Aug 18, 2017

Hope


Photo Credit: Jamie Tervort Photography
Skirt Sports challenged me to write about my "word." What is the word that describes me and how I live my life? What word sums up all my experiences, my attitude, my choices? What is the word I choose to live by? After much thought, I realized that my word is "hope."

When I was 26 I felt like my life was falling apart. Only six weeks after I gave birth to my sweet daughter, which was a difficult pregnancy and delivery, my mother passed away unexpectedly from an aneurysm. It was surreal. She was completely fine and healthy. When I got the call, I was in such shock that I lost the ability to function. I felt like my heart was breaking. The pain was physical, and it left me in a really dark place for a long time. I felt so completely and utterly alone, since I was away from my family. If it weren’t for my daughter and my love for her, I don’t know if I would’ve survived the heartbreak.

I had stopped attending church a few years before all of this had happened due to misplaced priorities, and to be honest, I wanted to sin without feeling guilty about it. By the way, that doesn't work. I always felt guilty. I tried to put the blame of that guilt on the church, but I always knew that it was because I wasn't keeping the commandments or my covenants. Without the light of the Gospel in my life, I was pushing the Holy Ghost away from me and I was falling further into darkness. I rejected the peace and hope the gospel brings and instead looked for solace in other places. But that peace cannot be found outside the gospel or away from Christ. It just can't.

Almost immediately after my mother died, I started to get sick. Really sick. It started with frequent and unrelenting headaches and quickly escalated to constant nausea and vomiting, heart palpitations, tremors, rapid weight loss, chest pain, and extreme weakness. For months my health deteriorated. Even the 34 times to my doctor and the 16 times to the emergency room delivered no diagnosis and no result. My unit commander was worried about me and regularly sent me to the base clinic, but it wasn’t until after six months of worsening symptoms and through the skill of my new doctor that I finally got an answer. I was dying of an autoimmune disease that was viciously attacking my thyroid. Under usual circumstances, it wouldn’t have been so bad. However, since I had gone untreated for so long, I had to be emergency rushed to the closest hospital that could treat me, which was four hours away. Luckily, things turned out for the best and I am still here. At that time though, it was terrifying and the treatment was a long (and still is a long) journey.

Throughout all this, I was in a hostile environment within my personal life. I was criticized and demeaned so constantly about my weight, my appearance, and pretty much everything about me, that I developed exercise bulimia. I wasn’t ever really overweight, but through this abatement the way I viewed myself became distorted. I counted every calorie I ate, and I made sure to exercise at least twice that daily. If, at the end of the day, I had an apple or a snack, I would jump on the treadmill or the bike and work off those extra calories before I went to bed. At first I thought I was just being healthy, but I was working myself to illness.

I placed all my self-worth on my appearance and how I thought others viewed me. This is a very unhealthy way to think, and I suffered physically, mentally, and emotionally from it to the point where I hated myself. I truly believed I was being punished for being a terrible person. I felt like I deserved all that misery. My self esteem through those years deteriorated to the point where I felt worthless, disgusting, and unlovable. I didn’t even think I deserved to be loved.
In light of all the pain and self-loathing I felt, I got through it. I didn’t just survive these trials, I overcame them. I started going back to church with the help and support of the most amazing visiting teacher, the missionaries, and my church family. And by going back to church, I started repenting and keeping the commandments. This helped turn me back toward Jesus Christ, my Savior, and through his Atonement I discovered the healing power of repentance and forgiveness. I found strength and healing by keeping my covenants and building my testimony of Jesus Christ. Through His Gospel, I came out of this darkness stronger, smarter, and better than I was before. And I did this with a very powerful thing: hope.

As a child, I was so full of hope. My biggest and most significant hopes were to finish college, get a doctorate, marry an amazing man, have a family, serve my country, run marathons, be an athlete, and make a positive difference. During those aforementioned dark times however, my hope was misguidedly placed in finding happiness by being skinny and by changing myself to please everyone around me. This led me to become very depressed and very ill (on top of already fighting a disease). 

It was during these hardest times that I realized how unhappy I was and I wanted to make a change. Through the help and support of my true friends, my father, my brothers, and my church, my hope evolved from being on temporary and shaky premises to being placed on the firm foundation of our Savior and His gospel. Instead of hoping that I could please people around me by altering my appearance, I started hoping to find someone who would love me no matter what I looked like and no matter what the situation, someone who would take me to the temple and to exaltation. This further fed my hope to change from me hoping to please everyone to me hoping to be happy with myself.

This hope allowed me to change things bit by bit in my life. Those hopes I had as a child? I was able to accomplish them. Through this hope, I was able to get out of a bad situation and find the man of my dreams. We were sealed together for time and all eternity last year and he is the source of so much happiness in my life. I have a sweet daughter, and my hope for her grows each day that she will love herself and be happy.  I still have hope that, in light of my medical issues, my husband and I will be able to have another child.
Photo Credit: Jamie Tervort Photography
I always was such a tomboy when I was young. Granted, I still am to a degree, but this part of my personality was the basis of my hope to one day serve in the armed forces. At the age of 23 I commissioned into the Air Force. Although parts of my military service were difficult, I completed my commitment and honorably served my country. I hope that I made a positive difference in the world through my service.

What about my childhood hope to earn my doctorate? Well, I had already earned my bachelors degree before I commissioned in the Air Force. Through that dark time in my life I didn’t have the confidence in myself to think I could ever achieve anything further. But with newfound hope in my own academic abilities I am starting toward that goal. This fall, I start work toward my PhD in Biomedical Science. I hope to be a medical researcher and to make contributions toward better treatment options for autoimmune disease.

My hope to be healthy helped me stop my unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. Instead of counting calories, I work on eating a well-balanced diet. Instead of exercising to lose weight, I now exercise because I love being active! My focus has been shifting from hating my body to loving this beautiful gift my Father in Heaven had given me. This now healthy passion for fitness led me to hope again that I would one day run a marathon. Three years after I started receiving treatment for my autoimmune disease, I was healthy enough to do just that: I ran the Big Sur Marathon! It was much harder than I anticipated. There were times during that race where I wasn’t sure if I could finish. But, I hoped that I could do it, and I hoped that I would survive the distance. And I did just that! To this day, that finisher medal is one of my most prized possessions for what it represents.
My race medals remind me of all I have accomplished athletically. Photo Credit: Jamie Tervort Photography

After running consistently (and healthily) for a number of years, I realized that I am an athlete! I’ve competed and completed over 50 races. I’ve hiked in 15 states and two countries. I’ve overcome my insecurity about cycling and my fear of swimming. I’ve tried new things like paddle boarding, kayaking, skydiving, shooting, archery, skiing, rock climbing, yoga, weight lifting, and even dance.  I’ve done all this because I hoped that one day I could be an athlete, and now I can say that I am.

Hope is a trust that things will turn out for the best. I will continue to hope and to look toward a future that is bright.
Moving toward the future in hope. Photo credit: Jamie Tervort Photography

Aug 8, 2017

Summer Adventures in the Pacific Northwest


This summer has been full of traveling. We temporarily moved to Oregon for three months for a summer internship, and while in the Pacific Northwest, we wanted to explore the completely different landscape out here. Compared to Texas, New Mexico, or Utah, Oregon is like a whole other world. Everything is so beautifully GREEN! There are trees everywhere! Every hike we went on had waterfalls. And we still got the beauty of the mountains. One of my favorite things about this summer is that by being in Oregon, we were able to escape the blazing heat of the high plains and the Utah desert. I'm going to miss these high of 80 degrees days.

When we accepted the summer job in Oregon, we made a list of the things we absolutely must-do while in Oregon, and being the planner that I am I scheduled time to do them all. This was my list:

Serve in the Portland Temple

The Portland Temple was the first temple I'd ever served in, which I did as a youth. It was great to be back and to appreciate the beauty of the temple and the peace of the spirit.


The Portland temple is so beautiful, inside and out. The grounds are forested and filled with lovely flowers.

Go to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry)

OMSI was my favorite place to go to when I was a teenager. I've always been a science nerd, and this science museum has a lot to offer! We visited every exhibit, did experiments in the labs, and even toured a submarine.


We toured the USS Blueback Submarine, the submarine that was in the movie Hunt for Red October
We went to see the special exhibit on Pompeii
  

We didn't have time to see a planetarium show, but we did get to see their meteorite exhibit.
There were a lot of different science labs and we did an experiment in each one of them. The hands on science was awesome
The Earth science room was right up my husband's ally, since he's a geologist.

And the Life Science Hall was my favorite exhibit!
Our last stop was to the gift shop! They had all sorts of science experiments to take home, and some really great science shirts and souvenirs.

Visit the Oregon Coast, and see a Lighthouse


What trip to Oregon would be complete without a visit to the coast? We went out on a perfect day. The weather in Albany was near 100 degrees, and the coast was a nice 70 degrees at the warmest. We enjoyed the beach, the lighthouses, the piers, and the clam chowder!
We saw Devil's Punchbowl...at low tide. At high tide, the water comes over this sandstone formation and it looks majestic.
We visited the high tides at Yaquina Head beach. The beach was covered in these basalt cobbles making it a rocky beach.
We got to hike to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
We had a great view of Beverly Beach. I used to do beach clean-ups with my church here when I was a youth.
Our last stop was to the historic Newport Bay Pier. We got fresh salt water taffy and fresh clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.

Hike Silver Falls State Park

We wanted to hike in an Oregon temperate rain forest and see a lot of waterfalls, so Silver Falls State Park was a great choice. We hiked the Trail of Ten Falls, and it was saturated with green and trees and plants everywhere, with ten waterfalls!
We hiked the trail of 10 falls with amazing views of the waterfalls!

Some of the trails went behind the waterfalls!
It was an 8.5 mile hike, and it was well worth every step.

Visit Northern California

This was the closest I've been to my Northern Califonia family, that we made sure to take our long Fourth of July weekend to visit them. We went to Redding and to San Jose, and had such a good time with family.

We visited Shasta Lake and Shasta Dam

We also went to Turtle Bay--it has a cryptozoology exhibit! I saw a dragon,
a kracken,
A griffin,

a unicorn,
sasquatch,
another dragon,
and a huge eagle.

- See Redwoods while in Northern California
We used to go to Henry Cowell State Park all the the time when I was a kid. It has this cross section of a redwood that fell and they labeled the lines with historic events.
 The Freemont tree, which is the one my husband crawled in, is huge and hollowed out on a bit on the inside, It is said the the explorer John Freemont camped in here overnight.


This is the tallest tree in the park!

Camp at Crater Lake

 I have wanted to visit Crater Lake ever since I heard of this lake in the crater of a volcano. It was even more beautiful that I thought it would be, and even more incredible to see in person. This is definitely a must-visit if you are planning an Oregon trip.
We had the most beautiful campsite! It was surrounded by trees and by a creek.
Crater Lake is the most beautiful lake I've ever seen! It's so clear, it was like looking into a mirror.


It was still snowed in, even in June, that we couldn't do any hikes or go into the water, but we did at least get to see the lake. We made up the time by watching the video about how Crater Lake formed and by exploring the places we could walk.

See Multnomah Falls

I really wanted to see the famous Multnomah Falls before we left Oregon, and initially I thought it would be hard to make the trip. I was pleased to find that the falls were right on our way into the Portland, so this was the first thing we got to see!
These falls are one of  the most famous in Oregon, at it's easy to see why.


 In addition to these activities, I was also able to visit the town I spent some of my teenage years in, go to the Sherwood Robin Hood Festival, hike the highest peak in the Coastal Range (Mary's Peak), visit the state capitol, and make some new great friends. We even visited Washington and Montana for a quick weekend to see family and to go to a scientific conference. Now THAT was a lot of driving.

This Oregon trip has been quite the adventure with my husband, and I'm glad we got this opportunity to travel and see more of this great nation. But it's been a long time since we've been in a place we can call home, and I miss my awesome bed and my friends. So, it's time we make the trip back. I'm not looking forward to all the driving, but I am looking forward to being back in my home. Farewell Oregon! It's been a great summer.

Aug 2, 2017

Shoe Review: 361 Degrees Sensation 2


It's not often that a product impresses me so much I feel the need to write a post about it to tell the world! In fact, the last time I felt so passionate about any sort of fitness gear was when I discovered Skirt Sports two years ago (and I still absolutely love them!). The brand I'm writing about today is 361 Degrees.

Somehow, I'm still not sure how, my feet shrank. It's been happening over the last six months or so. I've heard of feet swelling, but not of shrinking. So it took me a while to notice that none of my shoes fit anymore. My running shoes and gym shoes are now too big and when I work out in them, my feet slide around giving me blisters and a lack of ankle stability. Last week, after only a five mile run, I developed huge blisters on my arches, even with liberal application of Body Glide. I was finally fed up. After months of getting blisters after every workout in all of my shoes, and after slowly developing pain from plantar fasciitis, I decided it was time to just foot the bill and buy new shoes.

I went to the nearest running store in my GPS still drenched in sweat from my run. I told them my problem and mentioned my plantar fasciitis and told her I just wanted a shoe that fits and feels good.

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I know a lot about running shoes. I've run in just about every brand: Asics, Brooks, Altra, Skechers, Saucony, Hoka, Merrell, Salomon, Reebok, Nike, New Balance. I've gone through A LOT of running shoes since I run A LOT of miles. So I thought I knew just about every brand there was, until the saleslady brought out a pair of 361 Degrees Sensation 2 shoes. I was a bit wary, seeing as I have never heard of them before, but I decided to give them a try.
361 Degrees Sensation 2

Instantly, the pain in my arches and my heels (aside from the blisters, that would take treatment and draining) was gone! My feet felt amazing! They were perfectly cushioned, not too little and not too much. My arches were perfectly supported, and my heel was snugly held where it was supposed to be. And that was just standing! So, I took them out for a run around a couple blocks before I committed to them. And they performed beautifully. They made my run feel smooth and my feet weren't feeling too much impact. My feet didn't slide around at all, and they were just tight enough for me to feel secure.
No more arch pain, no more heal pain, and no more blisters! This made for a great run. I even matched colors with my Skirt Sports Hover Skirt and Racecation Tank top.
I was impressed. This was the most impressed I have ever been with a shoe before. I bought them right there and wore them home for the rest of the day. I've used them in gym workouts since then and in my Beach Body Insanity Workouts. They keep my ankle stable and keep my feet from hurting from the plyometric impact. They still perform excellent in my running, and no more blisters!
My Sensation 2's were a great choice for a day of walking at the Oregon Coast. My feet felt great, even at the end of the day!
Now I know that there isn't a one-shoe-fits-all for all feet types, but I do recommend giving this brand a try. They are so comfortable and fit well. My foot pain is almost completely gone, and that alone was well worth the cost. I love my 361 Degrees Sensation 2 shoes, that I look for every excuse to wear them! They're my new favorite kicks. Now, if I can just make sure my feet have stopped shrinking!