the scale every morning and feeling that “control”, but I refuse to go back there. Refuse.

Instead I choose this…

I choose to be healthy!

And I want to challenge you to do the same. I want to challenge you to let go of the number on the scale, let go of the calorie counting, let go of the fat restricting… and simply choose to live a healthy life. Choose to daily eat fruits, vegetables, and nutrient dense foods… to daily be active and to be active at an activity level that is healthy and not overindulgent. Choose to tell yourself you are beautiful just the way you are every day and to judge your health level by how you feel, the energy you have, and the way your clothes are fitting. Choose to deal with your anger, frustrations, insecurities, and anything else bothering you instead of letting it eat away at you. Choose to embrace yourself. Right now. Where you are at. Choose to let go of harmful practices, harmful relationships, harmful foods. Choose to have cheat days. Right now, in this moment, I challenge you to make a choice.

Will you make the choice to be healthy?
Will you choose to recognize you are a unique individual and your healthy is vastly different from anyone else’s healthy?

One of the worst things we can do is compare our health to our neighbors health. To compare our weight to our neighbors. To compare our diet to our neighbors. To compare our exercise regimen to our neighbors. To compare our job to our neighbors. To compare our relationships to our neighbors. 
Choose to let go of comparison.
Choose in this moment for facebook, pinterest, and all other social media to not be comparison resources, but rather to be resources that help you to establish YOUR version of healthy. Your own unique and absolutely stunningly beautiful version of healthy. Trust me, it is worth it… Because you are far more than a number on a scale, a clothing size, miles run, hours worked out, job title, friends on facebook, and whatever else you may define yourself by.
You are stunningly unique and beautiful.
Today is your day. To choose to change those habits whether they are over exercising or under exercising. Whether it is over eating or under eating or maybe it is not sleeping enough or sleeping too much.It just might be too much junk food and not enough nutrients or maybe it is an abusive relationship. It may be letting go of that self harm you think will help ease your pain. Whatever it is that is keeping you from being the healthiest you, I challenge you, get to the core of the problem. So my challenge to you:
Dig down to the core of your unhealthy habits.
 It is going to suck. But it is most definitely worth it. It may have started somewhere in your childhood or those dreadful years called middle school. It could be self inflicted or stem for lies that someone has fed you. It could be out of sheer laziness or lack of self worth. Whatever it is, find it and face it. Let’s walk through the unhealthy habit struggles together while each of our unique versions of healthy unfolds. 
Will you walk this journey with me?
I sure hope so! If you feel so inclined, share your stories, your pictures, and your journey. I absolutely love stories of beauty from ashes! The road to health is a daily journey and it is better traveled together, side by side, without comparison but rather a journey full of teammates. Let’s do this. Together.
You my friend, are stunning and beautiful and I canNOT wait to watch what your version of healthy looks like.

It’s Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day is the day where everyone thinks of conversation hearts, flowers, chocolates, hot dates and romantic sentiments.  I mean, even my Pandora has added stations to set the mood….

Pandora’s email to me this morning…
So, tonight is a special night.  Are you going out?  Staying in?  Today, I am going to give you some small, but festive ways to sport Valentine’s Day whether you decide to get dolled up or stay in your pajamas.

Roses are red…
I love roses as most girls do.  So why not incorporate them into a hair style!  You don’t have to do something outrageous to look chic.  These are just felt rosettes on a clip.
I found this on http://gilbea.blogspot.com/2009/01/monday-giveaway-hair-pins.html
Violets are blue….
Right now, pastel eye color palettes are all the rage!  MAC and Cover Girl have their pastel shades out just in time for spring.  If you are wanting a little more dynamic make-up this evening, consider using violet eye shadow to accent your eyes.  A little can have a brilliant affect and go a long way.  Light eyes are perfect for evening.
Look found on http://www.apc-cosmetics.com/en_makijaze.php

Here is another beautiful palette that you might consider: http://www.temptalia.com/mac-antonio-lopez-6-eyesviolet-eyeshadow-palette-review-photos-swatches

You are beautiful…
Whether you are celebrating this holiday with a significant other, with friends, or just simply chalking it up to another Friday in 2014…it is always a good reminder to look in the mirror and genuinely realize all of the qualities you possess that makes you awesome!  Remember there is only one you.


I hope you believe that too!
You don’t need one day to feel special in my book.  You should feel special everyday!  Life is about the little things, you know…
Happy Valentine’s Day,
Catie Manning

Changing the way I view life

Snow is falling again. Wait, let me rephrase that: it’s always snowing these days. Its true. And it keeps piling up and up and up. My husband has made a heap of snow from shoveling our driveway that is now taller than he is; it’s ridiculous. Do I like snow? Yes. Do I wish that I could see the sunshine? Oh, yes! I think what bothers me the most is that it has been so cold that I can’t take my daughter out much at all. Single digits are not exactly the ideal weather for a one year old. However, despite all the snow, and being cooped up inside 24/7, I am trying to change my outlook on life.
I started reading “One Thousand Gifts” last year and still have not finished it (ha! such is life), although I have continued to try adding the art of thankfulness into my life more. I get so caught up in what needs to be done every day, from cleaning to cooking to changing diapers and making sure the babe gets her nap etc etc etc, that I let myself and my mindset get swept away by the rush of it all. I need to learn to catch a breath here and there to be thankful for the vast blessings given to me and my family. Like, here’s one to start: I am sitting here looking out the window at the snow flurrying by and I am thankful that I not only have a roof over my head but that I also have heat and running water. There are so many others who are without a home or without money to pay their gas or electric bill during weather such as this. I couldn’t even imagine what that would be like. And then I get to looking around our house that is filled with so many wonderful things and I think about how (for the most part) we could just go to the store and buy whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. We don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from or if we are going to be evicted because we just don’t have quite enough cash to cover the rent. 

It’s mind boggling when I think about how blessed I am.

When did we start thinking that we need the perfect house/car/dress/shoes to be happy? When did we decide that material things are what bring us joy? It is my hope that I will break free from that mindset and live a life that is happy no matter what house I live in, or country I move to, or what picture I do or do not have hanging on my wall. 

Contentment: my goal of life. 

On that note, sort of, I want to tell you about what is happening in our lives right now. My husband and I decided that we should act on a plan that we have been mulling over for a while now. Our long term goal is to do mission work but we have wanted to wait to do that until we get our school loans paid off as we want to be self-supporting missionaries. So, we have decided to move back to Detroit at the end of February. We will be moving into the upstairs of my in-law’s house (which is basically like an apt just with no kitchen) and doing everything we can to get rid of our debt as fast as we can. We currently own two houses- one in Arkansas from when we were in school and the one that we currently live in here in Grand Rapids. We want to sell both and be free from mortgages until all other debt is obliterated. Our main goal is to be free from things tying us down; whether that be debt, physical possessions, you name it. 

We want to be free to go where God leads us WHEN He leads us.

Will we someday “settle down” again and buy a house? Probably, but only if we can pay half of the price with cash or something. Debt is something that didn’t mean much to me when going to school and getting loans to pay for my education. Now that we are on the other side of school and trying to make things meet with the “dream job that is supposed to make everything better”, we have realized that debt is so not worth it. Debt means you are indebted to someone else; they have something over you. You are at their disposal, in a sense. I hate that feeling.

I want to be content wherever I live, with whatever I have, with the family whom I love. I want to live a life that is free from debt. I want to bless others as I have been blessed. Those are my dreams. So despite the snow, or even the scorching summer days that I know I will not be happy about either, I will choose joy. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like or what my circumstances are; what matters is how I choose to react to them. 

Have a joyful week!!

What I learned in one week


Last week was like having the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day on repeat. Every day brought its own disastrous event that in some way made my heart ache. Through these events of last week I’ve learned a few things.

I learned early in the week just how powerful the click of a computer mouse can be. With one click someone lost both my trust and my respect. A click is powerful; in a day and age where we can gain access to so many things so quickly, we can also change relationships with just one click of a button. Think before your click.
Also early last week I relearned the very true reality that seemingly healthy living objects can die without notice or obvious cause. My family’s five-year-old Golden Retriever was barking one minute and gone the next. That was another hard blow. However what was even harder was hearing my mom’s gut wrenching sobs over the phone and not being able to bridge the 160-mile gap between us. Always remember to let your loved ones know just how much they are loved.
Grief gets easier, or rather lessens, with time. Still, on the anniversary of the death of a loved one, it can often feel like a brand new wound. My grandpa has been gone four years, but remembering my last conversation with him and his last days of suffering is still difficult. My heart aches to hear his voice as he picked up the phone and said ,”nobody is good enough for my girl.” Grief does get easier with time, but that doesn’t mean we miss the person any less.
I’ve been in outpatient nursing for seven months now. On Wednesday of last week I learned what its like to lose a patient you are really close to. I learned just how hard it is to realize that that patient will never walk in again with her big beautiful smile beaming at you and say “my nursey.” This is one of the hardest aspects of my job, but because of this week, I learned one of the most rewarding. I was sitting at my desk, crying as I had just found out the news, when I received an e-mail from this precious patient’s husband. I cannot imagine the depth of his grief at this moment and yet he took the time to write me to tell me how much I meant to his wife and how I was her favorite nurse. He told me that what I do every day matters. I learned in that moment, to an even greater extent than I already knew, how amazing the patients and their families I get to work with are. Secondly I learned, that what I do day in and day out truly does matter.
On Thursday, I watched as a sweet, elderly lady got hit by a car. As I ran to her side I learned a few things about people: One, that we, as humans, have a hard time taking responsibility when we do something wrong. I don’t remember much of what was said by the lady who’s car had hit this sweet woman because my focus was on the injuries of the woman, but I do remember this that instead of checking to see if this woman was ok, the driver was yelling at the woman she hit, telling her it was her fault. I learned through managing this scene that the billion CPR classes I’ve taken have paid off (mainly the “YOU  call 911!” part). And I learned the power of kneeling next to someone on the street and saying, “I’m a nurse,” has the ability to calm that person down.
Finally, on Friday, I learned that stopping for a pedestrian in a crosswalk can get you rear-ended and that a stressed out person can yell at you that it is your fault because you stopped for a pedestrian (I also learned just how rock solid my car is and how thankful I am for its safety ratings!). And as I sat in my car waiting for the police, I learned that sometimes at the end of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week all you can do is laugh and cry at the same time. 
In a week’s time, I learned more than I wanted to. I endured more than I wanted to. But I am blessed. I am blessed to not have to be my own strength, because I have an anchor of my soul who will be the strength I need. I’ve been reminded just how amazing my family and friends are. And in a weeks time I was reminded time and time again just how precious every second is. This one week I will never forget. This week forever changed me and for that I am truly grateful.

Changing my view on stress

Last night I was stuck. Stuck on one of the main highways in the Chicago area. I saw construction signs… and I was annoyed… and then I saw an ambulance and tow truck race by. My heart ached for those people. I could wait in traffic as long as it took in order for them to get that person or people to safety and the medical care they needed. Perspective. As I sat in traffic I was working on my perspective on many things, and recently I had watched this video…

(I highly recommend you watch it)
Right now I spend at least 10 hours in traffic a week. And this is Chicago traffic. On average it takes me an hour to drive the 11 miles to work. Then when I get to work it is normally high stress until I leave to go home… and then I’m stuck in traffic again… and then I have to battle for a parking spot. For 90% of my day I feel like I’m under extreme stress. 
But what if my view changes? What if I decide to be thankful I have that time in the morning to catch up with people and process through things. Be thankful I have a car that works and that I CAN drive to work. I love my job, and though it is high stress, I am trying to view it as a blessing to have a job I love so much. To have coworkers that in just 6 short months have become like family. To have patients who trust me enough to be vulnerable during one of the absolute hardest times of their life. And that at the end of the day I can get back in my car and drive home and walk into the my place that has heat and running water.
None of this removes the stress, but it does change my perspective. And perspective can change how I handle the stress. I don’t expect to be perfect with this, but I am hoping that as I continue to make a conscious effort, I will be thankful for the stress.

I’m going to make a conscious effort to have healthy relationships around me. To support those that are around me as well. I’m going to give more hugs. I’m going to make a conscious effort to spend time with people where I can support them. I’m going to be thankful that my body can respond to stress so well. I’m going to be thankful for the support I do have and that I don’t have to handle stress alone.

I am going to change my view on stress. Because life is full of stress, but it is ultimately from that stress that many of my blessings come.

This year, I am going to choose to be thankful for stress… and hug a lot more 🙂

How are you going to change your view on stress?

Adoption Is Growing Me

Don’t ask me when I first became interested in adoption. I couldn’t tell you. Somewhere between high school or college is my best guess. It really doesn’t matter though. What matters is that this desire has continued to grow and take root.

Me (Emily) & my better half, Nick

I met and married a rather special someone who is also passionate about adoption. It was something we first connected over in our dating days, something we talked about as we made our budget during engagement, and something we’ve saved for since day one of our marriage.

Two and a half years ago we both would have told you we would get married, live life just the two of us for two to three years, then have a couple biological children, wait till they were 10-12 and then adopt. All while saving for this long-term goal of adoption.

Yet God has a way of changing our plans, or at least showing us that our plans are not always His. We hadn’t even been married a year when my heart began breaking more than I thought possible over the fact that are millions of orphans around the world. One of my friends has termed this ‘orphan pain’ and it is an incredibly accurate description. There were days I just wanted to do nothing but scheme and plan how we could help and days my heart was just broken beyond belief at the thought that the word orphan even exists because it represents a very real crisis and very real hurting boys and girls who need care, love, and a family. 

I began to pray. Some days I pleaded for this burden because the timing was all wrong. Other days I begged Him to let us do this NOW! Most of the time though I read and researched and felt compelled to do something all while knowing that wouldn’t happen.There was no way my husband would be on board this early…

Imagine my surprise when he came home one night a month or so later and mentioned that the Lord had been working on him! I hadn’t said a word to him! This whole time I had been in silent turmoil feeling like we would never agree on this. I was wrong.

Courtesy of Kristi Witek. Taken during her trip to Columbia.

We began researching options and trying to think through what we were being called to do. We hit some BIG roadblocks. I remember being very real with the Lord and questioning why He had given us this burning desire only to bring us to an impossible place. We got no real answers. Rather, we continued to talk about it, pray about it, and plan for it.

This fall we were able to attend the Together For Adoption Conference and were challenged by some amazing speakers. We spoke with some true servants in ministry, and walked away knowing NOW was our moment. We were just three days away from our second anniversary. Not exactly what we had planned, but we knew this was where we needed to head. We didn’t even think twice about our old plan of having biological children first and then adopting. This was what we were being called to do. We are so excited (and admittedly a bit intimidated)!

Why adopt? I wish I could sit down with you over a cup of hot tea or coffee and look you in the eyes and tell you about the 5 million orphans in Ethiopia, the waiting sibling group in foster care in your ‘backyard’, the mom who decided not to abort her baby but who isn’t going to mother the wee one either. I wish I could somehow encourage you to educate yourself and be broken to the point of action. I wish I could tell you that there is nothing good in me. This desire comes from the Lord and He is the one who will see us through. God cares for the orphans. I think one of the ways you can see the heart of God most clearly, is through orphans, those who cannot help themselves, those who are alone, loveless, and abandoned. God’s heart is there.  
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress… James 1:27a 
Let us not lose heart in doing good… So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to ALL people… Galatians 6:9-10 (emphasis mine)
Photo courtesy of Kristi Witek

Orphans are part of that all. Children who just want a home, a warm meal, a mom and a dad or maybe a sibling or two are part of that all. Adoption is a true picture of the Gospel. Our prayer is that just as He has provided for us, cared for us, loved us with an everlasting love, and sought us out, that we would be able to do the same as much as humanly possibly for a sibling group in Latin America.

Did you know sibling groups are considered ‘special needs’ because most people aren’t open to adopting more than one. They aren’t the youngest children available for adoption so they face more risk of never being adopted.

Adoption is not without its costs. Both financial and physical/emotional. The average international adoption will cost between $35,000- $45,000. We don’t have that money. No matter how much we save or sacrifice we just don’t. I could (and often do) get overwhelmed and tell God there is no way this will happen, that just CAN’T. But then that still small voice reminds me I have been called to this. I may not understand the hows, whens, who, why, or be able to control any of it, but it isn’t about me. It’s about the orphan. The children who are waiting to come home, who are waiting on us to come and get them.

We’re not sure how we are going to do this financially. We want to do it debt-free. We’re saving, trusting the Lord, and inviting others to partner with us. I’m selling Jamberry through online orders, Facebook & in-home parties. It’s providing some extra income to bring home children I can’t get here fast enough. We’ve started a Just Love Coffee storefront where the certified fair trade & organic coffee friends and family buy helps give us funds and a Pure Charity account where others can donate money they earn from online shopping. We’ve put off vacations, home decor or house projects, we live a simple life without smart phones or cable/Netflix or newer cars. I honestly don’t feel like any of that is missing (most days), but I do find myself missing the children that are waiting on us. I find myself wishing I could do more to save more to send more money to places right here and around the world that provide care for the orphans.

Not everyone is called to adopt. Yet, I do believe we all have a role in orphan care. Have you considered doing a clothing drive? Sending money to an orphanage overseas? Sponsoring a child through Compassion International? Being a Safe Family?- (You have to check them out!) Being a mentor? Giving to those who are called/equipped to provide a home for orphans? Going on a missions trip to love on and care for orphans even for a few days?

You can keep up with us  and our adoption journey at our blog Sunbeams & Raindrops

Fall Changes

I love fall! The cool crisp weather. The wonderful leaves. FOOTBALL SEASON! The fact that I can again wear my boots. The changing of seasons. Apple picking. Pumpkin carving. Biting into a crisp fresh apple. Bonfires. I love it all 🙂

It was exactly a year ago today that I packed up a U-haul with my parents and a couple of friends in Grand Rapids, Michigan and made the 3 hour trek to my new home, Chicago.  It is hard to believe that it has been a year and yet so much has happened since then.  As I sat in my apartment today, a completely different one than the one I moved into a year ago, with windows open and the fall air flowing in it made me contemplative.

It is amazing how the decisions we make impact our life. Because of so many decisions I made before moving to Chicago, now in Chicago I have an incredible group of friends from almost every place I’ve lived before this.  I also have an incredible job where I can pursue not just one of my degrees, but all 3 of my degrees.  Each one of those degrees challenged me to look at health in a whole different way.  Together, I have a unique perspective on the medical world and for that I am so incredibly thankful.

There is no great nutrition or fitness or nursing advice in this blog post.  It is more of a encouragement for the steps each of you are taking in your life. Fall is a time where a lot happens and schedules are super busy. We all seem to be running all different directions and trying to keep up with life. Fall is a wonderful incredible season where memories are made, changes happen and not just the changes in the leaves, and we are challenged to live healthy lives in the busyness. But you have some incredible opportunities where you can choose to live healthy. My challenge to you this fall season is this.

Take time to look at the changing of the colors of the leaves and embrace the changes happening in your life. Hang onto the moments that will soon be memories…  apple picking, pumpkin carving, dressing up, football games, grilling out, the bonfires, raking of leaves. Take time to acknowledge the changes that are occurring in your life and don’t be afraid to take that leap if you feel like it is the right decision. Embrace the weather changes. And this fall season, love yourself exactly where you are at and exactly who you are this moment. One thing I learn from my cancer patients it is to live every moment and savor each memory.

Happy Fall!

Self-Appreciation: Best Gift ANYONE Can Give

Today, as I was going through my daily ritual of reading the news as it comes through my news feed, I came across an article to which the subject matter really made me disturbed. This is a positive response of removal of a “new image” of Princess Merida, the beautiful red-headed young woman from Disney’s movie Brave. Disney created a “Sexy Merida” for a coronation ceremony late last week to which caused some major grief, rightfully so.
‘Brave’ (Photo: Walt Disney Pictures)
“This one character may not do any damage to a girl’s psychological development, per se,” said Dr. Robyn Silverman. “But Merida joins a barrage of thin, sultry characters for girls, making her yet another facet of our sexed-up, thinned down messaging.” 
As a human (I cannot just say one gender faces this more so than the other), as men and women alike, we are faced with so many body image perfectionist ideas to which we can majorly lose sight of what makes us unique. Everyone is shaped differently. Everyone is colored differently and not one person is like another. Comparison is unfair and how boring of a world this would be if you looked like every other person! BOOOOORRRINNGG!
Take a look at this campaign that Dove created a while back. It illustrates a good point: how we perceive ourselves is not always how others perceive us.
One step in health and wellness is shaping, molding, and being honest with our skewed perception of ourselves. It is embracing our flaws and imperfections as much as it is realizing what our needs are to feel good about ourselves inside and out. Health and wellness is full body endeavor to which takes an extreme amount of honesty, heart, perseverance, and dedication to embrace everything God made us to be. So what if we have large thighs, bags under our eyes or our rear end is “too big”. This is what makes YOU uniquely you. Instead of looking negatively on what you don’t like about yourself, why not say one thing positive about yourself?
Next time you are brushing your teeth and look up into the mirror to clean the excess toothpaste off your lips, try saying something you love about yourself in a positive fashion. This is not to be a vain attempt as much as it is to recognize qualities you possess that have a positive impact. If there is something you do not like about yourself, it is up to you on whether you want to change it. There are means to do so if that is your choice, but before you go changing yourself, appreciate who and what you are first.
I want to challenge each and everyone today to really find self-appreciation. To me, that is more important than trying to look and act like someone you are not. Appreciate who and what you are. There is only one you in this world. Be yourself. Allow it to be so! That is simply the best gift that anyone can give to themselves!
Catie Manning, Hair Stylist
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