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My Favorite Memories

As you all know, I posted on Facebook awhile ago asking family/friends to ask me anything. One of those questions was “What’s your favorite memory and why?”

Wow. Does anyone have just ONE favorite memory? I thought and thought and thought about it and I think I can narrow it down to 10. Maybe. Let’s see:

  1. Our family went up to Minnesota every year for vacation. We went the last week of July & first week of August. The entire family went and some family friends. We stayed at the same resort every year and we were friends with the resort owners. When I was in Jr. High my Grandpa built a house up there and sometimes some people stayed with him. My very first crush was my Grandpa’s Friend’s son, Ryan. Ryan was 10 years older than me, but that did not matter. I followed him around like a lost puppy dog for a long, long time. As I got older, I’d like to say (I hope) I got less annoying…the crush still remained. I have many, many good memories in Minnesota, but the ones that really stand out are when I rode the 4-wheeler with Ryan, when we played Jeopardy, and when hung out. These aren’t my favorite memories b/c I had a crush on him, but rather b/c he never treated me any different b/c of that. And as I got older, we would talk and joke around and some-what confide in each other…and he made me feel important. And that was a really good feeling. Especially as an awkward, nerdy teenager. The fact that a hot, really funny guy actually spent time with me, that meant a lot.
  2. Sabine Pass, Texas. My first station in the Coast Guard. I should do an entire blog just on that. Again, so many memories, it’s hard to pick one favorite. I think it would have to be New Year’s 2006, though. Corey and I were JUST friends, but we always joked around that we would have to make out sometime when we were drunk b/c I had never kissed a guy with a tongue ring before. Well, New Years Corey kissed me shortly after midnight (not at midnight cuz he was kissing every hot girl at the club, lol). He pecked me on the cheek and I looked at him and was like “really?!?” Then, unexpectedly, he picked me up, spun me in a circle, told me he loved me and laid one on me!! And guess what?!? He wasn’t wearing his tongue ring that night…
  3. Bodega Bay with Steve during A-School. It was where we went to get away from all the stress in our lives. We sat and drank on the beach and talked…got to know each other….relied on each other.
  4. Costa Rica.
  5. The first time I ever played roulette with Corey and then the first time I played with Calvin.
  6. My first trip to Vegas. Calvin and I shopping and feeling like Pretty Woman. Hitting on the gay guy at the pool. The foam party. Jumping off the Stratosphere.
  7. Omg, speaking of jumping….the 4 times I’ve skydived
  8. Jana and Matt’s Wedding. Dancing all night with Aaron.
  9. My first visit to Boston. Steve showing me what real Bostonians do. His entire family taking care of me.
  10. Mike and I’s first trip to Pismo. Oh that is probably tied with our trip to Lake Tahoe.

I know I didn’t elaborate on all of these. If you want to know more, please leave a comment, I’d be happy to go into more details.

It’s too hard to pick one favorite memory. I will tell you what almost all 10 of these favorite memories have in common, though…in almost all of them, someone made me feel special. Someone took an interest in me and made me feel loved. The most important things in my life are my friendships…especially the friends that have became family. And these are the memories and the things that led us to that point.

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Describe Anxiety/Depression/Mental Illness

I saw a meme today that said “Trying to explain mental illness to someone who’s never experienced it is like trying to explain color to a blind person”

I’ve had this same thought many times. And it frustrated me in the past b/c I didn’t want it to be true. I figured there had to be a way to explain it. Then I tried. I even had a blog post on here about it. But I wasn’t happy and eventually deleted that post. And then on my drive to San Rafael this morning, it finally hit me:

Having anxiety/depression is like being nauseous/queasy. Let’s say you wake up in the morning and your stomach just doesn’t feel right. You may or may not know why. It could be something you ate. It could be the flu. It could be a new medication. The list goes on. Or you may, simply, not know. Maybe there is a flu going around, but you have not heard about it yet. Or you were in a place where someone had the flu, but you didn’t know.

So, what do you do from there? Maybe you take Tums or some other medicine. Maybe you try to eat something. Do you go to work? Or, if you have plans, do you still attend the event? You haven’t gotten sick yet. You may feel better after you eat/take medicine/get up/etc. BUT….you may also get sick. OR…if you have the flu, you may be contagious.

You have control over your behavior/actions. You are functional. But you are in pain. So you may be irritable or short with someone. Or maybe mid-conversation you have to run to the bathroom real quick.

Eventually you feel better. You’re back to your normal self and you go on about your life. Maybe you avoid a certain food in the future. Maybe you change up your medication. Maybe you eat with your medication. Maybe you do nothing b/c you still don’t know why you felt queasy or how you got the flu in the first place and you are hoping it was just a fluke.

So, how is anxiety/depression like this?

I wake up and I don’t feel right. I have that feeling, in the pit of my stomach, like someone I love is going to move away and today is the day and I’m sad about it. My eyes are watering and I know I’m going to cry. I may or may not know why I’m about to cry. Maybe someone I love is moving. Maybe some other life event is happening. Maybe I ate the wrong food or my medication is off. Or maybe I don’t know the cause at all.

There are other feelings, too. Cloudy head. Spinning. Etc. but I will continue on with what I wrote above.

So, what do I do from there? I can breathe. I can try meditation. I can take my medication. Do I go to work? If I have plans, do I attend the event? I’m not “sick” I may feel better as the day goes on. The sun may come out, someone may make me laugh. BUT…I may also get worse. I may cry all day. I may have a panic attack. When I’m driving. That may cause an accident.

I am responsible for my behavior/actions. I am somewhat functional. But I am in pain. And I don’t know how to stop crying. Or I may be angry or short with someone. I may have to excuse myself to the bathroom while I have a panic attack or I try breathing.

Eventually I feel better. I’m back to my “normal” self and I go on about your life. Maybe I avoid a certain food in the future. Maybe I change up my medication. Maybe I schedule a therapy session. Maybe I do nothing b/c I still don’t know why I felt like crying in the first place and I’m hoping it was just hormones or a fluke.

I have been diagnosed with anxiety/depression/ptsd. I can only explain my experiences and my feelings. I know there are a plethora of other mental illnesses out there and I can imagine they are similar to me, but I really don’t know. I hope this gives someone trying to understand mental illness a better idea of what it is like.

Just like someone who feels nauseous/queasy cannot “just feel better”….someone with anxiety/depression cannot “just feel happy” It doesn’t work that way.

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“I want to be a shepherd”

Good Will Hunting is one of my all time favorite movies. God only knows how many times I have watched it. There are so many profound lessons in it. So many good quotes. It’s funny. It’s sad. The actors are HOTT!! The actress is gorgeous. It has everything a movie should have and more.

The year leading up to me getting out of the Coast Guard was full of people telling me how many options I had and how great I was going to do on the outside. While I appreciated the support and the compliments and I purposely set myself up to have all the options I had/have–the world being my oyster is NOT comforting.

Sean: So what do you really want to do?

Will: I want to be a shepherd…I wanna move up to Nashua, get a nice little spread, get some sheep and tend to them

Does anyone know what they want to do with their lives?!? Anyone? What is the perfect job? What does it look like? Is it a high paying job? Is it a job you enjoy? Is it low stress? Is it few hours?

My options:

Use my GI Bill and go to college. (BARF!!)

Get a civilian Search and Rescue Coordinator job. I know I’m the best of the best. I know I can succeed at it. It pays well. Schedule may or may not be good. High stress. Still semi-attached to the Coast Guard. Still sucking the government’s tit.

Continue as a civilian instructor. No stress. Good hours. Highly qualified. No raise for any foreseeable future. No promotion ever. No personal growth.

Take another job. What job? What’s out there? What salary do I ask for? What benefits do I need?

I’m about to sign an acceptance letter for a Quality Assurance job. The interviews went great. I researched the company. I asked questions. I passed their “test” They offered me the job. It felt great…until an arbitration agreement came with the offer letter. Something else I know nothing about.

I have forgotten what it is like to not be the subject matter expert. I’ve forgotten what it is like to feel lost. I continue to gain self confidence and feel better about my body only to hit these speed bumps. And they knock me off my game. I want to stay safe. I want security…

BUT, I also want to grow. So, I stopped panicking and remembered I have a friend who is a lawyer. I had her look over the agreement and she said I could sign it. So, I’m going to.

Sorry blog followers “I have to see about a girl…”

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My Journey Final (What Defines Me)

I already blogged on here about my weight / weigh ins in the Coast Guard. Originally I was going to just add this picture to that post. But tonight I attempted to blog on Instagram before coming here. I tried to sum up my story, with the allotted words, for the people who choose to follow me on Instagram and never come here. Towards the beginning I wrote “for 12 years I was fat” Towards the end I wrote “I am smart, fun, talented–fat, what’s that?!? I am FREE!! I am getting healthier everyday!! Fuck the scale! It no longer defines me!”

And that, is what I have concluded, has been what My Journey has been all about. My Journey has been about finding me. Finding out who I am and who I want to be. Finding out what defines me.

I’m not there yet, but I will be. And when I am, these are the things I want to be. These will be the things that define me:

I want to be a good friend. I want to be a hard worker. I want to contribute to the world in a positive way. I want to share my story with whoever may need it.  I want to treat my friends & others with respect. I want to listen to them when they talk. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt when I am mad. I want to be generous. I want to be patient. I want to be kind. I want to be an artist. I kind of want a business, lol. I want to be strong. I want to be healthy. I want to be happy. And I want all of these things to be contagious and to spread like wild fire. I want the best for me and I want the best for you.

What defines you?

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My Continued Journey (Broken…)

  • I’m exhausted but cannot sleep
  • I’m starving but cannot eat
  • I’ve had a bad headache all week
  • Blankets off, too cold
  • Blankets on, I over-heat
  • My acid reflux is off the charts
  • And I’m nursing a broken heart

This week is shark week (sorry males). Since my diagnosis, with medication and a lot of supplements, I have no idea if I’m getting better or not. My symptoms come and go. Something will get better and something else will get worse. One month will be alright, the next will be terrible. This month has been the worst month in quite some time. ALL of my symptoms came back. I can’t sleep, I have NO appetite, nothing sounds good, but my stomach hurts from being hungry, I’m struggling with depression, I have had a bad headache almost every day, I feel so alone / miss my friends more than words can say, my cramps are out of this world…

I can stay sane at work cuz I’m busy. I can mostly stay sane when I get home from work cuz I have things to do. I literally lose my shit after tossing and turning for more than an hour.

Of course, all of my health problems are my fault. If I ate better, if I was better at taking my medications/supplements, if I worked out more, if I didn’t eat that piece of chocolate, if I drank more water…then I would feel better.

But I can’t eat right all the time, workout every single day, have my medications on me at all times, drink 120 ounces of water…

Because I’m not disciplined, in shape, motivated…….a good person.

And I have a blog to write. I captured my journey in pictures. I have a picture of me as a “strong, independent, happy women” I went through hell and made it out. That’s the phoenix tattoo. And I’m a giant hypocrite and should give all this up….

OR SHOULD I?!?

  1. I was offered and accepted a job on Tuesday after I rocked an interview.
  2. I booked a trip to Boston to meet a good friend’s baby.
  3. I paid extra on my car payment.
  4. I brought baseball tickets.
  5. I gave a free Sam’s Club membership to a friend that needed it.
  6. I applied for several jobs in areas I would like to eventually live in.
  7. I got my stubborn ass dog to actually take his medicine without jamming it down his little throat!!
  8. I can write this list of accomplishments and be proud of myself for not completely giving up this week.

I’m human. I fail. I’m going to continue to fail. I do not have my shit together and maybe I never will. But every day I strive to be better. I continue on with the fight. I am very, very Broken….and I am still Beautiful.

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My Journey Part 2 (what do I wear?)

I’ve always been a cross between a girly girl and tom-boy, pending on your definitions of both. I love getting dressed up. I love getting pampered. I can spend all day at a spa. Facial, pedicure, manicure, massage, etc. But I also love camping. I love dirt bikes and 4-wheelers. I love driving through mud and having it spray all over the place!

Joining the Coast Guard was not hard as far as following the dress code went. I had long hair when I went to boot camp. My hair is very thin/fine, though. And no matter how tight I put it back in a pony tail and how many tubes of hair gel I used, the second I had to take off my hat, it all fell out. So, when the guys were forced to shave their heads, I asked to get a hair cut, too. There wasn’t a salon onbase in Cape May. The barber just cut my hair. Straight line just below my chin. It didn’t bother me at all. After that, I didn’t have to do push-ups for “fly aways”

I couldn’t paint my finger nails, so I just painted my toe nails instead. I would even do themes; peppermint patties on Christmas, a cupcake on my pink large toe for my birthday, a “7” on red for my trip to Vegas, multi-colored and a huge “M” for Easter, etc.

As the years went by, I became a Coastie. I was an OS. Most of my friends were/are guys. They didn’t/don’t care how I looked, so neither did I. And slowly my identity changed. I didn’t even realize it. I was damn good at my job. I was and still am very proud of that. I was promoted fast. I got awards. And that was who I was.

And then all of a sudden, I wasn’t a Coastie. And I’m not an OS. And I don’t have a career. And who the hell am I?!? And what the hell do I want to do?!? And how, how do I even begin to do it?!?

I hired a professional resume writer. I set up a LinkedIn account. I had professional headshots taken. I did mock interviews. My roommate (the same one who inspired this business), Mike, did a fake interview with me. He let me practice my handshake and introduction with him.

I went shopping. For business clothes. I had (and still have) an image in my head of a professional punk rocker. If Gwen Stefani had a desk job, how would she dress? What did I come home with instead? Blue. Blue pinstriped pants. Blue tank tops. Blue shirts. Blue. All blue.

Then Mike had to tell me that the pockets were not fake, they were just sown shut….

While all of that was scary, I also decided to get my cartilage pierced. And get purple highlights (professional punk rocker). I got acrylic nails. And immediately after my photo shoot, cut them off!!! How does anyone function with them?!? I couldn’t take my keys off my key ring, put on a necklace, open a soda, etc.

I also got a tattoo. A large phoenix on my left shin. In the mouth of the phoenix is a broken sand dollar. Why the left shin? Because (thank you Ken!) when you march, you always step out with your left foot first!

And as I step out of the Coast Guard and into my new life, I figured a good way to handle it would be through laughter. So I asked the beautiful, talented, wonderful Kearsten Leder Petra if we could chronicle my journey through photos. And she agreed.

So, even though this is the second blog, these are actually the first two pictures in the series. These are pictures of Hillary trying desperately to change her identity from OS1 to professional punk rocker–and only somewhat accomplishing it.

I don’t know who I am. I have a full time job, as a contractor for the Coast Guard, and I’m interviewing for part time jobs. I’m also blogging and making clocks. I don’t wear and don’t ever see myself wearing much make-up–for starters, an extra 20 min of sleep, YES PLEASE!! I also hate and almost fear things in or near my eyes. (I wear glasses verses contacts for this same reason) And make-up is expensive and itches.

Kearsten has volunteered to teach me how to do my hair. I love my look in the pictures, but again, extra sleep….But maybe on the weekends.

While I got rid of the fake nails, I do like my nails being painted and I still like wearing multiple rings. I love, love, love my cartilage ring. And the more into crystals I get, the more necklaces and bracelets get added to my collection.

I don’t know who I am, but I am figuring it out. I am trying things out. I’m asking myself “what did I learn?” when things go wrong. I’m doing my best not to beat myself up for not knowing things that should be “common sense”

I don’t know who I am and I’m guessing most of you don’t know who you are, either. Especially those of you going through changes. Weather it be a career, marriage, children, retirement, etc. Please know that you are not alone. When you are feeling down about yourself, please look at these pictures and remind yourself “that Hillary blogger girl, she only knows how to dress in blue”

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My Journey Part 1 (weigh ins)

Disclosure: I am NOT writing this blog to bash the Coast Guard. I have many, many stories of the good the Coast Guard does. I have many personal stories of the good that I did. I am proud to have served my country. I am proud of my accomplishments. I do not regret leaving my small town in Illinois to see the world. At some point in this blog I will tell more of those stories. I write this blog tonight, to capture ONE flaw in the system. I write this blog to tell MY story and only MY story. I write this blog to empower anyone else going through a similar struggle and to encourage HEALTH above all else. 

Today is my last official day in the Coast Guard. It is the last day that I am OS1. It is the last day that will be on my last leave and earnings statement. It is the end date on my DD 214 and on every job application I will ever fill out.

When I was a junior in high school and working at the local grocery store, I came home one night and tiredly sat on the couch for a few minutes to talk to my parents before dragging myself to bed. They were watching A Perfect Storm. I have no idea why, but when I saw the rescue helicopter flying above the fishing vessel, I knew at that moment that I wanted to join the Coast Guard. Never mind the fact that I lived in the smallest town ever in the middle of a corn field in Illinois. It didn’t matter that the only time I had ever seen the ocean was the summer before when I visited a friend in Mississippi. I didn’t even know the Coast Guard was a branch of the military. But I knew, I wanted to join. I looked at my mom and point blank said “That’s what I want to do with my life”

I was so tired, I expected her to look back at me and tell me to go to bed. There was no way I could watch 5 min of a movie and decide to give up college and go fly helicopters. But instead my mom looked at me and simply said “ok”

Deciding that my mom was paying too much attention to the movie to actually hear what I said (or that maybe she was  having a moment of temporary insanity), I said, with a  bit more enthusiasm, “No, seriously, that is what I want to do with my life. Not the fishing vessel (I hate fishing), but the helicopter. That’s what I’m going to do!”

And again, my mom, completely unphased by this, said “Ok. Tomorrow go talk to your guidance counselor”

Upon talking to the guidance counselor, I learned that the Coast Guard was a part of the military. And if I wanted to join the Coast Guard, I would have to go through boot camp. Surprisingly, though, I still wanted to do it.

I didn’t actually join the Coast Guard until I was 21. The reasons behind that are another blog post for another night. Let’s just say that there was a lot of red tape and personal growth that had to be figured out in order for me to be ready to start the next chapter of my life. However, in the interest of being 100% honest, I did struggle with my weight. I did go to a weight loss camp, learned how to eat healthy, and began running 4-6 miles everyday. By the time I joined I could do a 5K in 29 minutes. I weighed 138.

Boot camp was much much harder than I could ever imagine in some aspects and much much easier in others. Things I thought would be hard for me, were actually very easy. After all, I had plenty of time to prepare for it. But if I said I didn’t cry at least once a week, I’d be a huge liar. At the end of boot camp I weighed exactly the same, 138.

My first station was in Texas. I loved every. single. minute. I arrived right after Hurricane Katrina took out Mississippi and New Orleans and Hurricane Rita took out SE Texas. I was working hard 4 days on and I was playing hard 4 days off. It was my first time away from home and on my own. I had a purpose in life and I was carefree. I had a great group of friends, around my same age, in the same spot as I was. I love them more than words in this blog could ever say. And have kept in touch with 4 of the 5 of them for the past 12 years. I could create an entire blog just about Texas, too, but I must move on.

The first time I failed a weigh in was in A-School. I decided to become an Operations Specialist after figuring out that I wasn’t fit enough, nor did I ever want to be, to be in aviation, and my ability to get sea sick coupled with my clumsy-ness, would not make me a good Boatswains mate. Operations Specialist, on land, talked on the radio / answered Mayday calls. I love talking and I am not the type of person to panic in stressful situations. I was very excited about my decision, although leaving Texas was just as hard as my initial move from Illinois.

I worked out in A-School. I loved to run. I will admit to not eating healthy foods all of the time, but I drank a lot of water and rarely drank anything else. I was only a couple pounds over, but never-the-less, if I did not lose them before graduation, I would not be allowed to graduate. I remember going to medical and being told that if I struggled with my weight up until that point, that I always would. A DOCTOR LITERALLY TOLD ME THAT I WAS NEVER GOING TO BE SKINNY.

I was pissed!! Being 22 and still lower ranking in the Coast Guard, I did not say anything. I nodded my head and went about my day. I talk a lot. I vent when I’m upset. But honestly, I think writing this post is the first time I’ve actually told anyone about that particular conversation.

I was determined to prove him wrong. I did lose the weight I needed to lose before graduation–you can easily lose weight at 22 years old when you stop drinking water, stop eating, and workout for an hour a day. And after that I went to Seattle, because as luck would have it, I got a cutter (large boat).

The boat was in dry dock in Bellingham when I first reported. I went to the gym all the time with another girl in my shop. When we were inport, I would wake up early, go to the gym, workout and then start my work day. It was a great system because the parking lot on base was small and getting to work early ensured that I got a parking space on base and not out on the street. Underway, when I was not throwing up and the seas were not too rough, I would also work out in the small gym beneath the Boatswain Hall. I loved the stair stepper. It was the most stable piece of equipment. On the treadmill you would have incline, weather you wanted it or not, pending the sea conditions. The exercise bikes were too light and would come off the ground. But the stair stepper–that was a beast!! It was heavy enough to stay on the ground and the seas did not effect the climbing at all.

The food, however, was not healthy. I would bring snacks with me on patrols, but I did not have my own personal refrigerator to store things in. In the beginning of patrols there would be plenty of produce and a nice salad bar at every meal. But towards the end of a patrol, you could forget about it. And, as an Operations Specialist (OS), we stood watch. And mid-rats were always left overs or fried food and never included salad or fruit.

It was not long until I struggled with my weight on the boat. I was also diagnosed with PMDD and acid reflux. Despite participating in The Big Climb (a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, where the participants climb 69 floors or 1311 steps to reach the observation deck of the Columbia Center in Downtown Seattle) and making it all the way to the observation deck (some participants don’t. People donate money based on how many floors you make it up. For example, a friend pledges $5 for every floor you make it. So if you climb 10 floors, you raised $50) I was still struggling with my weight. I almost got kicked out of the Coast Guard.

Weigh ins are in April and October every year. There is a pre-determined weight you must be under based on your height. The other option is to be “taped” The procedures for taping changed a lot over the 12 years I was in. It was your wrist, natural waist, and buttocks at one point. The past few years it has been (for females, I should clarify) your natural waist + the largest part of your buttocks – your neck = sum. Match that sum up with your height on a chart and you magically have your BMI. I CHALLENGE YOU TO FIND ANOTHER ORGANIZATION OR GYM/PERSONAL TRAINER  THAT USES THIS METHOD TO CALCULATE BMI. If you do not meet weight standards, you are put on probation. During probation, you are required to workout, meet with a nutrionist, see a doctor to ensure there is nothing medically wrong with you and that you can workout, and weigh in, including taping, once a month until you are within limits. If you do not become compliant within the amount of time they give you (1 week per 1 pound over or 1 month per 1 percent BMI, whichever is greater), you are discharged from service.

After Seattle, I went down to Mobile, AL where I was an Operations Unit Controller (Search and Rescue Coordinator) for the majority of my 5 years there. Towards the end of my tour on the Cutter I was put on birth control for my PMDD. While I was in Mobile, the weight standards changed and I could weigh more than I was allowed in Seattle. I ran at least 10 miles every week and participated in a 5K almost every month. I never failed a weigh in. I lived offbase and could prepare my own food. I still did not have the best habits, but I was eating much better than I was forced to while being underway. I walked the line with weigh ins. Sometimes weighing exactly what I was supposed to with no room for error. And sometimes I had to starve myself for a week before weigh ins. But I never failed one.

I began to workout with a personal trainer. I wanted to put my fear of weigh ins behind me for good. I didn’t want to walk the line or starve myself anymore. I worked just as hard, if not harder, than most of her clients. My body was re-shaping and I got more compliments than I ever have in my entire life. I lost a total of 12 inches. HOWEVER,

1 inch was around each bicep, 1 inch was around each thigh, etc. I also gained 12 pounds. So when weigh ins came around, I weighed to much to be under pound-wise and since they measured your waist and butt, I didn’t lose enough inches to be under the allowed BMI. I cancelled my workouts with my trainer, starved myself, took laxatives, ran, and barely made weight by the skin of my teeth.

I turned 30 six months before transferring to Petaluma, Ca, where I would be an OS A-School Instructor. I was not upset, but was actually excited, about turning 30. However, my body decided it was time to come unglued. ALL of my symptoms from my PMDD came back with vengeance!! The birth control was not controlling anything. I stopped taking it. I tried acupuncture for awhile and that was helping quite a bit, but it became too expensive to keep up. I stopped taking my birth control. I stopped having periods. I gained 20 pounds.

Keep in mind, NONE of my other habits changed. I was still running 10 miles or so per week and still participating in at least 1 5K per month. I still could have been eating slightly healthier, but I was not eating any differently than I did in Mobile.

I failed multiple weigh ins. And every time I went to medical, after being put on probation, I told them something was wrong with me. And of course, they already knew that I quit taking my birth control because it was no longer working. But every time they said I just needed to work out more.

I met with Unit Health Promotion Coordinators. I hired a new personal trainer. I started doing yoga. I tried eating less calories. I tried eating more calories.

But medical kept insisting there was nothing wrong with me. And after one failed weigh in, one doctor even told me “Even if you have a thyroid problem, you will only lose about 5 pounds anyway, so it is not worth looking into”

Yes, you read that right. A doctor told me that we would ignore a potential medical problem because it would not help me lose weight. (I was too shocked at the time to say or do anything, but later did speak up. He was reprimanded, but is, of course, still practicing)

Thankfully, at this point in my career money was good enough that I was able to pay out of pocket for my own endocrinologist and my own blood work. I did/do have hypothyroidism.

Coast Guard medical accepted this. They knew the medication I was on. They knew I was seeing him. They were fine with everything UNTIL I asked for a weight abeyance (waiver). Then shit hit the fan. My blood work came back with a very low TSH and all of a sudden the doctor I was seeing was a quack and was killing me. They sent me to an Air Force endocrinologist.

I had to stop taking all my medication for over a month in order to get “clean blood work” done. No one cared that I was depressed during this time. No one offered me counseling or any other means of help. I simply had to deal with it as a consequence of seeing a doctor out of the Tricare network.

Imagine the surprise when the clean bloodwork not only showed that I still had hypothyroidism, but also had poly cystic ovarian syndrome, as well. Two medical conditions that on their own create weight gain, much less having both. And what is good for your thyroid is bad for PCOS and vice versa. So figuring out the right foods, supplements, and workout is a nightmare. And again, I was working with personal trainers and a nutrionist.

The Coast Guard granted me a weight abeyance for 6 months. I was given an extension for another 6 months after that, after my symptoms got a lot better, but I was still over-weight.

Once the year was up, though, that was it. I had to get back within standards. There is a way to continue getting extensions every 6 months, but medical did not believe me that I was actively trying to lose weight, so the email that was sent did not advocate for me. I was denied more extensions. My command tried to fight for me, but it was a battle that could not be won.

The Air Force endocrinologist also thought I was depressed. The Coast Guard psychologist diagnosed me with having a borderline anxiety disorder. I started seeing a therapist. I have anxiety and PTSD.

After 6 months in therapy and many battles lost with admin and medical, I finally decided it was time to give up a career in the Coast Guard. My abeyance ended, I was put on probation, I did not make progress, and I was Honorable Discharged for not meeting weight requirements.

Weigh ins in the Coast Guard are NOT about health. There were several conversations at medical about what medications I should be on and it always came down to ONE factor “did the side effects include weight gain?” I adamantly refused to go back on birth control. I was lectured for this on more than one occasion because I only gained weight when coming off of it. Clearly, my health was the focus and highest priority for the Coast Guard.

Again, I am not writing this blog to bash the Coast Guard. I have many, many stories of the good the Coast Guard does. I have many personal stories of the good that I did. I am proud to have served my country. I am proud of my accomplishments. I do not regret leaving my small town in Illinois to see the world. At some point in this blog I will tell more of those stories.

The weight system is flawed. And I was trapped in a game that I could not win. Damage was done to me, physically, mentally, and emotionally that will take years to repair. Since deciding to get out of the Coast Guard, some of that healing has already taken place. And there is proof of this. My chiropractor has seen more movement in me over the past 6-8 months than she saw in the 2 years prior.

After going on terminal leave, I dyed my hair, got fake nails, got the cartiledge on my right ear pierced, and got a huge phoenix tattoo on my left leg. The phoenix is holding a broken sand dollar in it’s mouth. I got it on my left leg because when marching, you always step out with your left foot first. It is time for me to figure out who I am and who I want to be. It is time to focus solely on my health and not on my weight. It is time for me to be reborn.

I wanted to do a photo shoot to embrace my new look. My hairstylist is also my photographer. She is amazing!!!! I highly recommend Kearsten Leder Petra to anyone who lives anywhere near Penngrove, Ca.  She works at R Squared Salon and does photography out of her home (or on location) in Petaluma, Ca. She is on Instagram #kearstenlederphotography.

While she was dying my hair purple, I was talking to her about the upcoming photo shoot. The shoot went from a fun shoot to embrace my new look to a shoot that would capture my journey, set me free, and also, hopefully, empower and encourage anyone going through any struggle similar to mine.

She is not done editing my photos yet. So I have only attached one photo to this blog for now. There is another one coming soon.

Your weight does NOT determine who you are. Being over-weight does not make you lazy or no good. There is never a good excuse to starve yourself, to run in garbage bags, to throw up, to take laxatives, etc. Please take my word for it, the damage you do takes a long time to undo. And the longer you do these destructive things, the slower your metabolism becomes and the harder it is to accomplish your goal of being skinny. A career in any field is not worth your overall health. The only numbers that should ever count, should be the results of a blood test. And even then, question what they mean and get a second opinion if you do not think you are being heard. You have value. And you are beautiful. You may be broken, but I promise, you are beautiful.

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One Year

To be honest, I don’t actually know when my anniversary is. Mike and I went on vacation March 20-22. I have a picture of Mike’s clock on April 11th. I made my mom and I’s clocks shortly after that. I don’t remember when my first sale was. And since then, there have been a lot of firsts.

There was the first sale, the first business name, the first business card, the first consignment store, the first sale to a stranger, the first returning customer, the first art trade, etc.

This started as a hobby as I dealt with a lot of health issues. I wanted to make money from it, but didn’t want to run my own business. I kept trying to get friends to take over as my “business partner” so I could just be the “artist” Fortunately/unfortunately my friends keep trying to make me a better person! They will give me advice and tips, but none of them will do 100% of anything for me. Even the friend that built this website for me is slowly teaching me how to run it by myself.

I am now on terminal leave with the United States Coast Guard. My last official day is April 10. I will have served for 12 years, 8 months, and 22 days, if I just did the math right. I’ve been stationed in Texas, Washington, Alabama, and Ca. I’ve been North to Nome all the way down South to Costa Rica. I accomplished a lot, met a lot of great people, and saw a lot of great things.

As I transition out I’m trying to figure out what I want to do next. What am I good at? What skills do I have? Where would I fit in best? How can I continue to help people?

Part of that journey has lead me to accepting I am a business woman along with being an artist. I can run this on my own and should. I can take it to the next level and want to.

So, from the vacation that lead to my love of sand dollars to my official last day in the Coast Guard, let’s celebrate one year!! Let’s release any anger or bitterness that we may be holding on to and be thankful for the things that are good. Let’s thank the friends we have in our lives that have made us better people. Let’s enjoy where the journey takes us. Thank you for being on my journey with me.

Sabine Pass, Texas. My first unit in the Coast GuardPismo Beach, California. The place where this journey started My love for sand dollars and this new life 🙂

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Amethyst Clock / Healing Crystals

This business kind of fell into my lap. If you read the first blog post, the first clock was made for my roommate, Mike,  after we went to Pismo Beach for vacation. It was a way to save our sand dollars from our trip and it was a nice gift for him. I made a few other gifts and that was all I intended to do. After I posted pictures on Facebook, though, I had several people ask if I would make them clocks.

At first I was selling to friends for near cost. As interest continued to grow, though, I decided it was time to figure out where else to sell. Mike and I tossed around several ideas and, at the time, consignment stores seemed like the best way for me to sell my clocks. I searched and found two in the local area, Made Local in Santa Rosa, Ca. and Stones Throw Gifts in Cotati, Ca. I met with both owners and my clocks can be found in both stores.

I also volunteered to work at Stones Throw Gifts. The majority of the merchandise in the store is made by local Sonoma County Artists. We also sell a lot of healing crystals. I didn’t know anything about crystals when I first started working at the store. I suppose I never had to learn about them if I didn’t want to, but I’m the type of person who wants to be able to answer customer’s questions and be helpful versus just standing behind the register. I started walking around the store during my shifts to familiarize myself with where everything was located. Then I began looking up different crystals that I thought were pretty in our book to see what their healing properties were. From there I searched Capricorn. Then I searched my medical problems. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with crystals. (my favorites, so far, are malachite and blue lace agate)

My first “Just Breathe” clock was made as a thought “Amongst Chaos, Find Inner Peace” entered my head. The clock itself is colorful and chaotic with a blue “peaceful” center that says “Just Breathe.” Or in another version, around Just Breathe it also says “Amongst Chaos, Find Inner Peace”

I love this clock, but the feedback from the majority of people is that the clock itself is “too busy” or “too colorful” for a “Just Breathe” clock. So, back to the drawing board.

How do people go about “breathing?” What calms people down and allows them to find true inner peace? Prayer? Writing? Meditation? What healing crystal or crystals aid in this?

If you are just getting into healing crystals, amethyst is a good one to start with as it is a very versatile. Amethyst  helps with physical ailments, emotional issues, and in Energy Healing and Chakra balancing. Most people are very attracted to the beautiful purple color, as well.

Thus, my second edition of “Just Breathe” is here. Amethyst combined with sand dollars to allow for a calm atmosphere so the owner of this clock can find inner peace.

 

Special Thanks to Jessy Bloom and Joseph Rotstein at Redstone Minerals for the amethyst. You can find them on Instagram at #redstonecustoms.

You can also find their crystals and some of my clocks at Stones Throw Gifts in Cotati, Ca.

 

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Broken But Beautiful Products

In my January 11th blog post I talked about how/why I came up with my signature clock, Broken But Beautiful. I find that quote to be incredibly inspirational/empowering. Without projecting, I think I can safely assume that all of us feel “broken” at certain times in our lives. No matter what the cause is (illness, family emergency, job loss, etc.), I think it is important for us to remember who we are and that we still serve a purpose in life. I think it is important for us to remember that we are beautiful.

A couple weeks ago a friend of mine suggested that I expand my products beyond my art. At the time we were talking about different ways to expand my business / make more money, but beyond that, my goal in life and my goal for this business is to make a positive difference in people’s lives. How perfect would it be if we came up with an idea that achieved both goals?!?

My friend designed a Broken But Beautiful logo for me. Once that was done, it was time for me to decide what products I wanted to put it on. Clocks are home décor. My initial thought was to put the logo on other home décor items to match the clocks. I thought of vases, candles, picture frames, etc. I found candles/votives.

My go-to things to make me feel better are chocolate and writing. My next thought was to put the logo on items that would potentially make people feel better. I searched the internet and found coffee mugs, hot chocolate, and journals.

My last thought was inexpensive things that people buy for around the house or that I could potentially give away to promote the business. I found coozies, stickers, and Jelly Belly tins.

Eventually, when this business takes off, I would love to donate some of my profits from this line to charity. Bloggers, it’s time for you to weigh in!! What other products would you like to see this logo on? What charity would you like to see me support? If I use your idea, you will get a product for free. I look forward to reading your suggestions!!