Living Like You’re Not Afraid To Die

Life is so different for me now. A few days after my brother died, I read some of his writings. One of the things he wrote was not being afraid to die.

I don’t know what this means. I’ve always been the “careful” one.

Always playing by society’s “rules”, I set goals and go after them. I have had years where my focus was solely on success and not on the journey to get there.

Perhaps that is what he meant. Enjoy the journey. But, I also think he meant more than that. I think he meant to look fear straight in the eye and tell it to shut the hell up.

That’s hard. But it wasn’t hard for him. And I admire that.

Nick came to visit me and my son 10 days before he died. I was so excited that he was coming over and I grew anxious at his arrival. I called him and left a voicemail, asking where he was and what was taking him so long. He arrived about 4 hours after I thought he was going to arrive. After we hugged and said our hello’s, he told me he took the long way on his scooter to enjoy the sunshine. Nick passed by a catfish restaurant and decided to stop for lunch. He also ran an errand for our younger brother. My brother was spontaneous. And when he told me about his journey and how much he enjoyed it, I smiled. I love that he could find joy in the simple things. He also wasn’t afraid of what I would think about him taking so long to get to me, nor was he afraid to spend that much time in the open air with crazy Texas drivers.

I truly hope Nick wasn’t afraid to die the night that he died. That’s one of my concerns that is hard to let go about the accident. I can’t help but wonder if he was just a little scared right before the maniacs creamed him.

Anyway, I hope that someday I can smack fear in the face and live like I am not afraid to die. I do know I am a little less afraid to die. And it is weird, because the death fear came up for me right after the birth of my son. I guess when you have a child everyone’s mortality starts to get a little scarier. I hated thinking about what could happen to him, to me, or to my husband. It was scary and still is. But, now that I have had someone so close to me pass on, I am not as afraid as I was. I know that when it is my time, my brother will greet me with open arms. I just wish I didn’t have to wait for death in order for that to happen

The Life of Nick Peterson

The life of Nick as told through the eyes of his younger sister

Nick was the firstborn and the leader of the sibling pack. He was born August 14, 1981 in Des Moines, Iowa. My parents had a place in Polk City and, from what I know, the neighbors helped watch Nick whenever my parents needed to work or go somewhere. The neighbor, Willie, was involved in the community, so she took Nick to many different places. My dad said whenever they would go somewhere, everyone knew Nick. At such a young age, Nick already loved being around people and was making lasting impressions on those that met him.

My parents moved with Nick to Garland, Texas when my mom was pregnant with the second-born (that’d be me- Bri). On June 24, 1984, Nick obtained the highly privileged title of big brother. I like to think he was ecstatic to welcome a baby sister. On December 21, 1986, Nick and I both became “big” siblings as we welcomed Brady to the pack. From then on, we had a childhood full of fun. Now, we did fight and we did blame things on each other and we did tattle, but overall we had a blast. We loved having slumber parties in Brady’s room since he had the bunk beds. A time or twenty, Nick would fill the top bunk with rotten, silent farts, and then tell Brady or me we could have the top bunk. Once one of us arrived to the horror of the stench, he would laugh hysterically. If you knew Nick at all, you know how contagious that laugh was!

My Uncle Jim, mom’s brother, was around quite a bit growing up. He enjoyed being around us kiddos, especially Nick, and we naturally bonded with him. Uncle Jim would come to all of our birthday parties and take us to Dairy Queen in his big white van. Nick ALWAYS got the front seat. Brady and I usually had to sit on buckets in between the two front seats until my uncle finally bought seats for the back. We didn’t mind really- it was kinda fun living on the edge with no seat belt. That was back in the day when I don’t think we even had seat belt laws! Anyway, Nick LOVED my Uncle Jim. He went on trips with him, played ball with him, and you name it. On June 16, 1995, our world came crashing down. Uncle Jim was in a fatal car accident in Dallas. Nick was 14 years old at the time and had an extremely hard time dealing with his death.

We lived in Garland, TX until Nick was about to be a Senior in High School. He was at Rowlett High School (if I remember right he started there the first year it opened). Unfortunately, the school found out we no longer lived in Garland, and they kicked him out so Nick spent the second half of Senior year at Rockwall High School. He had to drive his little sister to school too since I was a freshman at Rockwall High School at the time. All I can say is, “No limit soldier, I thought I told ya…” (yes, we listened to a lot of rap, and I can still hear the song in my head with him singing along.) Such good memories!

After graduating, Nick went off to join the Army. I don’t know where all he got to go, but I know for sure he saw Korea and Germany. Nick was in the 507th Maintenance Company, and unfortunately they got called to war in March 2003. I still remember praying daily for his safe return. I was a freshman in college at the time. When we finally got to hear from Nick after an ambush that we knew 507th Maintenance Company was involved in, we were so glad (and blessed) that he was safe. 11 Soldiers in the 507th Maintenance Company were killed in combat and 7 others taken as prisoners of war. My brother was one of 16 that made it back to friendly forces. Easter weekend in 2003 he got to come home. I will never forget driving to El Paso with my dad to greet Nick as he came off that plane. Of course, if my memory serves me well, Nick was poking his head out of the plane as it pulled in. And, oh the crowd! We were all cheering them home, and I can’t tell you how comforting it was when I saw my big brother for the first time. I gave him the biggest hug of his life! I will never forget our reunion for as long as I live. Side note memory, that same weekend we thought we definitely needed to give glory to God for bringing Nick home safe so we went to church. Only, none of us had any church-appropriate clothes for Easter. We decided God didn’t mind, and we showed up to the Easter service in sweat pants that we bought from Wal-Mart. This must have been before SuperCenters, because the options were slim at the El Paso Wal-Mart at the time. We followed our sweat pant church service up with a brunch at Denny’s. Honestly, it was perfect to me, my brother, and my dad. We felt on top of the world since Nick was now safe and back on American soil.

Nick had survivor’s guilt after the ambush. Some of his buddies were dead. He struggled off and on with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) like many Soldiers do after battle. Despite his struggles, he would spend the next decade spending as much time as he could with those he loved most. Nick has many friends, but he also could easily make new friends. I admired him so much for that. He didn’t mind going to the movies alone or sitting at a coffee shop talking to someone new. I think Nick knew the secret to life was LOVE, and connecting with others was his way of sharing love with the world.

I’ve always thought of Nick as a hero, even before he became a Soldier. He paved a way for Brady and me. Nick wasn’t afraid to make mistakes or to take risks. I joked in high school that he made the mistakes so Brady and I didn’t have to. And honestly if you asked him, he would take it that way any day. He would rather take the heat than have any guilt fall on Brady or me. He was also a great listener, and I think saved lives in a sense by just being there. Nick was always my rock and a huge support to me during my toughest times. We could share anything and everything without judgment, and I know I am not the only one who thinks this. His heart is so big and full, and those in his inner circle reaped the reward.

My dad told me that the VA is going to make my brother’s tombstone, and the occupation will say Soldier. I love that. My brother was a true Soldier. He was a Soldier in battle, but he was also a Soldier of life. He was the guy taking the long way home to enjoy more sunshine, or perhaps he would stop for barbecue on the way home because it smelt so good. Life should be savored, and he did that. Nick also lived life fearlessly. In fact, I am so grateful I found a few of his notebooks, because in one he actually wrote the phrase, “Don’t be afraid to die.” He didn’t want to let the fear of death keep him from reaching his next goal or enjoying a certain hobby or moment in time.

My brother had a love for travel and spontaneity. His goals were always changing and one of the greatest lessons he taught me was to live life on your own terms. The Western culture is all about working more, having more, and sometimes forgetting the core of your being in the process. Nick didn’t care about having the next big thing or even working for the “man.” He would have loved to be out all day on the land if he could, and money was not a motivator for him. Nick was very spiritual and some could even say a philosopher of sorts. He had ideas about anything and everything, and most of the time it was fun to listen to. In fact, I learned a lot from our talks, and I would give anything to sit outside with him for a coffee talk right about now.

I strongly believe my Uncle Jim greeted Nick home, and I feel peace knowing this. I also feel peace knowing that Heaven is probably more magical than we could ever imagine. My brother now gets to be a Soldier of Heaven. While us left behind would rather have more time with him here, I know we will meet again. When that time comes, I will give him an even bigger hug than I did after Iraq. Nick will be deeply missed. His love and laughter made the world a better place, and I hope we all honor him by loving BIG. Nick lives on in all of us and he will never be forgotten.

So Many Things…

There are so many things I want to blog about today. Possibly because I haven’t written in over 5 months, but who is counting?! Apparently I am. Anyway, if anyone is reading this I hope you are doing well and savoring up the holidays!

Guess what? I quit my job. Well, one of my jobs. I quit my job as a Wellness Coordinator at a company here in DFW so that I can focus more on my job as a mother. I want to be able to enjoy every moment of my son’s infanthood. Is infanthood even a word?! It should be.

I still plan to keep my career aspirations and perhaps do some things on the side, but my main focus is my little boy. And oh is he growing! He already has 4 teeth and counting.

Question for you out there… if I were to create a nutrition workshop, what topic(s) specifically would you LOVE to learn more about? Maybe I should create a survey. Oh I hate the word “should”… leads to more expectations and to-do’s. Am I right?

A few other random thoughts mostly pertaining to the holidays…

  • Christmas is even more fun with a child
  • On the flip side, it is kinda sad when your parents no longer live in the same area and you won’t be able to see them for Christmas
  • I am in mega organization mode and want to get rid of a lot of stuff (I hate too much stuff- anyone else?)
  • I don’t know what it is about hot cocoa, but it makes me festive and joyful this time of year
  • Stocking gifts have always been one of my favorite things so I stuff my own stocking since I am already the stocking stuffer for my husband and son
  • I can’t wait to go look at Christmas lights this year as Christmas gets closer- I think I might enjoy them more than my 10 month old
  • Anything with the word “fir” in it smells AWESOME this time of year (White fir essential oil anyone?)
  • I haven’t watched Elf or Home Alone yet and honestly not sure if I will, but I hope I do (the clip below always cracks me up and it isn’t even the funniest part!)

It is a wonderful time of year and I hope you enjoy the little things! What is your favorite thing to do over the holiday season?

Book Review: Your Holistically Hot Transformation

I LOVE reading. If I had a beach nearby I would grab a book and hang out by the beach daily. How is that for dreaming?!

As for books, I tend to alternate between reading a fiction and non-fiction. For my non-fiction books I love to read about health since I am in the career field of health and wellness. Recently, I got to read a book titled, “Your Holistically Hot Transformation: Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle Free of Dieting, Confusion, and Self-Judgment.

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As a dietitian and nutritionist, I see some books with fad diets and information I shake my head at. This book is NOT like that! In fact, I nodded my head quite frequently in agreement with the author. She spreads a positive body message and is quite inspirational.

I have to admit that I have been in a cooking funk for the past year, if not longer than that. After reading this book I have added the Pinterest app to my phone and plan to pin recipes soon. My husband literally just told me tonight, “You used to cook a lot more,” and it made me sad. Don’t worry my feminist friends, he didn’t mean it in a “you need to cook more now” way. He has simply taken notice of the no cooking funk.

The book has several different sections. It not only touches on nutrition, but also on movement/exercise, meditation, cooking, and other healthy habits. Each chapter has a simple take-away listed at the end in a box. I love that!

The last few pages of the book are my absolute favorite because I can TOTALLY relate! Without giving too much away, she talks about how obsessing over being at a certain weight or being a certain size can be counterproductive. It causes stress, which as we all know halts any get healthy efforts we can attain. I know this to be true. I used to be strict and rigid with my eating and exercising that if I told you what I was doing you would think I had to be a size 2. But, I was a size bigger than I am now! Proof that most diets don’t work for the long haul.

Are you interested yet?! You can read a free chapter by clicking here. I would highly suggest checking it out and seeing if this book is right for you and where you are now. I enjoyed it and even as a health expert learned a few things. I feel inspired to touch up my nutrition a bit.

And since we are on the topic of health, what is one think you are doing for YOU this week?

Tiger Stripes Earned!

It has been awhile since I have posted. But today I find myself wanting to write… about tiger stripes. But, we’ll get to that.

I consider myself a body-positive dietitian. I believe that loving your body is the first step towards getting healthier or maintaining health. If you do not love the skin you are in, you won’t ever truly feel good about yourself no matter what size you are.

With that said, I have a confession to make…

I used to be scared of what my body would look like after having a baby. This “fear” was before I knew the power of loving your body. Just want to make that clear- I did not have this fear while I was pregnant. In fact, I LOVED being pregnant- growing belly and all.

So this fear was in me in my early twenties. Before engagement. Before marriage. Before baby. I was also terrified of the whole “birth” thing, but figured I would either get over that or not have any kids. But I always knew I wanted to be a mom so I had to “suck it up buttercup” at some point.

Thank God I did. I cannot imagine my life without my little boy. The cool thing is, though, this fear went away years before I had my son. It went away when I gave up dieting, restriction, and strict exercise. It went away when I traded in all of that garbage for trusting in myself and loving my body. I started to honor my hunger and fullness cues, no matter what the food on my plate was. I didn’t have to eat cardboard to feel good inside.

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The day before I gave birth to my son!

And now, after having my son I still do not restrict my calories or put in miles on the pavement. I eat when hungry, stop when full, do 30 minutes of one of my favorite exercises most days of the week, never feel negative if I eat cookies or skip a workout, and most importantly LOVE MY BODY. And I am back to a very healthy weight for me.

I never had the goal to get “back to my pre-pregnancy body”. My body has forever changed. I have stretch marks on my belly, but I call them tiger stripes and I earned those bad boys. Every time I see them, I am reminded of how special it was to carry my child in my belly for 9 months and how special it is to have him with me now.

What about you? What do YOU love about your body?

Mommy Guilt

momguiltMy baby is 2 months old and I have a little less than a month of maternity leave left. I have to admit… I have a little dose of mommy guilt.

I want to be by his side every moment of his first year of life. Not literally- daddy needs solo time with baby too, but you get the idea. I am anxious about spending 40 hours per week at a desk job. What will I miss out on?

But, I know it it is the right decision for our household with where we are right now. I currently work from home most days and my husband’s job will be going away within a year. We need the health insurance my company provides. Plus I love my career! I worked so hard to become a Registered Dietitian and Wellness Coordinator- I don’t want to give that up. Just so we are clear though, I absolutely, 100% would give it up for my son if it came to that. He is worth every sacrifice!

I am going back to work in May and my husband will be staying at home to take care of our baby. I am so happy about our decision, but that doesn’t take away the mommy guilt completely. I know it will take time to adjust to this next phase of mommy-hood. I am ready and willing, but you better believe I will check in during my breaks and hopefully not miss out on any huge milestones. He is only little once!

So for all you stay at home moms and working moms, I feel ya! The decision to stay at home or go back to work is NOT an easy decision. I also know some moms don’t have a choice and barely have a maternity leave. We have to make decisions that work best for our own situation. Every mom has a little dose of mommy guilt and we don’t need others to give us more so please don’t ever forget…YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB AS A MOM AND WERE PERFECTLY PICKED FOR YOUR LITTLE ONE(S)!

Ab Separation after Having a Baby

Diastasis recti. Ever heard of it? I sure hadn’t before I had my little man. Luckily, I saw a Facebook post about it and wanted to learn more. It is not uncommon to have some type of ab separation after having a baby, making diastasis recti pretty common.

While researching, I stumbled upon Carrie Harper’s website and Flat Belly System. She explains diastasis recti extremely well so feel free to click the link to learn more. Her video below even helps you determine if you have ab separation or not.

I have a small amount of ab separation (1 finger width), but many women do have much larger gaps. It is extremely important to heal the injury or improve the gap (some larger gaps decrease in size, but do not fully go away) before getting back to certain exercises. The gap can be made worse with full push ups, planks, crunches, etc. leading to a bulge in the abdominal area. From what I have read, a 1 finger gap is not much to worry about but since Carrie’s system is so reasonably priced (seriously, 10 bucks as opposed to over a hundred bucks that I saw on 2 other websites with similar type plans), I purchased it and have been doing it for a week and half.

I honestly feel like Carrie’s plan is good for anyone though. It has reminded me how important posture and alignment is in everyday life. It has also given me a new focus when it comes to abdominal work. Working harder isn’t always best, but working smarter is.

So anyway, I feel like I would be doing you all a disservice if I did not mention ab separation, diastasis recti, and Carrie’s website to you. I don’t personally know Carrie, but I can tell she is passionate about what she does and I love it when women are on a mission to help other women.

Can I get an Amen?!

Curious, have any of you heard of diastasis recti before or experienced it yourself?

Have a happy, healthy week!

Mesothelioma Cancer: A Survivor’s Story

Back in November, I wrote a blog post about keeping your lungs healthy. I touched on mesothelioma cancer, but I think it deserves much more attention. In fact, writing that blog post was the first time I had ever even heard of this specific disease. I bet many of you are in the same boat.

I find myself extremely inspired by all sorts of personal stories, but especially from cancer survivors. I am willing to bet we all know at least one or two family members or friends who have battled or are battling some form of cancer. It is my honor to share with you an interview with Heather Von St. James, a mesothelioma cancer survivor. Hopefully her story will inspire you as it did me!

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Let’s dig in!

  • Can you tell us a little about your story? I’m Heather Von St. James. I’m a mother, a wife, and before my mesothelioma diagnosis I was a stylist and business owner. In 2005, I was diagnosed with a rare but preventable cancer called mesothelioma. I had just given birth to my baby girl Lily and was told I only had 15 months to live. I got sick from wearing my father’s work jacket around the house. As a girl I loved wearing his coat and I had no idea that I was exposing myself to the toxin asbestos, which were in the fibers of his coat. My husband Cam and I quickly found ourselves in Boston with Dr. David Sugarbaker, who told me I was a candidate for a risky but potentially life saving surgery that would involve the removal of my left lung. On February 2, 2006, I underwent this surgery and spent 18 days recovering in the hospital. After a month or so, I went back to my parents house in Boston and in the following weeks received 4 rounds of chemo and 30 sessions of radiation. Cam stayed home in Minnesota to work while most of this was going on. It was extremely difficult but I would not be here today had I not gotten the treatment and support that I did.
  • As a new mother, how did you react to hearing you had the “C” word? I was full of fear and uncertainty filled my head. What would happen to my newborn, Lily? How would my husband go on without his wife? What would happen to our house and the life we had worked so hard to build? Lily needed her mommy and Cam his wife. Dr. Sugarbaker was incredibly helpful in easing this initial shock. After that, I’d say my determination kicked in. I was going to beat this; I had to. It was all quite surreal. Months ago everything was fine, but then this happened. My fighter instincts were ignited and I knew I had to do anything and everything to push through this.
  • What helped you get through your cancer experience? The support from everyone around me made a huge difference in my life once I was going through my cancer experience. As a new mom, you have to dismiss the idea that you have to do everything on your own. My parents took me in and let Lily and I live with them while I was recovering. I was motivated by my husband, who was able to keep it together from miles away while still working to support our family. He really only saw Lily for about 36 hours during the first three months of her life, because he had to be back in Minnesota working. There are also tons of support groups that can help make the fight against cancer easier. I acknowledge that I won’t go back to that “normal” feeling again, but I’ve adapted to a new normal that is pretty astounding.
  • Where do you find your inspiration as a 10 year survivor of a rare cancer? Other patients inspire me to no end. I’ve gotten involved in a few different organizations and meeting with people from all walks of life who have beat seemingly impossible odds are such a source of inspiration. My childhood friend’s son was given four months to live after being diagnosed with cancer at only 18 months old, and he just started college this year! He is just one of many people whose journey inspire me.
  • What does the future look like for you? I hope to inspire in the way that I’ve been inspired. I want to prove that with hope, the odds don’t matter. A positive attitude is key in overcoming adversity and if people can look at my story and think, “if she did it, I can too,” then I’ve successfully accomplished what I want to. I want to spread awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure, a material that is still not banned, and how mesothelioma is a man-made illness. To me, being a survivor means helping others who are facing similar challenges as I do.

Cam_Lil_HVSJ Family

What an inspiring story! I have goosebumps that will probably last for days. Thank you, Heather, for sharing your story with us!

How to Burn an Extra 100 Calories

burn 100 calories

Want to burn an additional 100 calories today?

Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT into counting calories eaten or calories burned on a daily basis in a restrictive way. But, I do like to find ways to move a little more or get a little bit healthier so I LOVE the “Fun ways to burn an additional 100 calories” visual above.

Do any of the above activities strike your fancy? I have definitely had my share of quick shopping trips to get a little more steps in on my Fitbit. I love doing a walk (window shop, anyone?) before actually going into the stores.

How do I burn an extra 100 calories? Currently, by breastfeeding my baby. 😉 But soon, I will slowly make my way back to regularly working out and adding in the extra “burns” here and there. One of my favorite ways to get an extra 100 calories or so burned is to participate in a monthly challenge (you know, the Pinterest-worthy ones that focus on squats, planks, or the like). A co-worker and I challenged each other to a month of doing 100 each of 3 exercises that worked upper body, lower body, and then core. We could choose the actual moves. I liked being able to switch things up a bit!

So now tell me, how do you like to get an extra calorie burn throughout the day? And if you had to choose one or two of the activities in the graphic above to try one day next week, which would you choose?

Side note, I also have to say after looking at the graphic I visited Chobani’s website and noticed a recipe I SO WANT TO TRY. The Pina Colada smoothie… yum! I can do anything Pina Colada…. just sayin’.

Happy Wednesday, y’all!

Chobani has a Simply 100 line and are encouraging people to live a healthier life. I did not receive anything for doing this post. I just LOVED the theme and idea so decided to participate.

Baby Love

So I had a baby…

On February 13th, my life changed forever. I had a baby boy and am SO IN LOVE! Being a mommy is so special to me, in ways I could not have imagined until now.

After 4 weeks, I finally feel somewhat adjusted and like I have a rhythm down. The first few weeks of having a newborn are TOUGH. I felt like I did not know what to do at times and add in sleep deprivation, you really feel like a crazy person.

One of the many things I have learned in the past 4 weeks is how to give more. I know, giving is something anyone can do and is not all that unique to raising a child. However, I am a very independent person. My husband is too. A baby, though, needs your attention at ALL times. Sometimes the constant giving is overwhelming, but most of the time giving breeds connection. It allows me to bond with my child and cherish every tiny, precious moment I can.

On a lighter note, here are some other quick tid-bits I have observed the past 4 weeks…

  • Baby fake out sneezes are the BEST. I seriously want to capture it on video if I can, but I never know when he is going to sneeze and then give a fake out (him saying “ugh” after a real sneeze).
  • Babies can fart and burp SO LOUD. And sometimes I can’t help but laugh.
  • Breastfeeding is not all that easy. I didn’t really think it would be, but I rarely hear about women having a hard time with it so this caught me by surprise. Oh the flaws of social media! And some say breastfeeding is when the mom feels so connected or bonded with baby? Sorry, doesn’t do it for me. I bond with my baby through everything else though.
  • The whole sleep thing got better for me (or perhaps I just got used to it) after 4 weeks. Sleep deprivation is NO JOKE. I can totally understand how some women get plagued with postpartum depression or anxiety.
  • Spitting up is scary for the mom. I thought something was wrong with my baby when he started spitting up A TON. Now I see that most moms have babies that spit up. That made me feel better!
  • I love to smell and kiss my baby’s head… often!
  • Pants, hats, and jackets are silly in this newborn stage. I have a few that will not be worn most likely because with the spitting up issue, I usually change baby 3x per day. Onesies are the easiest to change so he pretty much lives in those.
  • Weight charts are stupid. I got scared that he wasn’t growing like he should because of the damn growth chart. But, he was happy, pooping, peeing, eating, etc. so shouldn’t that count for something?!? And I am happy to report we are gaining weight… I just have a small baby!
  • I was scared of a lot of things the first couple weeks… driving with baby (I didn’t personally drive with baby until week 4), SIDS (because let’s face it, warnings for SIDS are everywhere even though the percentage rate is pretty low), kidnapping (that damn viral FB post about kidnappings at Target and Wal-Mart), etc. I decided to give over my worries to God and focus on loving my baby as much as I can. All that is certain is the NOW. I have to remind myself of that regularly!
  • I am blessed beyond belief for my parents, especially my mom. Experiencing motherhood for the first time gives you an all new appreciation for your own mom.

If you have any children, what did you learn those first few weeks?

Hope everyone is doing well!