Life is hard… or is it?

I’ve heard that many times and in many situations. My answer used to be, “Well, consider the alternative.” In short, saying, it could be worse, you know. You could be — not living at all. But that’s not an entirely accurate reflection of what would be “worse”.

I started thinking – life is hard. Death is easy. Because it’s done. See, living is a process and actually so is dying. Dying is hard. Death — the end of that process is actually quite simple. It’s that way with anything.

The process of dieting to reach a goal weight or to just simply get to a healthier state of being: HARD. Once you’re there at the goal – easy. BUT the PROCESS of keeping it: hard. Any process is hard. The easy is so short lived because there is always another process coming behind it.

I compete in figure competitions and usually take about 10-12 weeks of dedicated cutting and training to get to “show ready”. That process: SO VERY HARD. And it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it – it’s always still so hard. But the end: the stage: EASY.

Running: training for a half marathon or a full or even a 5k or 10k – the TRAINING is SO HARD. Crossing the finish line  — or even the race itself many times if you’ve trained well, Easy.

I could give so many more examples, but they all prove the same point. Processes are hard because they are processes. Redundant? Not at all. It’s the striving, the growing, the getting better or trying to obtain that makes “life hard” as so many will complain of at some point. Life is quite easy for anyone who is not striving to become anything.

In life, we are given many opportunities for hard and rewarded with a few fleeting moments of easy. When you enter a process, or make a goal or decide to try something new: accept that it will be hard and focus on when the easy will arrive. I challenge you to wait for the easy as you endure the hard. Try not to rush it. There are prizes along the way in the hard and if you rush through it, you may miss them.

Mom is dying of cancer. This process is hard. Her easy is coming and thankfully this easy is not fleeting but will last for eternity. As I drove home tonight, these were my thoughts — thoughts of how long this is taking, how hard some days are, how i have so much less room to ever even consider that this might be hard when my dad is there 24/7. (and my mom would correct me for using numbers in a written post — I’m going to leave it though). I’m thankful for the prizes along the way and I’m thankful for God’s mercy in reminding me of them tonight.

Prizes along the way — the sparkle in her eye when she wakes up and realizes that I’m there. The love in her voice when she says, “It’s been a fun day today, I’m glad you were here.” The silent glances she gives me when Dad has left the room and is getting her medicine or her water or whatever else she asked for. No words are spoken but she speaks with her smile and her eyes. These are prizes meant only for me and I will keep them. And if the hard is needed for me to appreciate the prizes — then, Jesus, bring the hard and I’ll thank you for it.

Friends — life is not hard — LIVING is hard. It’s designed this way. Embrace the hard, be thankful for the hard and look for prizes.

My Mom Loved Me Too Much…

My mom loved me too much to throw me in the deep end of the pool and watch me “learn to swim”.  But I’ll save you the questions and the wonderment…. did I learn to swim? No, I never did. I was not given the die or swim hard lesson on figuring out how to stay alive and then learning to swim. But also, to this day, I would simply be classified as “I won’t drown” but I don’t “swim” well either.

There are two ways that people learn or succeed in life — consistent hard work and effort because they are motivated within themselves to become better. Or life events and circumstances force their hand — they are pushed to either survive or fail and those are the only options left.

Today, I reflected some on my upbringing. My childhood rearing, if you will, And in general terms, it was uneventful. Now, mom will tell you I was the child who kept her on her knees — I was the one of two children that she “worried” over. Well, someone had to be, right? I was the kid who wanted to grow up too fast — wanted to date, had older friends who could drive before me and could go to late movies and have sleepovers etc. My extent of “rebel-hood” was staying out with a group of seniors (4 years older than me) til after 10 pm one Friday night. My mom was beside herself when I arrived back home and I believe that was by far my worst lecture in my teenage years. It ended with me being threatened to be home schooled for the remainder of my high school career (all 4 years remaining). This sounds simple and like it wasn’t a big deal — trust me, it was huge and I never made that mistake again. (Staying out without proper communication as to where I was).

In my adult life, few times have I made a major change in my life by my own accord. Life in it’s beautiful way has always pushed. I’ve needed doors to slam shut before I would even attempt to look for a window, let alone, another door.

Today, one by one, doors are slamming and I’m being pushed by life to find the window. My instinct of treading water is kicking in because that’s what I was taught — to tread water to survive, not to learn to properly swim and make new waves. Sometimes trial by fire is the best trial.

So while my mom loved me too much…. thank you, life, for being of the hard corps, hard knocks mentality and pushing me to where I need to be. New horizons loom. I embrace them with excited anticipation of where the new road leads.

Over The Edge – the journey.

I was sitting by a fire in a local hotel lobby with my best girlfriend when my phone rang. That call changed my life but it wasn’t until two years later that I even began to realize just how changed it was going to be.

In September of 2016, my mom received her diagnosis. After months of a lingering cough and sore throat and then many more tests and doctor visits, the answer came:

Stage IV small cell lung cancer.

When she called, she was calm, as was I. Information received and life continued on. At least, it did for me. Mom’s routine, however, changed immediately and considerably. I don’t remember the time frame but the next few months were met with biopsies and scans to determine what kind of lung cancer this was since she never smoked. Who knew there were “kinds of lung cancer”?? I didn’t — until now. Now I know there are three categories with two -three types within each category and the breakdowns continue from there.

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Once treatment began, mom experienced good and bad days – both physically and emotionally. Emotionally for me — it hadn’t really sank in yet. Mom still seemed to be mom. When she was asked how she was, she would say, “It’s fine. I’m fine” and she smiled so convincingly. Christmas 2016 – she was so small, so frail – but with her cheery voice, “I’m fine! I’m great! I feel great!”.

By the summer of 2017, I had almost forgotten she had cancer. Her last visit with the oncologist, he was blown away by how her explosion of cancer had dissipated. There were little to no signs of it remaining. However, the initial prognosis from Sept 2016 was — this is metastatic, it will return, you will die from this. I don’t mind blunt doctors who speak fact. I appreciate it. So we knew, to be thankful for every day.

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Prizes along the way

Mom had many prizes along the way. She married a man in love with Clemson football and while I was young, mom appeared to tolerate it…but that love grew to an all out obsession once her parenting duties subsided. A lady who once said “Orange was not her color”, now had it as a staple in her wardrobe. She met Coach Swinney and became fast friends. He prayed that she would make every home game in the 2017 season – and she did.

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When the journey took us – over the edge

In December, mom had a routine scan scheduled. I actually had a scan on the same day for fear of a brain aneurysm. Typically, results take a few days, and there’s no rush to hear from your doctor. Mine had my family physician so concerned, he ordered the scans to be read immediately and called me within an hour of my leaving the procedure. Coincidentally, Mom received a call that quick as well.

Katie – All clear.

Mom – Please come in first thing in the morning.

The cancer returned and it was metastatic. Metastatic lung cancer is a beast and not to be taken lightly. The journey from December to now (February 10) is blurry at best now. There were weeks in the hospital, days in hospice house, and now days at home. Routines have changed — mom’s and yes, now, mine.

Cancer had touched my family before now — many times. But it had brushed by it. It hadn’t really grabbed me until it knocks on your front door and lives with you. My mind never pictured these days from that September call. I never saw myself running to and from a hospital and learning the names of nurses and staff. I never saw myself knowing the ins and outs of procedure rooms and supply closets. I never knew I’d make friends with other family members on the same oncology hall as we were. I never pictured the sights I’d watch, the things I could handle, or the help I could give. I never imagined laughing at things mom had said and then bursting into tears with the same breath.

Over the Edge Upstate – Cancer Association

During mom’s hospital stay, she received five radiation treatments. The staff were great but I was blessed to know a lady who worked in the office. She sat with me each time, explained how it worked and was just a friendly face in a rough situation. When this same friend sent me information about #overtheedgeupstate I was on board immediately. I’ve attended fundraisers for the Cancer Association before but because I was interested in the event. Cancer hadn’t touched my life at that point. Today – I’m thrilled to go over the edge because I love all things athletic and active – but the ask for the funds is different. Once cancer touches — grabs — your life, perspective changes.

Many have asked about where the funding goes and have expressed frustration with other Cancer Research fundraisers etc. I understand not all non profits are perfect. I understand being cautious with where you give. But I also understand and appreciation what Cancer Association does: they support the patient and the family.

Visit their website to view their services and where the money goes. Any support is appreciated. If you desire to support me in raising funds and jump over the edge of the ACHotel in Spartanburg, SC – you may DONATE here.

The three reasons I give:

  1. It’s local.
  2. It supports the patient and the family.
  3. It supported my family.

We never know where we’ll be sitting when the call comes that changes our life. We can’t be certain the change will be from good news or hard news. There may not be a fire, or a best friend. When the call comes, I pray you have all the support you need to face this life change.

 

 

 

“I’ll tell you when you graduate.”

My mom has cancer. She has chosen within the last few weeks not to continue treatment and let the disease do what it will. This is probably the best gift she has ever given me.

Mom has always had a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. She taught first grade, then middle school and high school grammar for well over thirty years and one of her favorite responses to anyone who questioned her was, “I’ll tell you when you graduate.” This was in response to questions for why she had certain rules or did things the way she did. Any question, really, her response was, “I’ll tell you when you graduate.” For those of you wondering — yes, most of the time, the questions were forgotten and very rarely did graduates actually return to her for these answers.

A friend of mine has always referred to death as graduation – the ultimate graduation. As mom is nearing graduation, she has begun telling stories. Stories of my childhood, her childhood, her teaching days and a few made up stories are thrown in too.

I came in the room one day and overheard this:

Katie was my difficult child. She was strong willed and determined. I would take her into the bathroom for a spanking thinking, “I will break this child.”[her will] But there was no breaking her. She kept me on my knees more than anything else.

–Another mom — What finally worked? Because she seems to be a respectful adult? –

Katie LOVES to win. She has to be number one. I finally learned to reward her for doing right rather than breaking her will to do wrong. We created a chart of stickers and that girl would do anything to have more stickers than her brother.

 

IMG_0651.PNGAs I listened, I laughed a little. I began playing competitive sports in the sixth grade and the competitive gene only grew stronger over the years. Now, as a competitive figure bodybuilder, the words, “I couldn’t break her” ring truer than they did when I was five. I found a trainer who has pushed me past any limit I ever thought I had and has said the same. She will not quit. She does exactly as I ask without question and she has to win.

I started 2018 with one goal – An NGA pro card and one show in mind. June 2nd. And then – cancer. I’ve competed enough to know — it is never wise to train for a show if there is ANYTHING else going on because you will be distracted and there’s no room for distraction in this game. I was ready to bow out, to put the goal on hold and then I heard the above. Now, mom has never advocated my competing but she now, with all filters gone has smiled when she tells visitors how strong I am. While it wasn’t her first choice for dreams and goals for her daughter — she still supports any dream I have.

Training continues. I still pack fish and greens and take them to the hospital and now to Gaffney when I go home to visit. There’s a deeper focus this time.

Mom always said, “I’ll tell you when you graduate.” She wasn’t lying — she is looking at graduation day and telling me everything I ever needed to know – about myself, about her and about this thing we call life.

Thanks, Mom.

Meet the trainer who doesn’t love working out

“For you, Katie, working out is life.”

Unfortunately, it’s not. I love so many things about fitness and about a great workout — but no, the act of working out is not life for me. The friend who made that assumption assumed that I gym time was a “release” for me or an outlet or something I looked forward to daily. I’ll admit, I don’t. I don’t look forward to the workout of the day. Usually I’m super tired from everything else I’ve done that day and pushing myself through weight lifting is not something I enjoy – but something I know I must do because I enjoy the result.

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Working out is a discipline for me so it’s easy for me to relate to clients who aren’t “gym junkies” by nature. I have to play mind games with myself for those early morning fasted cardio workouts and when there was no time in the day for the weight training and it’s 7:00 pm when I’m finishing up my “work day” as a trainer, hitting the gym for my session is the last thing I want to do.

So why do I do it? Because I love the stage. I love competing. And that love is enough to drive me to do things that aren’t easy or aren’t fun. I’m not the girl who gets a runner’s high or is constantly looking for gains simply for the joy of gains. I’m the girl who loves the transition, loves the stage and loves the race. So — to be on stage, there’s behind the scenes work to be done.

If working out is a chore for you, find the reason you love doing it. Either you love how you feel after or you love how much energy you have throughout the day or you love maintaining a steady weight while enjoying the foods you love. Whatever it is that you love – focus on that and grab the mental toughness you need to build habits.

I’d love to hear what drives you in they gym. Comment below or on my Facebook page. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Stronger than you think.

You are so much stronger than you think. You just may not need access to all the strength you have within you — just yet. We are not training for a marathon or a competition or a race — we are training for life. We are training our minds for strength when life pulls the rug out from under us and we have to find strength. We are training to know — we can survive the tough, the hard, the painful.

Train for life.

It takes a village.

It takes a village  — both when life begins and when life ends. Newborn life requires so much of the new parents and schedules change and there are adjustments that no one could prepare for so help is needed. So much help. And as life cycles… the village is called upon in new ways when the children are grown and end of life approaches.

In the past seven days, I have seen more love and more support than I ever knew existed. And when the journey starts, you politely wave off the offer for help because you’re fresh and really can’t think of anything you “need”….and as the days get longer and your strength diminishes….you start to accept the offers and you realize just how big your village actually is and the heart cannot hold the amount of gratitude you now hold for this village.

Food, bedside sits, overnight stays so you can sleep in a bed, a hand to hold and a hug at the right moment. It takes a village. Family, nurses, doctors, staff, and even other family members on the same hall have become like family in as little as seven days. I walk the halls of the hospital and I see stories — not strangers. I see worried faces and tired hunched over bodies from where this family member has labored in this ominous scene for far too long for their loved one. I notice things like, couches and puzzles to help give distraction or comfort to family. I notice when a nurse not only checks vitals or sticks a needle but places an arm around my mom’s shoulders as she struggles with nausea or pain. I notice when a nurse kneels by mom’s bedside to administer a drug rather than raising her bed so she doesn’t disturb the sleep she’s fought so hard to find. I notice when a nurse we’ve had is assigned somewhere else that day but sees me in the hall and asks if I need anything. I noticed when you bathed my mama rather than just dropping off washcloths. I noticed when said a quick prayer for her before she went to surgery.

The medical field is not perfect. No field is. We are all but human doing the best we can and at the end of the day — nursing is still a job and jobs are hard and not passions on some days. But I rise and call you blessed, dear nurses for taking your job as a calling and for the care you give, both to the one in your bed and those sitting bedside.

It is a gift — YOU are a gift. If you are reading, I simply want to say thank you.