Blue's UnBashful Blog

Blue's UnBashful Blog

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April showers

The feeling of being directed in so many different directions has become so confusing, my mind is overwhelmed, and the future is so exciting yet so uncertain that I have decided to just go with it.    For the month of April I have decided to go with the flow and see where the universe takes me.  I'm close to my personal racing weight for this season and physically I am feeling great and stronger than ever.  I also recognize the inner conflict I'm having between the fighter and the lover in me.  I feel like a "boxing hippie" and I'm not sure that is the best combination to merge as it can become quite perplexing and disorienting. 

My April goals are to train mean, eat clean, be compassionate, and to go with the flow <3 .  This is a great month to leave the past,  pack up the winter, wash off the muckiness, and prepare for the blossoming of spring.  I have already given away bags and boxes full of things that I no longer need, or never really needed to begin with, alas purchased for one reason or another.   While freeing up the space in our homes and offices, we must not forget to clean up old, negative, and unnecessary thought patterns and set our intentions for what we would like to see. 

April showers
past tortures
future dilemmas
dust off the old
and wash the new
abandon the winter
and prepare for spring
as the lotus flower
rises up
preparations are made
blossoming happiness and adventures
will be had



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Do you have the time?

Almost daily someone asks provides me with a perplexing look, "How do you have time for that?".  We all have the same amount of time.  Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Michael Jordan, Me, and You all have the same amount of time in a given day.  It's all about how you use your time, professors, managers, and even watchful parents will refer to this as time management. 

I have always juggled various activities for as long as I remember.  School/ soccer/work, School/ work/work/ fun, school/work/work/work/training/volunteering/ fun.  I've learned that I can juggle quite a lot at any given time.  My 1st Master's Degree seemed easier for me years ago.  I was still in Tiffin, classes were held all day on campus Saturday and I worked a full time and part time job during the week.  Easy peasy!  I wrapped that degree up in 1 year! Oh yea, go me!

It was a bit more difficult this last year, finishing my M.B.A., studying for my personal training certification, training, and lots of work and lots of unforeseen events such as my Grandmothers' deaths, sprained ankles, and trying to help and participate in anything that I could in order to please others.  Scheduling was a nightmare and I missed a couple of meetings or events either because I wrote them down wrong and got pulled into putting out another fire. 

I am a go getter and I like to accomplish things that I say I will accomplish so regardless of how much I have going on I do my best to make the time.  I won't commit to something that I cannot do either due to time or it just isn't feasible.  I also learned by trail and error.  For instance, I know that with my current workload I cannot train for long distance triathlons or runs.  I will get burned out and everything will suffer.  However, it is not something I will sacrifice.  Compromise!  This year I'm training for all short distances.  No run over a 1/2 Marathon, and only sprint distance triathlons. 

I used to be a profession "planner person"; literally had the goal and planned out how to get there step by step down to the minute.  Then I learned that things don't go as planned, they rarely go as planned.  I do my best and take advantage of the free time that I have when it becomes available.  I also learned to say "no" when I know that whatever is asked of me would be too much.  For example, if someone asked me to be her bridesmaid right now (highly unlikely), I would have to say no. 

I have my priorities, things that are a must including work, Mayor work, and I know that I have to train/workout/practice yoga to help keep me focused and happy.  I will not compromise those priorities.  But, I also want to work on obtaining various certifications/ continued education, etc.  Looking back on my life, one would say I always have to have a full plate.  And that statement would be correct because I want to enjoy life to the fullest and not miss out on any opportunities or enjoyments. 

There is a little tool that I started using last Spring.  Since facebook and smartphones were born; I've noticed that so much time is wasted scrolling newsfeeds or "chatting", etc.  Plus there appears to be this immediate need from people- they must have answers NOW! (that will be another blog post as I am fascinated with how our society has changed with this social media).  At any rate, I still plan my days in advance, keeping in mind that things change and I will have to cancel or rearrange some things.  Alas, I use a little tool, it's called a timer. 

 

Whoop, there it is!  This has been most helpful in my need for studying/ reading on various topics at the same time versus being dedicated to only one book at a time, etc.  It was quite helpful last Spring as I was wrapping up my 2nd Master's Degree and "trying to study for my personal training certification" ( I didn't pass it- I tried to shoot from the hip but came close- I will be retaking).  

I have been using this little timer to help limit the time I am on facebook, in front of the computer, meditating, reading, etc.  1 hour reading this book, 1 hour reading that book, 10 minutes meditation, 30 mins on facebook, etc.  It's a great tool and when that timer goes off, rather than staying glued to my computer making sure I don't miss an important facebook newsfeed or staying deep in a book, I stop and begin the next timed task.   I don't time everything.  I have work hours that I have to commit to but I also want to make sure I don't spend all my free time glued in front of the TV ( I watch no TV during the week- unless I need a day off).  It is also important that I have meditation time (just not 30 minutes of meditating)  and it is important that I read...a lot, I read a lot. 

Maybe this little timer will help you manage your time, maybe not.  Regardless, we all have the same amount of time as everyone else.  It just depends on where your priorities stand, what's important to you, and how to make the most of every minute. 

Where do you stand with your time management? Pay attention to much time you spend on facebook, how much time you spend at the water cooler gossiping, how much time is spent watching T.V., etc.  Just pay attention to those things.  You don't have to give them up (although I would recommend giving up gossip because it's not useful and no good comes from it) but you may see that you do have time for other things, if you so wish. 

May the time be always in your favor. 

Believe Love Understand and Empower!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Book Reviews

Why Quantum Physicists Do Not Fail by Greg Kuhn

My attention drifted often from this book due a slow start.  Kuhn went into great detail explaining why one should read this book.  He uses a paradigm of a fish tank, providing great detail of how this fish tank that we are living in creates our reality.  The fish tank paradigm is continuously illustrated throughout the chapters as it applies to different areas in life.  The end of the book made the investment in this book worthy.  We are surrounded by books today on our thought patterns, negative vs. positive thinking, and so forth.  Kuhn utilizes the fish tank paradigm and quantum physics as a way to illustrate that it is not a "think happy, be positive" and happy and positive will happen; rather, acknowledge your feelings and "tell yourself the best story possible". 

If you can get past the redundant "fish tank" explanation the book makes sense and is a great addition to the new age books focused on positive thinking; it provides one of the best examples of how you tell "your story" affects your outcome. 

Light on Life by B.K.S. Iyengar

Light on Life is a great book for anyone.  It provides a great background, explanation, and purpose of the practice of yoga for those completely new to Yoga to the most experienced yogi.  Mr. Iyengar has a strong Hindu background and so it is a different perspective than the Tibetan or other Buddhist perspectives as there are a variety of yoga practices. Iyengar utilizes Patanjalis's Sanskrit perspective which can be varied by traditional yoga.  Light on Life was informative and personal. 

Conditioned Emotional Reactions: The Case of Little Albert by John B. Watson & Rosalie Rayner

This book, though small, sheds light on something enormous which everyone experiences....fear.  The actual case study is quite long and of course detailed.  This book is small and provides just the right amount of information needed to explain our fears.  Our emotional reactions, fear, are conditioned from an early age.  This is a great, quick read that would help provide insight into some of our phobias or I feel it would be helpful for parents with children.  For example, say that your little 2 year old munchkin is playing on the living room floor, laughing, and having a grand time.  He spots a huge spider crawling towards him and he is excited to see this curious creature...you, as a parent, walk in the room and scream, scooping your little munchkin up away from the spider and of course in return he is startled and begins to cry.  Bam! Little munchkin now associates spiders with sudden screaming  and a fear of spiders may develop.  My example is very brief and generic.  This study provides specific, informative, and likely enlightening research. 



Saturday, March 15, 2014

St. Malachi 5miler

The 2014 St. Malachi 5miler started my racing season on a great, no exceptionally awesome, kick off! Since I do not have my license yet, I'm so thankful that my Brother and his girlfriend were able to join and drive me to the first race of the season!  I have ran this race a couple of times in the past.  There is always a great turnout and it's a great way to kick off the St. Paddy's day weekend! I have so much gratitude to Brittany and Ryan for joining me and driving me to the race.  This race was a "tentative" on my race schedule due to not being able to drive.  Thanks guys!







I was so excited for this race for so many reasons.  It marks the beginning of my racing season, it's the first race I've ran since the huge mistake I made in September, and it proves to me that I survived months of solitude, overwhelming stress, breakdown, and public humiliation (but that's another story).  Plus, it was the 1st race ever with my brother!  All of the years I've been running and doing triathlons he has never been able to come cheer me on; but, this time he ran it with me!  I'm so happy that he's caught the racing bug! 

Once it was time to gather by the starting line, we wandered over and waited for instructions.  The National Anthem was sung which immediately gave me chills, a sense of honor and pride.  Then it was time to start! Due to the crowd, it took a few minutes to cross the actual starting line.  I turned on my Ipod and the song, The Fighter by Gym Class Heroes, came on and something inside me clicked, I woke up, I remembered "my groove", I remembered the importance of what I do, and I took off.  I haven't ran outside due to this horrendous winter and I could only make it to the gym when my mom or my sister were able to drive me.  I've ran 5 miles on the gym track (10 laps per mile and all flat....boring!!!), so I thought I might not be ready to run outside yet.   I spent all winter beating myself up, relying on only memories of racing, not able to get out and participate in the things that I needed to help me through tough times on a regular schedule,  I forgot "that feeling".  Going into this race my goal was to just have fun and to go with the flow, soak up the positive atmosphere, and cross a finish line.  Feelings of belongingness came back, my mind was present, I was focused, and before I knew it I hit the mile 3 marker.  I was shocked that I had made it so far so soon as I was expecting to be much slower; having heard my 3 mile time, my competitive fire woke up inside me and then my goal was to race and go for a PR (personal record).  I never stopped running, I passed so many people, I just kept going as if I didn't need to exhaust any effort.  I got my mojo back.  My favorite part is sprinting to the finish and crossing that line, it's the best feeling ever.  The last time I did this race I had been training for it and my time was 59:45 (11:57/minute).  Today I finished the chip time at 53:29 (10:42/mile), I am still shocked.  A 5k PR for me is around 10:00/mile- with lots of training.  Alas, the past is behind me,  I'm ready for 2014, and I am so excited to cross a ton of finish lines this year.   "If we had no Winter, the spring would not be so pleasant;  If we did not sometimes taste the adversity,  prosperity would not be so welcome."  - Anne Bradstreet. 



Believe Love Understand Empower!

Friday, March 14, 2014

What ya training for?

I am so excited to have my 2014 race schedule planned out, it's going to be such a fun year.  While I enjoy the longer distances, I now realize that I just don't have the time to dedicate to long distances; I do however desperately miss the triathlon and running community  There is an enormous amount of positive energy, an incredible positive atmosphere, and a sense of overwhelming belongingness (is that a word?) that I feel when I participate in triathlons, road races, trail races, etc.  I was practicing with my yoga teacher the other day (I have been practicing with her for over 3 years) and she asked me what I am training for this year...my answer?  " My sanity". 

We both chuckled; But, I am training for my sanity.  I want to soak up every single finish line, every "go girl", "get it", "you can do it", I want to soak up every single positive feedback possible while getting all of my responsibilities taken care of all while maintaining my sense of self and fulfilling my dreams!  In addition I think the shorter distances will allow more time for me to focus on my yoga practice as well as it is very important to me. So, therein lies the balance....positive/negative, good/bad, happy/sad, etc. 

I have many goals that I am working towards this year, various certifications, etc. The most important thing that I am training for this year is my sanity, and my balance.  It's just not possible to be happy when the negativity in life is enormously outweighed by the positive.  I'm really looking forward to the season and seeing all of my awesome friends! 

Race season will start off with the Malachi 5miler Saturday March 15th! 




Monday, February 24, 2014

Better late than never 2014

Each year I like to write my "bucket list" or "to do" list for the year.  Last year I wasn't able to complete most of the things on my list and it made me feel crappy. 

I like to get stuff done, cross items off of lists, and I understand how important it is for me to take vacation or time to disconnect.  This year I want to do something different.  Of course I have my list of things "to do" (things that make me happy and that I enjoy in addition to goals I want to meet); however, this year I really want to focus on a specific aspect of my life, something I lost amid stress.  I want to be more mindful.  My mind has become increasingly loud over the last 2  years.  Filled with thoughts on what to do, what to say, how to react, which path to choose, what battle to fight, and so forth. The volume of the past and of the future has been turned way up. 


This year, while crossing things off of my "things to do in 2014" list, I want to become more mindful, thus able to let go, and therefore becoming more peaceful.  So that's it!  My New Year's Resolution (better late than never) is to be more mindful <3. 

Ultimately reaching a state of equanimity...through Believing, Loving, Understanding, and Empowering. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013

It happened. 


It was a pretty stagnant year for me and I'm glad it's over.  I lost both of my Grandmas, finished my 2nd Master's Degree, finished my first 25k trail race, and I hugged Rob Zombie at his concert in Columbus.  I met a lot of amazing people, some that helped me appreciate and understand things a little better and some who I know will be lifelong friends.  I also lost a lot of friends, friends of friends, and family friends.  The end of the year was great as I spent it with family and relaxed.  I also connected with 2 of my favorite authors and founder of the behavioral science unit for the F.B.I. in Quantico.  I've been following them since high school and they were reasons why I studied Forensic Psychology and Criminal Justice in college. 

2013 began on a good note and ended on a good note.  I'm really looking forward to 2014.....
 
Peace out 2013!




Monday, December 23, 2013

BLUE Christmas

The holiday season can be a time full of stress, loneliness, sadness, financial burden, grumpiness, and worry.  I'm finding this season to be particularly complete with all of the above.  It is the first season without both of my Grandmas. Grandmas always remember to send cards and calls of love and support.  It's the first season both siblings are in serious relationships and I'm the odd single girl out. I am also the oldest sibling and so I find myself wondering what's wrong with me and why I am still single. Holiday parties and gatherings are full of couples. I feel like I'm decorated in blinking lights standing out as the "still single girl".   It has also been particularly difficult to shop for gifts as money is tight and my creativity is lacking.  Many of my friends have lost loved ones this year, several classmates passed away way too soon, and it was just a tough year all around.  The holidays can magnify negative feelings but I'm determined to make the best of it and I hope you do too!

Rather than focusing on the negative, I am choosing to do as many good deeds as possible.  Helping a few friends out, sending out cards of appreciation to those who have been supportive and helpful, and being extra generous with kind words.  I know that my Grandmas are watching over me and I'm thankful they both are no longer suffering; but, I want to honor their memories and legacies by acting in such a way that would make them proud.  I also remind myself that my loved ones who are now alive and well will not be here forever and every moment  must be cherished.  Giving doesn't always have to be in the form of money or gifts, it can be helping out at parents' house, assisting with chores, and cooking, helping a neighbor, and most importantly being positive and happy when around others.  Positive attitudes and smiles truly are contagious.  The feeling of loneliness is a strong one; I'm at a place in my life where I am ready for a relationship.  I never had a "healthy relationship" and at age 32, that is something that I am looking forward to.  It's also not something that should be rushed and I believe that it will happen when the universe thinks it's time.  I am so happy for my siblings' happiness and that they both have great partners to share their lives with during the holidays and in the future. 

During this hectic time of year, remember that not everyone is filled with joy and cheer.  Not everyone has a big family filled with celebrations.  Random acts of kindness are great ways to spread compassion while you are out shopping and be sure your loved ones know how much you love them!

Merry Christmas to all and may your holiday season be one of  Believing, Loving, Understanding, and Empowering. 

xoxo

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mental Mojo

Over the last 2 years I've lost my "mental mojo".  In other words, I've lost my mental toughness and most of my ability to let go, let live, and focus.  The year 2011 was the best year for me mentally, I was able to challenge my body and mind with such feats as a half-ironman, various triathlons, and numerous fear conquering feats.  I noticed this mojo disappearing when I was training for my first full marathon in 2012.  I just couldn't get through the long runs without thinking about all of the new, emotionally, and mentally draining stresses.  I had mastered the art of living in the present, letting go of negativity and was easily able to remove myself from negative situations; but, things changed and I received more new, exciting, yet daunting challenges that were, at the time, quite draining to say the least.

Surrounded by ridiculous bullying, naysayers, and not being able to get goals and projects done as fast as I had hoped(I'm afraid to even look at my 2013 goal list), in addition to exhausting so much energy on such negative and immature "obstacles", I felt like I was in a washing machine on super spin cycle..... repeat....repeat.....repeat.  I've mentally been fairly stagnant for quite sometime, unsure of how to deal with such pettiness while juggling all responsibilities and squeezing in time for myself.  Did I mention it's exhausting?  I became comfortable and assumed that after swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56, and running 13.1 miles, or running 26.2 miles, or running over 17 miles in the woods that I could handle anything.   I need to adapt faster, learn more, get over stuff, ignore the unnecessary, and move on. 

One can easily get caught up in the "drama" of these negative people/ obstacles.  Who's got time for gossip, rumors, and making one's life miserable?  (apparently some people do have time for such).  Alas, I don't have time for that, I have things that need to be accomplished and a life to be lived. 

I'm feeling very blessed that I have finally understood the above and I'm really looking forward to mastering a new level of mental toughness.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to grow even more as I move forward.  For the rest of this year I'm letting go, practicing gratitude, going with the flow, and really focusing on the negative thinking. 


 It's easy to focus on the old, to hold grudges, to want revenge, and to let those haters, players, naysayers, and energy drainers take up space in your mind...but it will only drain you and those against you will end up winning. Focus on your goals, stay the course, and smile while you move forward and leave the rest in the dust.  And always, always, always, Believe, Love, Understand, and Empower! <3   I know I can, I know I can, I know I can.   Check out this link for some motivation 

 
 
"IF THERE'S NO ENEMY WITHIN, THE ENEMY OUTSIDE CAN DO US NO HARM"   African Proverb

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Headstands, letting go, and breathing through the pain

I've been practicing yoga for a couple of years.  Since taking office, I've noticed that my mind is often distracted and practicing mindfulness has become quite a challenge.  At a recent yoga practice my awesome yoga teacher started to prepare me for tripod headstand pose. Prior to this particular session,  I've been noticing the difficulty I've been having on focusing and letting go throughout my practice. Yoga has a way of bringing emotions to the surface.  During my first attempt at tripod headstand pose I really noticed my fear of letting go and going with the flow.  I immediately wanted to retreat and I could literally feel my muscles gripping to the past, hanging on to fears, and going into protective mode.  Obviously I didn't make it into the pose, which is common, for some it takes years to get into headstand.  But I became aware of buried emotions and recognized what my body has been trying to tell me.  I recognized that I hold on to things way too much.  I also recognized that being open and going with the flow is challenging for me.  I'm literally feeling it in my body through overly tight shoulders and hip flexors, jaw clenching, and other muscle tightness. 

Our body gives us physical hints to underlying emotional, mental, and spiritual issues that we may be facing.  Yoga allows us to pay attention to what is going on and so that we can ultimately practice mindfulness and letting go.  Several blog posts ago I wrote of the same issues.  Life truly is like a rollercoaster ride, we have our ups and downs, sometimes our life gets turned upside down, and sometimes it's a really rough ride and we get jerked around.    Being able to recognize what my body is telling me is a great tool towards continuously improving myself and moving forward. 



 

Yoga also teaches us to breathe through the tough spots and sticky poses (or situations) rather than giving up or quitting.  I feel this in deep poses such as pigeon pose.  It's a natural reaction to fight the tightness in my hips but as I breathe and stop fighting the resistance, I learn to breathe through it thus allowing myself to open up.  


 
 
 
I'm learning to embrace life's experiences, good or bad, as well as the good and bad people that cross my path.  I wouldn't trade in any experience or person in my life.  I feel blessed to have gone through so much in life; because, of each experience, challenge, and obstacle, I'm able to have a better understanding and appreciation towards life.  We can either cling to our fears, holding our breath, while continuously bracing ourselves for the bumps in the road or we can face our fears, breath through the pain, and go through the flow. 
 
Practice the latter and always Believe, Love, Understand, and Empower.   
 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Super Brain book review

Super Brain by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. is more than your typical self help book.  What I found most appreciative of this book was the illustration of how our brain works from a biological perspective.  This was depicted easily so that us "non- scientific" folk could understand.  The authors also used scientific research to prove theories which is always helpful and provides the reader with a bit more hope and certainty than other similar books.  Most of the book was dedicated to explaining our thought processes, why we think the way we do, and specifically addressing memory loss, depression, overweight issues, anxiety, and personal crisis.  The latter part of the book is a bit more technical scientifically and it also provides brief directions on how to change the wiring of our brain. 

My favorite part of the book was the middle, the chapters explaining why we think the way we think, and how our thoughts lead our brain.  The authors provide "series of questions to ask yourself" while faced with particular situations, which helps to stimulate your brain while thoughtfully evaluating the predicament one is faced with at any given time. 

I recommend this book for everyone, especially those who are familiar with The Secret, Power of Now, and Laws of Attraction.  I feel that Super Brain is a nice compliment to the above books and practices. 





Thursday, August 8, 2013

Grandmas

This year I lost both of my Grandmas.  Losing people who are so supportive, unconditionally loving, and caring can wreck havoc on one's life.  I have no grandparents left and it leaves me sad but I know that they are watching over me.  I wrote a poem about the loss.  I didn't have the courage to read it at either memorial services because I couldn't speak without crying. 

In Your Memory, I Will Live Free


I had a dream...and you were there.  

I asked you why did you leave?

I asked for you to watch over me and to give me the strength that I need

I'd give anything for a conversation but magic only occurs only in dreams

so please please

give me the strength that I need

watch over me and my family

I love you so and I will never forget

I'm sorry for the times that I regret

just please please

give me the strength that I need

and watch over me and my family

I now have some strong angels indeed

and all of your memories I will keep

so when the demons I feel are near

and when my prayers are loud and clear

Just please please

give me the strength that I need

and watch over me and my family

the laughs, the memories, the genes, oh our crazy but strong family tree

through you I learned how to persevere

I'm honored and I'm proud to carry your soul with me

just please please

give me the strength that I need

and watch over me and my family

when times get tough and I am in need

I know that within I can seek

and in me, you are here, you are in my memory, and you are free

just please please

give me the strength that I need

and watch over me and my family

Hold my hand so that when it's my time to be free

fear, negativity, and spite are out of me

so that I can be as strong as your memory

until then in your memory I promise to live fee
 

 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Forget the PR 25k

Friday afternoon I headed down to Mohican State Park. I had just wrapped up my 2nd Master's Degree and was ready to blow off some steam! Yes, 2nd Master's Degree, my M.B.A., woot! I was in awe the whole way down, I love the country and fresh air. 
 
 My cabin ended up being upgraded to a lake view, perfect. 

 My sister and her boyfriend drove down Friday night to join me and cheer me on Sunday.  We had a blast Friday night and probably stayed up a bit too late.  I relaxed all day Saturday outside on the deck of the cabin.  It was so peaceful and beautiful, just what I needed! I soaked up the sun and wrote out my training and race plan for the summer (It's going to be so much fun!). 
Saturday night, I relaxed some more with the first fire of the season.  I love fires and being outdoors so much.  I headed to bed early, race day was going to be tough! 

I have no idea why but I was not nervous at all for this race.  My mindset was to not overthink and to just do it.  I was way undertrained.  Trying to wrap up my M.B.A. was very time consuming and I was short staffed at work, plus I really don't like running in the winter months.  I think my longest run was about 9 or 10 miles in the CVNP and it was a while ago.  Oh well!  The first 10 miles I was great, I probably could have been a bit faster if I didn't stop so much to soak in the views.  I was out by myself most of the time and I ran as much as I could at the begining, knowing that I would be crawling up hills and suffering at the end.  After about 8 miles my hands started to get swollen, they looked like little sausages and it was hard to move them.  I believe this is from dehydration, apparently I don't drink enough.  My only thought heading out into the 4 mile loop by the covered bridge was, "Shit, how am I going to climb if I can't get a grip with my hands?" It was a muddy mess the entire way and I loved it.  Following the creek back to the tree climb was so pretty and the icy cold water felt amazing on my sore feet.  My knees and legs were pretty sore as well, I'm sure the water crossing would not have bothered me at all.  I got to the tree climb and a couple of guys quickly passed me and I thought it best to just follow right behind them....in case I fell or something.  I'm still terrified of heights but I crawled up the tree roots quickly with no problem.   I was feeling pretty beat up at this point but I continued to enjoy the views despite the cold rain. 

This was my first long distance trail race and the aid stations rock!  Far better than any road race or triathlon.  So many yummy choices and awesome volunteers!  

I worked my way back, hiking most of the way at this point.  I don't think my shoes had great traction because I kept sliding down the hills and the 50kers were running down with no problem at all. Oh well.  I waddled may way out of the woods and into the finish.  I have no idea how I managed to move my legs so that I could run into the finish line and not look like a penguin. 
 
 
What a weekend!  I told myself going into this race that I would not sign up for another spring race.  Last year I completed the Cleveland Full Marathon and this year the 25k and I couldn't make myself run in the cold.  However, after running the Forget the PR 25k, I WILL be making this race a regular!  It was a blast, a challenge, and it was so beautiful. 
 
B.L.U.E.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Darby's Dog Days are Over

On October 23, 2012 we put Darby O' Gill to sleep.  Darby was our family dog that came into our life when I was in high school.  Most of my adult years were spent with Darby.  I tried to distance myself- knowing that I easily become attached and no attachment ends well- from the little rat- terrier but I became attached immediately.  Regardless of everything that happens in life, pets give unconditional love.  I've often felt closer to animals than I have humans because of the unconditional love.  Our pets are there for us, regardless. 

I recall growing up and having a beagal named Mikey.  I must have been no more than 8 years old (because my sister wasn't born) when Mikey died.  Although Mikey was an "outside" dog, I remember the exact moment when my dad told me that Mikey died.  I was near the hallway bathroom at our house on Country Place, it was winter.  I remember that I didn't beleive my dad at first and then I remember calling my best friend, Timmy, to let him know Mikey died and I was devastated. 

My sister was born in 1991 and shortly thereafter we got a goldfish, "Buzz".  I tried to keep my distance, knowing at an early age that I would attach and become heart broken when it died.  Well, Buzz lived a really long life for a goldfish. I remember telling myself, "I'm never going to get another pet, I can't handle the departure!"  Well my siblings desperately wanted a dog.  Darby was a rat terrier, we named him Darby O' Gill, after an Irishman and my clever mom thought the initials D.O.G. was indeed clever.  Darby was there for most of my life.  I remember having a party at my parent's house when they were out of town and afterwards I blamed Darby for running through the screen door when in fact it was me.  He never told on me. 

Darby was hit twice by a car.  The first time I remember vividly.  I stayed in the "dog's room' (laundry room) all night, worried and attached.  Providing comfort and praying that he would be ok.  Often times I have felt that I have a stronger connection with animals than I do with humans.  The non-judgemental, unconditional love, is truly amazing!

I stayed with Darby the weekend before he was put to sleep and against my will, I became even more attached.  As I knew he was becoming older and more fraile, I detached myself and kept my distance.  I didn't want to feel the pain of losing someone so unconditionally loving. 

This was the first time that our family had to "put a dog down".  I struggled with the notion of injecting the grape juice, stating that we don't put others down.  But poor Darby, he could not stand, he could not eat nor drink.  I mostly lay with him on the tile floor, making sure he was comfortable.  I wanted him to know that he was not alone.  I massaged him and kept him warm.  I told him how great he was, how much I appreciated his loyalty, and asked him to say hello to Grandpa for me. 

This year has been a very tumultous year for me; I've faced bullying, distrust, disappointment, and heartache to the fullest.  People have let me down, hurt me terribly, and have left me feeling more alone than ever.  Pets don't do that- they are there for you no matter what; they don't judge.  I've made many mistakes, have been hurt many times, and have been downright disgusted by people.  Regardless of what has ever happened, our pets have always been there......with a smile and with kisses and hugs. 

I often distance myself from emotions because it appears that I always become attached with great expectations that humans cannot keep.  I knew Darby was getting older and so I distanced myself from the little guy, knowing that the recovery from losing something so great would be very devastating.  However, with my big heart leading the way, I could never say no to an opportunity of making this little guy's life more comfortable in his last few days.  I spent a lot of time at my parent's house and felt horrible each time that I left, while I prayed that he would just go to sleep. 

Our little Darby is a lot like me.  The little tough guy would not give up and so we had to decide that it was in his best interest to be put to sleep.  Tuesday morning was horrible.  I couldn't stop crying.  For as long as I can remember I've always hated crying or showing emotion in front of my parents, especially my dad.  I feel that crying is a sign of weakness and I must not let others see my weakness.  I have never done well expressing emotions.  It was my mom, my dad, and me who took Darby to the vet that Tuesday morning.  I tried really hard to be a badass but I just couldn't fight the tears.  Mom said that I didn't have to go, that I could just say "bye" and leave.  I'm the oldest child, I've been with Darby through the most, I cannot let him go without me there by his side. 

We arrived at the vet's and my tear ducts opened up and released a lot of emotion.  All of the pain that I held in for the entire year, for the pass several years, I cried out and released emotions that I carried with me for a long time.  The pain from the loneliness, the betrayal, the lies, the bullying, everything.  I let it all out.  As we stepped into the room, Darby wrapped in a blanket, wearing the "chick magnet" shirt that I gave him, I felt horrible.  Thoughts of doubt circled through my mind but I knew I had to be strong.

I have experienced a tremendous amount of grief, regret, sorrow, pain, hurt, betrayal, loneliness from humans; animals are so pure and offer an unconditional love that I've been searching for my whole life.  With animals there is no cheating, lying, deceiving, hurting, maniplulating, controlling, conditions, etc.  With people that's all that I have experienced, with the exception of a few like my dear Grandpa Guidosh.  When I see a deer lying on the side of a road my heart sinks, when a friend's pet dies my heart breaks, animals can teach us so much.   Everything that I have ever longed for has been found in an animal. 

I hold Bruiser a little closer, I pay the extra money for check ups, grooming, swimming lessons, and I take the time to take him for a walk or to massage his muscles and I make sure he knows that he is loved.

Darby was there during my darkest periods and he was there when I became aware of the powerful love that pets share.  Darby was there for a lot and in return I learned a lot from Darby.  He was my little snoop D.O.G. 

Basically, saying goodbye to Darby was saying  this goodbye to trust and unconditional love.  Saying goodbye to those things makes me cold and distant.  I've never been able to trust humans, especially this year.  This past year i took a huge risek and trusted someone with a lot, a whole shit ton of trust was completely betrayed. (but that's what I do- I give people the benefit of the doubt and second chances) I feel like I have become a professional in seeking out the truth.  I don't usually state or confront when someone has lied to me, I usually keep it to myself, and put it in the back of my mind and proceed with caution when this person speaks.  This process becomes easier when I keep my mouth shut and more so when i'm unable to communicate my concerns. 

RIP my lil snoop xoxox


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Free to be me in 2013

I learned a lot in 2012, more than I expected.  I'm so thankful that I was able to take a desperately needed break and get away.  I became so burned out that I became really nasty, impatient, and unproductive.  Some people feel that they need to run themselves into the ground so much that they become useless.  I'm a strong believer in happy worker, more productive worker.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to take a break for all of 2012 and half of 2011...Life comes at you fast, right?  I totally thought I could handle it but I couldn't.  I see so many miserable people, so desperate to share their busy-ness and miserable-ness with the world, in such desperate need of accolades, or some sort of medal for what they do on a day to day basis.  My apologies but I don't believe in such.  I believe in working hard and playing hard.  I believe in doing what's right, being honest, and letting go of what you cannot control.  Taking care of ourselves makes us more productive and to actually work and be productive is rare.  Most of the time workers spend their time complaining about how busy and stressed they are that they actually become less productive. 

I needed time off and I needed to let loose and let be, it makes me more productive and more healthy.  Happy worker, more productive worker! However with the new roles, I wasn't able to achieve this until the end of 2012.  And sweet baby cheeses, I had a blast (on my time off during the holidays)  but that's another blog post.

I thought I learned everything in 2011; 2012 gave me an amazing wake up call and taught me a ton of lessons.  I hear you 2012, I have learned....now leave me alone, let me move on, and let me get....it.....done!

for 2013, I want to keep my goals simple....

1.  To run 1,000 miles. 
2. To run my first trail race- 25k
3. to raise over $3, 000 for Girls with Sole
4. to love myself more and to be more confident
5. to not doubt my gut and to stand up more for what is right, don't hold back and don't be intimidated!
6. to "perform" at an open mic night- to recite a poem or whatever on stage- I want to read my first ever blog post, forgive and forget.  This will be a challenge but I want to do it!
7. to finish my MBA....finally!
8. to start an anti- bullying program through BLUE
9. to start one of the books I want to write ( I have a list of 3 that I want to write)
10.  sing karokee with my sister at least 12 times this year.
11. to face a really big fear....like sky diving
12. go on a solo camping trip
13. to do at least 12 really good deeds

2013 is all about being free to be me, letting go, having courage, facing fears, and being happy :) I have blessed to have met some really amazing people during the holidays and I'm looking forward to growing those frienships.  I eliminated my crazy ass 4 am wake up during the week for gym-time and moved it to afternoons and evenings....so I can have fun!

Like Ellie Goulding says in her song.....I know it's goin to be alright. 

Life is tough, make sure you live it!




Monday, January 21, 2013

2012....it happens

Wow....what a year.  It's hard to find words to sum up 2012 other than....it happened and the world didn't end.  It was my freshman year in politics and I felt like a rag doll being tossed around.  I knew that a challenge was certain but I didn't realize how challenging. 

I was raped twice, once after high school, once in college.  I was in an abusive relationship for 3 years.  I've done multiple triathlons, a marathon, a half iron man, I have my Bachelor's degree and Master's degree in Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychology.  I'm almost finished with my MBA.  I've worked many jobs, odds and ends things from retail to detention officer and social worker.  I've negotiatied with General Motors in Manufacturing, I've been frivously sued for emotional distress over a grill, and I work daily with apartment tenants in a 52 unit apartment complex. I've been told that I'm worthless, won't do anything with my life, and I was bullied most of my school years because I wasn't a skinny cheerleader conforming to high school expectations.  I've been chewed out, spit on, kicked when I was down and I've faced challenges and obstacles that most will never see let alone experience by the age of 30.  Yet, nothing could have prepared me 2012. 

2011 was amazing.  I realized that I was a human being, I took chances and faced fears.  I challenged myself  more in 1 year than most will ever do in a lifetime.  I said yes to everything and I reached amazing goals.  I learned more about myself more than I expected.  I became me, I became BLUE.  However; learning and growing never ceases to continue and 2012 challenged me in ways that I thought I could handle and conquer.  I noticed these challenges during my long runs while training for my first marathon. 

In 2011, I felt that I was mentally tough.  I could run long, ride long, ride hard, run hard...I was mentally badass, I was focused and unstoppable.  However; during 2012 I was engulfed with negativity, bullying, and so much deciet and lying that I felt like someone hooked me up to an IV and sucked all of my positive energy and determination out of my soul.  I would find myself thinking during my runs and not only thinking but stressing and wanting to quit and I would go home and sleep.  I would become so frustrated and drained from the negative thinking that I would quit. I found myself in despair and I was perplexed with why this was happening. 

I think 2011 was so amazing because I was surronded with positive people, encouraging words, and an energy that was positively contagious. 

I cannot go into detail but 2012 was mentally and emotionally exhausting.  At times I felt trapped, like I was suffocating.  So, I'm a female, a newbie, and I look younger than I am and I told myself that is why I was being challenged so aggressively. However, I kid myself.  I was challenged because I'm not status quo, I never have been.  I was the girl that stood up to bullies, I always asked why or why not, I hated conforming just because it was what was cool or considered normal or popular.  I was told to wear a skirt and I would dress in pants, I was expected to go with the flow and accept what was to be expected. 

In 2011, I ran for such a position because I care, because I refuse to remain status quo, because I see opportunity, I won't settle, and I want to make a positive difference in a community, in a world that I truly love.  I BELIEVE that things can change, people can strive towards positive, and that people can make positive things happen.  Believe me, I don't enjoy being tortured with bullying by those twice my age, I don't seek out problems, I do not long for accolades, drama, attention, nor do I seek out anything in return for that matter.  There are leaders driven by power, greed, and control and there are leaders who truly want to make a difference. 

I'm so sorry that some get duped into following leaders who preach and decieve, who talk the talk but do not walk the walk.  Hitler, Stalin, and Charles Manson all had minions, it's not cool to follow so easily.  One should question, challenge, and be innovative.  One should be able to challenge and speak to one's leaders.  Your questions and concerns should be responded to if such banter arises.  I have, however, enjoyed learning about things that I didn't know I did...rumors can be so entertaining. 

I digress.....2012.... I was stonewalled, stalled, duped, played, and challenged in ways that I truly was not prepared for though I thought I was ready to take on anything.  I don't want to say that I regret anything in 2012 because I have no regrets in life, I believe that everything happens for a reason and every negative experience teaches a lesson.  I became burned out in 2012 because I relied a lot on others for direction, advice, and for back up; However, it turns out that none of the above was actually genuine, sincere, or bold enough.  Sure, I have people that I can certainly rely on for trust and for venting but those people are either too agressive or too passive and I bypassed my gut feelings.  I'm so thankful for the handful of friends that I have been able to confide in without any repercussions. There were some people that I trusted who I knew little about but was so excited to have someone have my back that I ignored red flags and was enticed into the deciet.  I lost my own confidence and I lost what I learned in 2011 and I was sucked into negative energy, personal agendas, and well the obvious in politics....deciet.  I became fearful and hesitant, things that I thought I had conquered in 2011 after years of fearing, hesitating, and conforming. 

Sometimes you want something so much that you lose yourself and you stop listening to your gut and your confidence goes crazy.  You start to believe and fall for things that are not good for you.  This was a huge 2012 lesson.  I missed races, I slept a lot, I was enthralled with fantasies and dreamy/ unrealistic thinking. 

2012 was an amazing learning experience.  I cannot go back and change a thing, I can only become stronger in learning from my mistakes.  I learned that I need to LOVE myself more.  I'm worth more than what others chose to give, I'm a good person, and it's ok to be me.  It's ok to question, to stand up when I'm the only one standing.  It's ok to follow my intuition and to stick to my plan.  And for the LOVE of everything, I need to LOVE myself enough to not be distracted. 

In 2012 I also learned to UNDERSTAND.  I UNDERSTAND that not everyone is like me; yet, they may be facing their own challenges or that they are unique as well and I am no better nor lesser than that person.  We are all equal but we have different Karmas, different perspectives, different drives.  Some people are so insecure that they need accolades or they need to have their egos stroked.  Such neccessities does not make them evil nor does it make them wrong but that is their karma and I UNDERSTAND that more now since being exposed to such people in 2012 more than 2011.   

I learned a lot in 2012, towards the end I didn't trust anyone, felt like I was running in circles and I thought I was drowning.  Reflecting on 2012, I'm thankful for the lessons that I learned, the experiences that will make me stronger, and the motivation to keep me moving forward. 

I became burned out, without a doubt towards the end of 2012.  I wasn't taking care of myself, I was too concerned with others agendas, and I lost what I learned in 2011.  Not all is lost, I finally had a break and was able to disconnect and I was able to reflect.  Now, I'm able to EMPOWER and to share my lessons so that others may either learn from my mistakes or become inspired by my trials.  That, my friends, is the essence of BLUE.  It's a continuous learning and improvement process....it's life.  Beleiving, Loving, Understanding, and Empowering.  We must all be mindful so that we can appreciate our experiences, acknowledge our lessons, and move forward to create change.  Life is tough so be sure you live it!

I have a good feeling about 2013, I learned a lot in 2012, my experiences are priceless, and I strive to become better at BLUE and I will keep moving forward. 

2012....it happens. 

Believe Love Understand Empower <3

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Last races of 2012

November 24th I ran the Dirty Dirty 5k.  The weather was quite chilly but I finally dressed appropriately.  Triathlons and running races over the summer are easy to dress for...I just wear my Triathlon uniforms; however, in the winter months I've had trouble wearing the right amount of layers and usually end up too hot or too cold.  The course was nice and I saw familiar faces.  I'm always anxious at the begining of a race, everyone starts out so fast and it can get discouraging as faster runners pass. 

I kept a steady pace in the begining, finding a few ladies who appeared to be at a similar pace.  I stayed with them through the water stop.  Once we left the half way point I started to pick it up so that I could get ahead.  Sure enough I got ahead but then I wasn't sure how much further I had to go and was doubting the distance left so I held back enough to keep ahead of those I passed. 

My friend Amy and her friend came back to cheer me through the fnish line, I was totally stoked to see them and really appreciated the cheers :)  I sprinted in for a 36:43 finish time.  I'm still getting the hang of the hills and terrain that comes with running in the woods. 

On December 24th I ran the Frosty 5miler.  I didn't sleep well the night before and was a bit dehydrated but I'm glad that I showed up.  This race was a road race.  The course was flat, but it was a little icy.  I have this fear of falling when running in the winter that I can't seem to get over.  I ran cautiously but was feeling winded and under the weather.  It was not my best run but I stayed ahead, wasn't last, and passed 1 person coming into the finish line.  I finished with a time of 1:00:49, a 12:10 mile....much slower that my summer running, yikes! 

I have a lot of work to do over the winter but I'm ready to step up to the challenge!  Next race is April 28th, my first 25k trail run. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Let's get political


Power to the people

but where are the people?

group- think, sensationalism, scare tactics.....

the private industry jumps through hoops

while our government

operates on personal agenda

gotta help their buddies out

handshake deals

behind closed doors

 and in the meantime the public

passes around pictures with words and so the virus spreads

but the reality is out of sight out of mind

rampant while philosophies like be honest and do the right thing

are buried

the media, biased in all of its entities, creates

a story that you want to read

and you all believe

the lies, the smiles and the "it will be oks"

but it won't be ok

we'll soon be left in a world

full of hypocritical zombies

I pledge allegiance to the flag,

but where are those who are allegiant to the flag?

lies, deceit, backstabbing, personal agendas,

take a look at the facts and data before you fall victim to the smoke screens

anyone can tell you what you want to hear

but it takes courage, integrity, and determination to stand against

the status quo created by the good ole boy network

A (wo)man who stands for what is right and what is good

is more valuable than the (wo)man who stands on

deceit, ego and pleasure. 

your party affiliation is null and void in these circumstances

just give facts the attention that it deserves

and your eyes will see

Come on people!

 


 

  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Aquagear Finis Lap Track Review

Finis Lap Track....Buy Online


I've been swimming since I was a baby.  I started swimming competitively when I was 5 years old and kept swimming through High School.  I am currently a triathlete and I love swimming.  Swimming is something I can turn to when my mind is overloaded.  When I'm in the water I focus on my stroke technique, breathing, and body positioning.  I'm able to be completely mindful in the water.  However, one issue I have always had with swimming in a pool is counting laps.  I have no idea why this is such a difficult task, but it is.  I either end up swimming too much or too little. 

I was thrilled to hear of Aquagear's website and immediately checked it out.  The website is very informative with a wide variety of products.  I checked out lap counters (the swim watches and MPS tabe found under the swim gear section) and came accross this Finis Lap Track, it looked like a perfect gadget to assist with my lap counting. 

The service was perfect and I recieved my brown box right away.  The Finis Lap Track came packaged via its own box, within the shipping box.  I quickly opened and was relieved to not see overwhelming confusion via pieces parts.  All parts were packed separately and easily accessible.  The instructions were simple and were offered in a variety of languages.  There are a few options to choose from when using your Finis Lap Track.  You can either suction it to the pool wall underwater, anchor it to the edge of the pool, or suction it on top of the edge at the pool.  All options are included with your Finis Lap Track and instructions are easy to understand.  Also, this lap counting savior comes with its own bag so that everything can be carried to the pool easily.  The inital set-up can be a little tricky at first while setting up the basic information and baseline data but once you set it up, it's smooth sailing (er, swimming) afterwards.

Once at the pool I was excited to start a workout in which I did not have to count laps.  I tried all of the different ways the Finis Lap Track could be used and found that suction to the pool wall underwater or directly  near the edge was the best way this tracker could be used; however this is my personal preference.  I swam 100 laps and I am certain that I did not forget to count....because the Finis Lap Track did it all for me. 

There are other features if you are interested in counting calories and split times.  I utilized both features but am most pleased with the lap counting function.  I recommend the Finis Lap Track to swimmers going the distance.  If you are concerned with speed and detail, this may not be the best item because of the extra seconds it takes, in addition to the accuracy to hitting the button. 

The Aquagear website is a great online shopping resource for anyone getting in the pool.  The service is great and there are many different products and options for swimmers. 

Thank you Aquagear and Finis Lap Track for making my swimming more enjoyable!

Check out Aquagear online at : http://www.aquagear.com


Blue's UnBashful Blog

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dirty Feet 8k

October 14th I ran the Dirty Feet 8k trail race in Medina, Ohio. I absolutely love running in the woods but I've been intimidated because most of my friends are so speedy. However, I always say that you have to train with faster to become faster! I had a bit of fun the night before the race because I assumed it would be "easier" because of the "shorter" distance.  Yikes! The day before I completed a 2 hour trail run and wiped out, busting my knee a little bit.  It happens....nonetheless I was just out there to have a good time! I saw a lot of my friends at the race and as always, met some new awesome trail runners! 


I started out pretty fast, this hurt me around mile 3 when I started to feel sluggish. The course was a mountain bike trail and was narrow but it wasn't nearly as hilly as the trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  I enjoyed every minute, meeting new people as I was passed or as I passed others.  Everyone is so friendly!  I was way overdressed (for some reason, I haven't mastered what to wear on trail runs.  I'm always freezing to begin with but then overheating 1-2 miles into a run.).  
 

The above picture sums up the race...all smiles!  My goal was to finish in under an hour but my final time was 1:05/ 13/ mile  and I can live with that!  My goal over the winter months is to shed pounds and gain speed in all 3 triathlon disciplines.  I'm looking forward to more trail runs :)  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Back to Blue

The fall season kicked off perfectly.  I think I can say that I have finally adjusted to all of the obstacles, challenges, and new roles of 2012.  It sure did take a while but I feel like the waters have become a bit more smooth..... or I have become a bit better at sailing. 

October started out with a morning walk for The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Coalition in Medina.  Bruiser and I participated in the 5th annual walk with your best friend against abuse 1 mile walk.  It was a chilly morning but we had a blast!
The walk was a meaningful walk and was in support of a great cause. The speaker was a high school girl who survived an abusive father. She told her story and also shed light on the fact that animal abuse and domestic violence is closely correlated. She had several pets throughout her childhood that her abusive father "lost" or abused. Her story was very courageous and illustrative of the close bonds we have with our pets. I never thought of the correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence but looking back at the "infamous" relationship, I recall a time very early on when my ex threw Bruiser because he was barking too loud and he was trying to sleep. I was devastated but I didn't end the relationship. (maybe if I knew of such correlation then I could have saved myself from a lot of grief). Alas, Bruiser is all well and I pay attention to how people treat their pets! 






The morning was beautiful and I enjoyed spending time with my best friend while supporting a really great cause! 



 
After a nap, it was time to get ready for some fun!  My friends Julie and Kevin got married! When I was in college, women were independent and focused on careers (or so I thought).  After graduating from undergraduate school, I stuck around and completed my Master's Degree.  Apparently during this time most of my friends got married and knocked up.  Years after graduating, even more friends became married and I was busy working.  Julie was the 2nd wedding that I was able to attend as an adult and it was a blast! I used to not like weddings but lately I appreciate the idea of happily ever after, love, and all that other mushy stuff.  Wishing Kevin and Julie a lifetime of happiness! 
 
 
October continues on with getting back to trail running!  Since my last triathlon in August, I was mostly doing strength training and yoga, taking a break from the bike and the run.  Yoga twice a week is heavenly.  I started back up with a trail running group on Thursdays and started working towards building my endurance on the weekends. 
 


I'm signed up for a trail half marathon in January and am still trying to decide between a 25k or a 50k trail run in April.  Whichever distance I choose, I'll be fundraising for my favorite organization,  Girls with Sole! I'd love to complete a 50k but I'm hesitant to commit right now.  I'm not sure about driving so far each weekend to train (I think it's going to be a rough winter).  Alas, I'm enjoying the beautiful scenery and the supportive company that comes with trail running. 

 
I'm looking forward to more memories, friendships, and challenges!
 
When I was in high school, we were asked to read a quote for graduation.  I chose the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  I had a horrible time in high school and was looking forward to moving forward. 
Reflecting back on this time and all that has happened since then, this quote is depicitive of my past and of my future.  I'm back and I'm Believing, Loving, Understanding, and Empowering!