Who am I? How did I get here? The journey back to me.

I have to start out by saying this whole thing has kind-of taken me by surprise, but it feels so completely natural that I can't believe I didn't see it sooner. Almost 40 years into life and I'm still learning new things about myself nearly every day.

Exercise has never been appealing to me. Scratch that. Physical exertion of any kind has never been appealing to me. I once threw such a fit as a child because I didn't want to go on an evening stroll with my parents that I had to do some serious apologizing to keep from getting a spanking afterward. Because I didn't want to leisurely STROLL around the neighborhood. As in walking slowly. As in not breaking a sweat.

I have always been the opposite of athletic. Aside from this incredibly embarrassing soccer foray into the wide world of sports, I pretty much just stuck with dance classes and theater growing up. I did manage make the freshman and JV cheerleading squads for a couple of years in high school, but once they realized I was never going to be able to master the toe touch, they realized I was dead weight. Literally. Zero ab muscles.

I've yo-yoed up and down the scale all my life. I went to Weight Watchers meetings with my mom when I was in 6th grade. I lost weight as an adult by working two jobs at one point and never really having time to eat. Proper exercise and nutrition have never been my M.O.

After our big kids were school age and I was back to work part-time, the scale had started to creep up again. I could see it in pictures of myself and the fact that I had to keep buying bigger clothes. The telltale double chin was in full effect and I hated it. My birthday in October 2012 found me at my heaviest since having birthed my older kids. And I decided on that birthday, that I'd had enough. I started to make changes in my diet and actually dropped a few pounds over the holidays. When January 1, 2013 rolled around I knew I needed to add workouts into my routine, so I started doing pilates at a new local studio. The combination of clean eating, twice weekly hour long classes at the studio, and long therapeutic walks with a dear friend did the trick of shedding 37 pounds!

I wore a bikini to the beach that summer. I felt awesome! I wore skinny jeans that next winter. I had a great routine of going to work out a couple of times a week and eating pretty well. Then in March 2014, I saw the double line on the pregnancy test and it all started to slip through my fingers. I kept up with my workouts pretty well, but morning sickness and cravings took over and, well, when you're pregnant, you gain weight. Its pretty much a fact.

Baby Nora has been such a wonderful blessing to our family in countless ways big and small. She brings joy and laughter to our home each day! The other thing Nora brought me was about 25 pounds to lose.

I tried to go back to what I had done before to lose the weight, but I just couldn't muster up the motivation to leave the baby for an extra hour several times a week to go work out. I didn't want to sacrifice that time. I'm almost 40 and we KNEW this would be our last baby and all the last baby experiences were slipping through my fingers. I didn't want to waste any of the time I had. It had to be different this time. I had to do it a different way. The way I had done this all before wasn't going to be the best way for me now.

After a year of feeling terrible every time I looked into the closet because I knew I could only fit into about 1/4 of what was in there, I decided it was time. Time to try something new. Time to dedicate some time to getting my body back and finding my strength again. I kept seeing friends on Facebook posting about the 21 Day Fix and the results they were getting by doing these quick 30 minute workouts and following a nutrition plan with crazy colored food containers. For almost 5 months I blew it off.
Won't last.
Won't work for me.
At-home workouts aren't legit.
The food containers look confusing.
The food containers look too small.
They're drinking shakes. I already drink protein shakes.
These people are dumb.

Gradually, the words in my heads flipped to...
They keep losing weight.
They're eating stuff I like.
The workouts are only 30 minutes. That's not so bad.
They're drinking shakes. I already drink protein shakes. Maybe I should try their shakes.
I'm dumb for not trying this.

So, I messaged my friend, Leigh and told her I was ready to give it a try and she was so gracious and so kind and she put me in one of her coaching accountability groups and when the day came to start day one of the 21 Day Fix, I was SO hoping that it would work for me. I was so DETERMINED to make it work for me. Every day, I recommitted myself to the process and I stuck with my workouts and I stuck with the nutrition plan because I could see and feel that it actually was working. And Leigh and the other people in the group cheered for me along the way, which made me want to do my best.

Over the course of 6 months I lost all the baby weight and an extra 8 pounds. I was right back to where I had been when I wore the bikini to the beach and the skinny jeans. In fact, I'm even better. I have arm muscles! I have leg muscles! I have ab muscles! I like to work out! Wait... WHAT?

Yes, it's hard for even me to believe. My name is Jennifer and I like to work out. As I type this, I'm on vacation at the beach and I've done a workout every day. If you had suggested to the me of 10 years ago that I would spend 30 minutes huffing and puffing through a workout while ON VACATION, I would have laughed in your face and blessed your heart. But, the truth is I kind-of look forward to my workouts now. I know I'm going to feel awesome when the workout is over and I gets anxious as the day goes on if I haven't done it yet. Endorphins are for real, yo.

The last 6 months have been such a transformation for me. I am so thankful that the me of 6 months ago decided to try something new. I didn't know how I would ever possibly get to this point, but I did it. One day at a time. One meal at a time. One bite at a time. One workout at a time. One 60 second exercise at a time. Step by step, day by day, I found me.


Book Review: Colors of Goodbye

Sooooooo, it's been quiet here lately, huh? Sorry about that. I got in a little over my head in some other areas of life and had to find my way out of the weeds and back to a better balance. Whew! I made it! I'm back! Sort-of. 

I'm here today to introduce another book review by my dear reader friend, Sandy Baumer. I'll be back officially later this week with a post I hope you'll find encouraging, inspiring and exciting! For today... take it away Sandy! 

Hello everyone!  First things first.  I need you to click over to the Amazon right now and order this book. Colors of Goodbye by September Vaudrey. Go ahead…I’ll wait. 

There are few books I keep locked in a certain part of my heart. That I remember quotes from, I remember certain sentences, I remember every person and I remember the journey each of their lives was taken on. “Colors of Goodbye” is one of those books. 

“Colors of Goodbye is a tale of joy and tragedy in tandem; a profoundly personal memoir from a life forever changed by one empty place at the table.  September Vaudrey takes us to the depths of grief and heights of love in a poignant, raw search to discover whether, despite even the worst of losses, life can be beautiful still.”

September Vaudrey takes us on a journey of tremendous love and pain simultaneously. She tells us the story of the death of her 19 year old daughter Katie, and how each of her other four children and her husband grieved in different ways. September also interweaves the wonderful story of Katie’s life, who was a talented artist, with how they coped with this unspeakable tragedy. September has written a beautiful memoir about journeying through grief. Not hiding from it, but going right through the center of it and facing it head on. The Vaudrey family show us how to stay the course and find the “new normal” when you face a loss. The “new normal” for the Vaudrey family is this:  undaunted joy seasoned by irreversible loss. Both/and. Holding on and letting go.

I will be honest with you. In my 45 years of life, I have not faced a significant loss in my life that has brought me to my knees and shook me to my core. But, unfortunately, I have had friends who have faced the loss of children and parents. I have done the “normal” friend things, feed them, hug them, and pray for them.

After reading this book, I will also make a point to celebrate the life of their loved one any chance I can get. I will ask them out for coffee (when they are ready) and just listen. Listen to them talk about their sweet little boy or their precious elderly father who they have lost. I will listen to them talk about the life they had planned. I will listen. Possibly in the listening, I can pray for God to begin to give them the life and joy that is waiting for them. 

“Colors of Goodbye” has inspired me. Inspired me to find joy in the midst of pain, and to take that joy and spread it around.  To share it with anyone who will listen.  I hope you do the same.

“I want to leave ripples in the lives I leave behind” – Katie Vaudrey, age 15

Thanks, Sandy!! This sounds like such a profound book. We'll have another exciting co-review coming up soon AND my first GIVEAWAY! Get excited! More details on that coming soon!


When I'm Wrong, I Say I'm Wrong...

Remember that line at the end of the movie Dirty Dancing (the original) where Baby's dad, Dr. Houseman, tries to make amends with Johnny??? He says "When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong." And, then he doesn't say he was wrong. He turns to Baby and tells her how wonderful she looked dancing the last dance of the season up on the stage in front of everyone after having secretly practiced the whole summer with Johnny and falling in love with him.

Well, this is sort of like that but I didn't spend all summer in a clandestine love affair with a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks who happens to be an excellent dancer. This is me in the role of Dr. Houseman actually admitting I was wrong in front of the whole wide internet.

For years I've been snickering behind people's backs and making fun and acting better than other people. Their choices were not my choices and I thought mine were better. I thought their choice was indicative of the type of person they must be. Well, I'm here to say, loud and proud that I was wrong and I admit it.

Admit what you might ask???


Jim and I decided to take the kids on a little spring break trip Monday - Friday last week and I begrudgingly decided to look at options around Gatlinburg, TN. I knew the kids would love it, but I didn't think I would enjoy it. Well, I was wrong. I didn't just enjoy it, I loved it. I loved the tourist traps, I loved the fudge shops, I loved the carnival rides, I loved the dinner theaters, I loved the cheesy-ness of it all. But most of all I loved the scenery. Gah, the scenery took my breath away at every turn. Even driving south through Pigeon Forge with all that tourist mess on either side of the road the mountains loom up right in front of you. It's amazing. 

I found a great little 3 bedroom cabin on VRBO, just outside Pigeon Forge that had a rushing stream right behind it and so I knew that would provide hours of entertainment for our big kids. The cabin was close enough to the main drag to be convenient but far enough away to feel secluded. We made some loose plans about things we wanted to do while we were there and set out for the drive. 

It wasn't all roses and rainbows because traveling with kids never is, but overall it was a great trip and we all agreed we would go back again. Here were our highlights.

1. Cade's Cove - Jim's family has a timeshare chalet in Gatlinburg that he used to visit regularly when he was younger, and apparently, it was a tradition to visit Cade's Cove. It's become a running joke in his family and anytime someone mentions the Gatlinburg area, Cade's Cove comes up. I haven't been to the Gatlinburg area as an adult. The last time I was there was in high school and we all know that teenagers' brains are not yet fully formed so they can't fully appreciate anything. 

Anyway, I had never been to Cade's Cove and because it had become a joke in Jim's family I didn't really know what to expect, but it was so, so, so beautiful. The meadows and mountain views were spectacular. The history was really interesting (although with three kids in tow it was difficult to truly process that part) and the drive to and from was just as lovely as the loop itself. 

Deer crossing right in front of us.
Methodist Church from Cade's Cove
Working grist mill from Cade's Cove 

2. Dollywood - What a great park! I was prepared to laugh this off, but it was so lovely. We live near Kings Island and it was every bit as nice as Kings Island (if not nicer!). There was an international festival going on with unique musical acts performing throughout the park as well as food and merchandise from those countries. They had a lot of rides that all of our kids could enjoy. In fact, we only saw about one third of the park because our big kids didn't want to leave one particular area. The cost of admission was typical as was the cost of food and drinks in the park, but we went in expecting that, so it wasn't an issue. We spent a full 7 hours at the park with a 16 month old, 9 year old and 10 year old and everyone had fun. 

This kind of fun leads to this kind of nap.
It may look like Graer is very lovingly supporting Nora's head as we push the stroller up a rather steep incline, but he is actually holding onto his new sword to make sure it didn't fall out of the stroller as I pushed it up the rather steep incline. Because priorities.
Our big kids opted for the double seat together all on their own. They ran ahead and got on the ride before I could even catch up to them. When I walked up to get a picture of them on the last ride of the day, this is what I found. My heart nearly burst!

3. The stream behind our cabin - There are TONS of options for places to stay in the area, but I knew I wanted a cabin and I knew I wanted to FEEL like I was in a cabin in the woods. I got what I wanted. When I saw the listing for this cabin with the stream running behind it, I knew the kids would love it and they absolutely did. They spent time out there every day picking out cool stones and sticks, skipping rocks, wading in the water... just general unplugged kid stuff which was so awesome. There was a little waterfall to the left and then a little rushing rapids to the right. You could hear the rushing water from the deck of the cabin and if it had been warmer we could have left the windows open and heard it from bed at night. I loved it. 

The cabin itself was a decent amount of space for us as a family of 5. It had 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms (albeit small), a full kitchen with a washer & dryer, double-sided fireplace, easy parking, huge decks, and one other feature my kids loved - a spiral staircase! It could have been a little more updated, but everything worked fine, was clean and we basically just slept there and had breakfast, so we didn't need more than what we had. Plus, we live in a 2 bedroom, 1 bath bungalow, so having just 1 extra bedroom and bathroom felt luxurious. If you're interested, you can check out the cabin listing on VRBO here.
The gorgeous little waterfall.
This girl. Such beauty.
Tried and tried for a pic with everyone looking at the camera! Success!

I simply couldn't stop taking pictures of anything that would sit still in front of the waterfall. Including me.
My daddy would be so proud. I skipped some rocks!
Seeing all three kids love this natural playground was so great. I love that they can unplug and enjoy the nature around them.
The view of the stream from the deck of the cabin. It was just a 10-15 foot slope down from the lower level. 
The deck off the kitchen and master bedroom. It went all the way across the back of the cabin, wrapped around one side of the house and across the front. HUGE!
The view of the back of the cabin from the stream. All the decking makes it look really big.
So, there you have it. I was wrong. I officially apologize to all those I secretly made fun of or made judgements about (though you may not know who you are because I did it secretly). Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Dollywood are all awesome. 

I... had... the time of my life. Oh, I never felt this way before. Yes, I swear. It's the truth. And, I owe it all to you.   


Looking for Lovely

Today I’m featuring a guest post from my awesome friend, Sandy Baumer! She is a reader. I am also a reader, but I am currently unable to process any written words coming into my brain because I have three small people who require nearly all of my bandwidth and then I’m sending words out of my brain here sometimes. So, basically, reading and I are at an impasse at the moment. Enter Sandy!
Sandy will act as our surrogate reader. She will read all the words and tell us what we need to know! Yay! She’s got a great book for us today. I hope you enjoy! Take it away, friend…

Reading. One of my favorite things to do. FA-VOR-ITE. Me and a bookstore = all the heart emojis. Once I was flying home from a Women’s Conference and had to pay the airline extra because my luggage had way surpassed the suggested weight limit for the Boeing 747. Culprit of said overage… new books from the “on site” bookstore. Really…ask Jen. She never needs to buy another book in her life. She stops by my house, peruses my numerous book shelves and done. 

Jen and I stalk follow numerous authors on social media. So, when she texted me and alerted me to the fact that one of our favorites, Annie F. Downs, was looking for people to sign up to be on the LAUNCH TEAM for her new book, Looking for Lovely, the palpitations started. Sign me up.

The lovely Annie F. Downs!
As I was reading, highlighting and underlining everything that stood out to me, I was also thinking, I want to share my thoughts about this book with everyone!  And then I’m thinking, wow…I would love to read a lot of books (which are already on said shelf) and share my thoughts with everyone.  What better way than to hijack the Heindl Haven (best blog ever!) and share some book reviews.  Seriously, so excited that I get to share the blessed words of some of these authors with you and thank you, Jen, for letting me hang out in the Haven with you! LYLAS

“And when I see ugly on the outside-whether it is my body or my circumstances or the hurt in the world, the processing in my heart isn’t much better-and the storm from out there usually ends up inside me.”  
Oh, Annie F. Downs. You had me hooked with this quote from page 2I knew from that sentence that this book was special. Well, it was more than special…it was exceptional. Looking for Lovely is a very personal story of how Gods amazing grace and perseverance transformed Annie’s life. She reveals her broken places and learns to appreciate those places of weakness as much as she appreciates her strengths.

Annie will take you on a journey of Looking for Lovely amid the confusion, hurt and ugly of your life. She uses personal examples and biblical truth to help you see the path God has paved for you and to encourage you to find the beautiful in every single day! I don’t know about you, but I know I need that reminder every day - every hour sometimes! 

I know in my own life that is something that I’m striving to do EVERY DAY. Do not concentrate on everything that is wrong with you, Sandy, accept those things. Those things are making you the woman GOD meant for you to be. Celebrate those weakness right beside of the strengths! Annie writes three words that made me stop in my tracks. TRUST THE PATH. She said God put this statement on her heart, “Trust The Path”. 
“I don’t have to know where things are going; I don’t have to know the destination; I just have to trust the path.”
I am learning to trust this path I’m on and look for all the lovely that I find along the way.
 Life is hard. I think we can always benefit from sitting down with a friend and just sharing your story and encouraging each other on. Reading this book will encourage you. Take some time to yourself today and go Looking for Lovely.

Looking for Lovely is available for pre-order NOW and will be released April 5th. The official book website is You can find Annie F. Downs on Instagram & Twitter @anniefdowns and on Facebook by searching Annie F. Downs.

Thanks, Sandy! You’re awesome!

I hope you’ve enjoyed Sandy’s words and Annie’s encouragement this Friday. Spring Break starts today for our kids and I’m telling you it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. We are alllllllllll ready for a little break and I’m looking forward to some lovely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...