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Monday, May 19, 2014

Friday, May 9, 2014

What Inspires You?

INSPIRATION.       There is that word again...

I have been trying to spice my life up a bit.  Not that it isn't diverse and crazy-good already, but it is important to me never to live a day where I don't seek inspiration.  Inspiration helps keep the perception and mind clear.  It continues to allow the creative juices flow freely.  There is so much that surrounds us to which is good and can take a rough start into a smooth sailing sailing remainder of the day.

Here are a few of my latest inspirations:

SONG.  I was driving in my car the other day when I accidentally hit my iPod and it went to shuffle mode.  I sort of freaked out a little as I didn't exactly know how or what I did.  It turned out to be the best mistake ever!

I had forgotten how much awesome and random music exists in my possession.  So I have found inspiration in music.  You would be surprised how much my memory was jogged with such fondness.

For your listening pleasure:

DOODLES.  Being a janitor sounds so menial.  I mean you spend your day picking up after everyone and it might not be satisfying at all; however this was such a cool find.  I would have loved to see the shock and awe in park patrons seeing such a cool and unexpected talent. 

Can you imagine making this janitor job amazing?  Now that inspires me!

GLUE.  My family and friends continue to inspire me as well.  They are the glue when I start to crack a bit.  I have such a tight knit support group that is so equally wide spread.  My family lives close, but my best friends live no where near me!  Distance has never been an obstacle.  We haven't allowed it to be that way either.  They send me notes, texts, and over all little reminders that they have my back.  We encourage each other.  They expose me to life in it's raw and I am forever inspired at results of those friendships.  

HUMOR.  For those of you who don't know me...I am not the tallest person, but what I lack in height I gained in personality!  This one made me crack up yesterday...

Inspiration can be found in a sign, song, kind words or an observation.  Inspiration can be found in the littlest of objects and persons.  It is so important not to forget that fact.

So, I want to know what inspires you?  Please share with us by commenting or visiting our Facebook page:

Have an inspired day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Happy Nurses Week 2014

It is hard to believe that 3 years ago we were wrapping up classes at UMDNJ and preparing to be real nurses, not just nursing students (the most fabulous nursing students I've ever of known). I had the best nursing class for me. I met some life long friends and learned how to be a nurse in a setting that 100% fit me in a time when it was perfect. I had to wait longer than I wanted to be a nurse, but looking back it came about in the perfect way for me. 

Since then I have gotten to know and had the privilege of working alongside so many incredible nurses. Through the chaos of learning how to juggle patients, to the nightmares that are known as night shift with a full moon, to the explosive cdiff disasters and the crashing patients, to the tears cried together over an incredible patient passing away and tears over the toughness that is the career of nursing. I say today with such joy Happy Nurses Week to some of the most amazing, fantastic, and incredible human beings I have ever met. I am honored to not only love my career, but have the privilege of working in this job with so many wonderful people who have turned quickly from coworkers to friends. So to all my nursing friends out there, thank you for what you do!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Why not be a kid again?

On Saturday it was my small group against another young adult small group at church in kickball. While running around the field playing a game I haven't played since I was a camp counselor I got to thinking. Why do we stop playing such games?

There is something about going back to our roots and the things that helped us be active as kids that I think can inspire fitness again. Why do we stop playing such games as adults? Are they silly? Yes, but if they keep us active why not be silly?

So I guess here is my thought. If you are having trouble being active, try going back to your roots. As children we all ran around with endless energy. What was it that made you want to be active?

The coolest thing on Saturday was not that my team won (though we did), it was not that I got a lot of guys to wear bright pink (but I did), but it was that every person no matter their athleticism or competitive nature were having fun, being active, and spending time with people they care about.

Not only are activities like this good for the physical heart, but they force us to put down the cell phones and enjoy the moment. To talk to the person next to us and learn about how competitive or not competitive they are. To get to meet new people and build community by cheering each other on. There is something unique about being outside in God's creation focusing on the task at hand; having fun.

So my dear friends, what kid game are you going to bring back? How are you going to start rebuilding true community while also encouraging yourself and others to be active?

I dare you to be a kid again.

Friday, May 2, 2014

In the land of Internet dating

Recently, at the encouragement of my friend Cara, I decided to join I have been single for a little over two years now. In that time, I have done a lot of "adulting". I purchased a car, started paying car insurance, checked my credit history, considered buying a house, and ultimately decided to rent a place instead. So, now that my ducks are less crooked, it seemed like it would be a good idea this Internet dating thing. But let me tell you ladies, it is extremely difficult! Here are some things I've noticed and hopefully helpful tips about online dating adventures. First, lets talk about how sifting through profiles makes one feel like a horrible human being 90% of the time. I've always been a visual person. I'll admit that I'm often more concerned about physical attraction than compatibility. So, imagine how I feel when I have to reject some of these men? I'm sure they are nice, but ultimately, if I don't feel that spark then I move on to the next profile. My tip, visit these sights for no more than five to ten minutes in a given setting. The longer you're on the website, the more pessimistic you can become. second, um ladies are you typically one to initiate conversations with men? yeah, me neither. But I find that I'm more prone to do so on Match. And while that may seem cool, yeah, for destroying gender stereotypes Emily!, it is also incredibly nerve wracking. Will he respond? It's been 24 hours. How long do I wait to respond back? How do I phrase this? I want to sound flirty but not too flirty. Honestly, I can appreciate what guys must go through a bit more. My tip, talk it out with your friends in relationships before you respond...they did something right, perhaps you can learn a thing or two young dating grasshopper. Third, the actual dates are so awkward. Eventually, after the initial five minutes of playing awkward turtle, they go well, but those first three to five minutes of deciding how to open the conversation are just tough. Oh, and it's especially more difficult if the guy that you're meeting is much more tall, dark, and handsome than you could see on his profile picture ;) and the end of the date is always just as awkward. This is especially true if you're a lady that takes things slow. My tip be prepared for an awkward hug or high five. In the best cases, hope for a good night peck on the cheek...this seems most respectable and the least awkward of all options. That's all I have so far, but tune in next week. I'm supposed to be going on date number two with tall, dark, and handsome? Did I mention he was Italian? Have a great week in dating land ladies :)

My Friend Jimmy

Last weekend, a very near and dear friend came in town.  It was nice because it had been, oh...maybe 6 years since I had seen him last?  Well anyways....we got reconnected and we had been talking for a few months now.  Because he has known me for so long, it was very comfortable talking and showing him what fun you could have in our city.  We might be in Indiana, but I know a few spots worth seeing!

He arrived about 6pm to which it was mass chaos at my household.  I got greeted with the biggest Jimmy Hurly hug I could have ever received!  It was awesome.  He comes from a big Catholic family so needless to say, he fit right in with the madness.  He sat down, hugged my mom and was good ole Jimmy.  Then we went out for dinner and drinks.  We had fantastic conversation and we caught up on Rugby, old friends and now what they were doing with their lives, and it was so very nice.  We both were open to conversation and neither one of us really held back on topics.  We talked about some stuff that affected us and molded us into the persons we are today, faith, family, jobs, and over all just a little bit of everything.  Which, I think we are pretty cool people personally, BUT I may be a little biased...

Upon being old and tired, we both decided at 11:30pm to call it a night.  So we walked back to my car and I literally tossed him my iPod.  "Here Mr. DJ...."  We listen to similar music so I knew that wasn't going to be a problem.  We listened (and sang) to a plethora of post grunge, pop, and some humorous little numbers.  As we pulled into my driveway, we concluded our journey with a familiar song:  It was full of dramatic arm motions, full out belting, and emotion.  There is just nothing that Backstreet Boys can't fix, let me tell you!

So as we were getting ready to go to bed Jimmy comes upon his sleeping arrangement.  You see, he  sleeps on very firm bed.  When he sat down on mine, he sunk.  "I CAN'T SLEEP ON THIS!!!  IT'S LIKE A TRAMPOLINE!!!" (extreme laughter followed) I just walked away shaking my head.  We both had to wake up early not only to get him on the road to his Rugby Camp but to go to Church as well.  6:30am came really quickly around and yet we both were ready and there on time.

It is these types of friendships I just love and cherish.  There is just us being friends.  Nothing sexual.  Nothing controversial.  Nothing but pure friends being there for one another.  We could be the dorks we were with absolutely no judgement.  We could talk about whatever because we knew the other wasn't going to chastise or belittle the other for our mistakes.  It was simply the most refreshing Saturday night I have had in a very long time.

One thing our friendship has taught me is that you HAVE to be yourself, shamelessly.  Those who get it....well, they get it and those who don't, obviously....well, don't.  You shouldn't have to explain yourself.   I think what makes this friendship a special one is that we bond on several notes.  We are like minded and being same faith and background, we share a similar foundation.  We share common interest in sports and activities.  We are able to laugh and commiserate over poor relationships and share moments of frustrations.

We allow each other bragging rights with his nieces and nephews.  We equally encourage and help build each other up and isn't that what a friend does?

Finding friendships as such just makes me appreciate them so much more as they are few and far between.  To find such is so very refreshing and I am forever grateful!  Friends such as Jimmy have a special place in my heart.

Do you have friends that you share such a bond with?  Care to share?  Please comment on our Facebook page or tweet us....we would love to hear about them!
<3 Catie

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Every hug was a victory dance... A goodbye story

I am an oncology nurse. Saying goodbye and grief comes with the job. However, no matter how accustomed I am to this, it is never easy. And no matter how experienced I get with this there are patients who will always leave such a mark on my life that saying goodbye to them will be like losing a part of myself. Today, I said goodbye to one of those patients.

**details have been changed and left out to respect the identity of this patient**

I first met this patient last summer. She was coming to us with her second primary cancer. She is a young mom. She was well versed in the cancer and chemo world already. She is gracious, compassionate, has a beautiful smile, is one of the fiercest fighters I have ever met, and has taught me so much in the last months I have gotten to spend with her. Even if I could share all the details of this patient, I could not clearly put into words what an amazing woman she is.

This patient is one of the ones who hasn't handled chemo well at all, in fact, she is absolutely miserable with chemo. We had every medication on board possible and every alternative treatment we could come up with, but no matter what the nausea came like clockwork. Despite the nausea though, we together as a team would battle through the chemo with one goal in sight... to give her just a little more time with her children.  And just a few months ago when she had a clear scan, we danced and hugged and celebrated together.

The type of cancer she has though is one where over 60% of patients with this cancer die within a year of diagnosis... and patients diagnosed when this cancer had already metastasized (spread to other parts of the body) are normally given only a max of 6 months. This disease is awful. But this brave patient stared it straight in the face and lived beyond that 6 months. Unfortunately though, because her disease is so bad that clean scan didn't last long...

Last week I saw her for what I now know will be the last time. In my head I knew it would probably be the last time I would see her.. there is a 6th sense you develop after walking with so many people in their last days.. but there is always that twinge of hope... that maybe just maybe things will turn around. But they haven't and chances are they won't.

Today her mom called into the clinic stating they wanted to give an update. A few minute later before I could realize what was going on there were 3 of us on speaker phone with her as we said our goodbyes. Her body is shutting down and the cancer is winning. And this woman that has taught me so much in the last few months will soon leave this earthly home for her eternal home. I am so beyond thankful for the absolute amazing opportunity to walk with her through her cancer battle. I am so incredibly thankful for the things she has taught me about life. I said it to her and I mean it, I will remember her for the rest of my life. And some of her final words to me will stick with me forever... "Erica every time you gave me a hug at the end of each chemo it was like our victory dance... we did it... we made it through another one..." And as she said those words... I realized just how much a simple hug can mean to someone.

It is for this reason  and these moments that I will grieve. I will walk through these awful emotions that go with letting go of someone who has been a part of your life. It is for this that I will allow myself room to heal. It is for moments like this that I will continue to be the best nurse I can... even on the worst of days... even on days where I feel burnt out. I will put my every effort into giving them my all even when, especially when I feel like I have nothing left to give.

I will march through every little victory I can with my patients. Because I am their chemo nurse and I want them to know they don't have to walk this battle alone.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

My first septic patient-awareness of UTIs

I'm a cancer nurse... which means I can sense sepsis coming from miles away and can smell an infection long before the signs and symptoms occur. I can't remember all my patients who have gone septic, but I can remember my first one and always will.

I was in my final weeks of nursing school and enjoying my last few times of just being a quick train ride away from NYC. I was about 5 minutes away from walking out my door to the train station just a few blocks away to ride into NYC for a party when I got the phone call. My best friend from high school had been battling a UTI. She had started an antibiotic but things were not proving... and when she called she sounded like death. I changed clothes, hopped in my car and drove what felt like an eternity (really only 15 minutes) to get to her apartment. I ran up the stairs flew through the door and ripped the covers off when I saw her pulsating stomach and felt her extremely high heart rate. I called a friend because I wasn't even sure I could get Adel down the stairs. It took a while but I got her to the car and our friend Rachel met us at the entrance to the emergency department. 

I quickly parked the car and ran back in. When I saw her vitals it was in that moment that I wished I didn't know what all the numbers meant. She was quickly rushed back and an IV thrown in her as the fluids started going. 3 liters in and her blood pressure was still well below the low range of normal and her heart rate was super elevated. She wasn't able to pee and we sat waiting. Friends were cycling in and out and I was keeping her family posted on what was going on as her mom was on her way from a few hours away. It was in this situation I learned the value of hiding my emotions. I didn't want Adel to know just how critical her situation was.

After 3 liters of fluid and no new signs of improvement the doctors started to talk ICU. It was at this moment that Adel realized the severity of the situation. Thankfully, just a few minutes later she was able to pee and her vital signs started to stabilize a bit. She was admitted and stayed in the hospital for a few days receiving antibiotics and IV fluids.

She was my first septic patient, but I've seen many since then. I write this blog to educate others on the fact that even healthy, vibrant people are susceptible to severe infections. Don't take any infection or signs of infection too lightly and if something isn't getting better when you are on an antibiotic let your physician know because the bacteria may very well be resistant to the antibiotic your on. Your life is important :-).

Thankfully, in just a few weeks I get to stand by Adel's side as she marries the man of her dreams and I'm so beyond thankful that she does have this opportunity :-).

**This story was shared with permission from Adel**

Friday, April 25, 2014

5 Easy Ways to Break Apart a Work Day

Hello Worker Bee's everywhere!

I think everyone has been at point with their job or career where they have a hard time doing it.  It doesn't mean they love it any less, but it might mean they need a resurge to help them when you are having a hard time focusing.

With my primary job, I feel like I float around a lot.  It makes me feel very much like I have A.D.D. When I am in the office, I could be doing a number of different tasks.  Whether it is order processing, returning calls and emails, researching new prospects, coordinating projects, completing check-ins or just getting out to purchase office supplies OR being at the Salon and doing my thing there--we all need little breaks to help us keep our focus and keep us on track.  I have found that any one of these 5 very silly, but affective measure can be used to keep me fresh and productive during any given work day.  You don't believe me, ehh?  Try one I dare you!

1. Form an "Air Guitar Band" with your friends.  Yes, you read correctly.  This is a real thing.  We meet where ever we are at 9AM and jam.  Usually we pick songs for one another and we have at it.  We all are in our offices (which are all different locations from one another) and at 9AM let the strumming begin!  We do have aspirations to add a drummer to the mix.  We aren't quite there yet.  Don't be ashamed if someone sees you....they will be oh so jealous...

2. Send someone a quick note of encouragement.  This could be achieved via text, post-it-note, email or even a hand written letter.  Never underestimate how it could make a person feel knowing someone is there encouraging them!

3.  Water your lawn.  This is something so important.  Have you heard of the dance move "The Sprinkler"?  Here is a tutorial:  Stand up where ever you are and make sure that lawn is going to STAY GREEN!  Sound effects are optional.

4. Work on your fitness.  Sometimes when my day is beginning to drag and I know my attention span is ready for launch into space, I like to stand up and stretch.  Reach my hands up in the air, lean to my right and then to my left.  If I am sleepy, I do a few light jumping jacks or take a brisk walk around the plant.  It helps me huge to get my blood flow going and get my body rejuvenated!  

5. Draw a picture.  NO JOKE.  My best friend Blair would always tell me if I was having a bad day, draw a hand turkey.  Well my hand turkey evolved into other things....
This was around Christmas time...

Yep this was definitely a more "creative" starving artist moment....(tummy grumble...)
Whatever it is you do to break apart your work day, make it fun.  I am pretty sure the most productive days I have are the ones where I can step away from a project to be silly and shake looking at it for a while, and then get a fresh set of eyes on the task.  I tend to complete it quicker too.  It is amazing what a few random additions to a day can bring!

Have a great weekend lovelies! 
Catie Manning

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thoughts on Friendship

I'm not the type of person that takes a friendship lightly; I'm fiercely loyal to my friends. However, there comes a point in all new friendships were you must decide: will we remain friends for the foreseeable future or will our friendship crumble? Friendships that last have all come to the same conclusion: we can not change the other person. That annoying thing they do? Chances are, it isn't going away. So, whether we are in a new friendship or relationship, we must ask ourselves am I still getting all that I need from this friendship even with these annoyances? If the answer is no, then sadly you need to walk away from that friendship. If the answer is yes, then you need to accept the annoyances and move on. I have certain friends in my life who each serve a specific function. Like a Swiss Army Knife, each one, being created by God, is suited for different situations. I have my friend who is incredibly grounded in God's word, I have a friend who is incredibly optimistic, I have my friend who is easy going, yet can see me through anxiety, and I have a friend who is incredibly passionate about all things. I don't always take everything to all of them. There are certain topics that I don't take to certain people. There are certain things that just stay with me. I may get frustrated when my optimistic friend doesn't think critically enough about a decision I'm trying to make. But I have to remind myself that in doing so, I'm asking her to be fundamentally different from who she is. I love the movie The Sound of Music. In the film, Max is trying to convince Captain Von Trap to perform at the festival. Realizing he can't convince the Captain, Max seeks out Maria's help to which she responds, "Max I can not ask him to be less than he is". If our friend is too _____ (fill in with any negative or positive quality you wish) and you ask them to change, in a sense you are asking them to be less of who they are. There is a reason why friends walk in and out of our lives and it has to do with our being able, or in some cases when friendships don't last,unable, to look past their faults. It is unreasonable to place expectations onto our friends to be someone or something that they are not. So, if a friendship or relationship has you down, I say it's time to figure out if the friendship is worth it. If it is, try to celebrate each other more. If it isn't, part ways wishing each other the very best.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Modest is Hottest!

For those of you who don't know, I come from a largish family.  I am the oldest (and wisest) of course, yet I am the shortest.  For whatever reason, my gene pool didn't get the memo that I was supposed to have long legs!  I have legs, but they are definitely not as long as they were supposed to be...sigh!  It is OK.  I have come to terms with it and frankly I am alright with me appearing like I am standing in a hole, constantly.

Besides the usual short people problems one might usually incur, I also have "assets" if you know what I mean.  I am keenly aware that I cannot wear V-neck tops, low cut stylish tank tops or anything along the lines of push up.  Because guess what happens?  Anyone taller than me gets a free show!  Not exactly the attention I am going for...but regardless, I have to set a better example for my sisters and now niece about modesty.

Claire Rachel is my 16-year-old curvy beautiful blonde-haired country girl little sister.  She is my big little sister.  I am so thankful that she wears her cowgirl boots proudly and wants her curves to be covered.  She wants to be modest, but she too wants to dress feminine.  I am so proud of her.  She one day came home from youth group and she goes...."Catie, you KNOW modest is hottest!"  We had a good laugh, but she is so right!  Modest IS hottest.

Being in high-school, teenagers are given so many messages.  They are surrounded by celebrities, models, and unrealistic body images galore.  They are told they are supposed to dress one way and act another.  Aren't they supposed to be teenagers?  Why are we forcing these teens to deal with such issues so young?  It is driven and perpetuated by our retail environment then reinforced by Hollywood.  Or maybe in fact it is the other way around...regardless, these poor teenage girls will develop low self-esteem and begin to look for all the wrong attention if the message of modesty is not expressed.

I came across a really cool way a teenage girl by the name of Megan Grassell and her mother are promoting modesty among bras.  Have you ever gone through the bra section at any store for those who are developing?  There are push-up options, sequins and lace, patterns, and over all a lot of inappropriate seeds being planted.  Bras, last time I checked, were there for support not for drawing unnecessary attention at such a youthful age.  Megan and her mother are resisting these designs and immodest attempts to make our young girls sex symbols through the development of their company Yellowberry.

Yellowberry's mission is to create beautiful age appropriate bras for developing teenage girls.  They have beautiful colorful bras that are fun, supportive, and I think are pretty cool.  Please visit their website for more information:  You can also find them on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

You owe it to yourself to be modest, stylish and have necessary parts covered.  Self-respect is everything.  If you don't have respect for yourself then how could you possibly expect anyone else to respect you?  Just saying....

Catie Manning

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Take a Moment to Regroup

Growing up I remember people telling me that time flies but I never believed them; I thought I couldn't wait another MINUTE to be grown up and married with kids of my own. NEWS FLASH: I graduated high school 7 years ago, have been married for almost 4 years, a college graduate for 3 years, and had a baby 1 1/2 years ago. I think its safe to say that I believe them now.

With spring, comes a whirlwind of activities. Get togethers are scheduled, gardens are started, after school functions are planned, spring cleaning lists are written; every one seems to wake up and remember there are other humans out there when they see the buds starting to show. After a long winter, its no wonder that we feel the need to get out and socialize, but I would caution you to not fill up your calendar too quickly. Remember to take time for yourself and your family. If your friends are what they say they are, then they will understand if you turn down the invitation to hang out here and there. Amidst busy schedules, it is very important for you to take time to regroup and focus in on the the things that really matter in your life. For me, that is my family and God.

I have really been trying hard to focus on my daughter lately; give her my full attention when we are home together. Too often I find myself on Facebook or Pinterest multiple times a day "just checking on something REAL QUICK". My daughter is happy kid and I think that she and I have a good relationship but I want to cherish the moments I have with her at this stage in life. Her world is so big right now and she is exploring everything she sees; I want to be right there with her rediscovering things all over again. It is a difficult task to entertain a toddler all day, I admit, but nobody ever said that parenting was easy. I have "to do" lists started all over the house, including my "to do" list for the specific day's tasks, but I am trying to retrain my brain to not focus my day on the lists. When I focus on my lists, neither I nor my daughter have a good day because I just get frustrated when she doesn't want to help me clean the bathroom or make 3 dozen tortillas for an hour  (C'mon, isn't that what every 1 1/2 year old kid wants to do with their mom?) and she gets frustrated because mommy is distracted and not playing with her. So for now, the lists will be written, but I will be writing in activities to do with my daughter too so that I'm not left checking Pinterest throughout the day for play ideas appropriate for her.

Apparently April is National Stress Awareness Month, with tomorrow being National Stress Awareness Day. (Anyone feeling stressed today? Hope you got your taxes filed in time!) So maybe tomorrow is the perfect day to start taking some time for yourself. Get some exercise and get those endorphins going, read a good book, take a long shower or bubble bath, play games with loved ones, or go get a massage. Review your planner and weed out the fluff that is just there because you felt bad about saying no. Make a point each day to go over your priorities so that you see your day in the right light. It is amazing how different a day can feel when you are focused on the things you care about. 

*For more info about National Stress Awareness Month/Day, check out They also have a free e-book with ways to alleviate stress. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

I hate running.... wait I'm not supposed to say tha

I hate running...  wait, I'm a personal trainer I'm not supposed to say that....

Let's try this again...

I hate running... rather.. my body hates running. I'm a nurse so I'm going to write a blog that for some may be a little bit of TMI, but I have a reason to share this. I have exercise induced asthma, and the thing my asthma hates most is running. I can however get my asthma under control. The part of my body that hates running even more? My intestines. If I do not carefully monitor my food and my pace I will end up in a ball on the ground in completely pain from my intestines spasming. I can teach a whole boot camp for an hour and have every dripping in sweat and people yelling at me "you're a monster", but running has never been easy for me even when I am in the best shape.

Yet here I am again, attempting running... why? Because it helps me in many ways and when I can run even a mile without some part of my very difficult body rebelling, I know I'm in a good spot. But what is the biggest reason when spring rolls around that I go back to running? My spiritual health. There is something so soothing to my soul that as I pound the pavement I can finally process things. I don't run with music and I don't like to run where a lot of other people are present... I like it where my thoughts can scream as loud as they need with no other distraction.

So... why do I run? I run because at the end of the day it makes a healthier whole me. I will go years without running, using other forms of exercise, but every time I come back to it... I'm reminded that exercise in general helps me to be a healthier me.

I will still always much more enjoy other types of activity... and let me encourage you if you cannot stand running one bit that there are PLENTY of ways outside of running to be active. So what is the type of activity that always gets you moving? A class? a sport? Walking? I'd like to hear what it is that helps you to be a healthier you!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Young Adults with Cancer... the fiercest warriors I have ever met

Dear Young Adult Cancer Patient,

I can't pinpoint the exact moment, but you have captured my heart. Through my 2.5 years of nursing you have taught me far more than I could ever imagine. You have wisdom beyond your years and truly know what it means to live.

I remember the first time I saw an age younger than mine in the chart, it was a harsh reality. Despite being young, vibrant, and healthy you were still diagnosed with cancer. You weren't even a smoker and you had lung cancer that spread everywhere... they were completely uncertain of how you in your mid twenties had gotten lung cancer.

I remember admitting you for your first round of chemo. You and your husband just a few months prior were talking about starting a family. Now you were faced with the quick reality that you would probably lose your ability to conceive and while figuring out chemo, a stem cell transplant, and dealing with the fact that you have cancer, you had to make decision on preserving your ability to have children. Life really did change for you overnight, but with a brave face you took on this challenge with a smile.

I remember you, not just one of you but two of you, who found out you were pregnant and had cancer. One of you minutes apart, the other of you just a few months apart. You both had a choice... your life or your babies life. You both selflessly chose your child's life. You both amazed me.

I remember you, many of you, young moms. You faced each day with the determination to have more time with your children and many of you beat the statistics for each of your cancers. You would spend that time with your children. The incredible love between you and your husbands has shown me that true love really does still exist. All of you, are incredibly brave women that I am so beyond blessed to have been able to be your nurse.

The young fathers, how you loved your children and your wives. My heart still breaks thinking of saying goodbye to you as you were discharged to hospice.

And the young singles. You bravely have faced this battle with grace and dignity. I have nothing but utter respect for you as you have faced your battles. Some of you have chosen to face it alone only letting a few people walk with you, others of you let your family and friends rally around you... all of you have left me speechless by your ability to walk through this.

So to all young adult cancer patients and survivors, please know that I think you are incredibly brave, bold, and amazingly beautiful. I'm so beyond blessed to walk with some of you through your cancer battle and will continue fighting for you. Thank you for capturing my heart and allowing me the privilege to walk with you.

With sincere appreciation,

One of your nurses

I could continue writing, but the fact stands... young adults with cancer is a VERY real thing. And it isn't just one type of cancer, but a widespread variety cancer.  Many of the patients I have come in contact with felt healthy one day and not the next day. Each year 72,000 people ages 15-39 are diagnosed with cancer (1).  There is very little research that has been done on treating cancer in the 15-39 age range. In people 40 and older around 60% of them are in clinical trials while ages 15-39 only about 2% (2). This leaves little room for improvement in treatments.  Cancer is the 4th leading cause of people aged 20-39 only behind suicide, homicide, and accidents (3).

I could continue on with the statistics, but my main goals in writing this post are this.

1. If you have the incredible opportunity to meet a young adult cancer patient or survivor, I encourage you to sit and get to know them. They are pretty incredible.

2. Help the fight by donating specifically to places like Stupid Cancer that specifically go to researching and assisting this specific age group fight against cancer.

3. If you are in this age range, please don't think you are invincible. Here are the simple things I recommend to help keep an eye on your own health... get a yearly physical, get yearly blood work, get a year skin check... and if you think something is wrong please don't delay going to the doctor.


1. Stupid Cancer

2. National Cancer Institute

3. American Cancer Society

Friday, April 11, 2014

I'm Doing OK!

Today is a beautiful and in contrast to yesterday; it is less stressful by miles.  The sun is bright and shining and I am welcoming this weather with open arms!

I am thankful for supportive friends, family, and coworkers who despite my crazy schedule love and help me get through!  This song came on the radio and it totally reminded me that I'm doing OK!!

Today is Friday.  It is also my Grandma Mary's birthday.  She is 82 years strong and I have just realized that our time is so limited with her.  Make the most of everything.  Make the most of each moment we have with her.  Life is so very short, but we are doing OK.

I have had a ton of stress in my life lately.  Everything is in perspective and for the first time in my life I am content in the direction I am being drawn and I'm doing OK not knowing for sure of the outcome.  I keep my faith.  I keep my mind fresh, positive and just keep on pressing forward with each challenge each day as they come.  Sometimes baby stepping....and sometimes running a 10 minute paced marathon.

I found this lovely reminder on Pinterest:

What beautiful motivation coming into the weekend!  Keep a smile on your face Catie-girl.  This stress won't live forever.  This period in your life of single girl too will not last forever.  Keep your heart in it!  Keep the faith that you are moving toward your destiny and never give up!  You leap over the hurdles as they come and if you crash and burn it's OK.  YOU are doing OK.

It is called life.  Life is funny in so many sorts.  It tries to throw you for a loop and cause you to bob and weave through it to survive.  If you can keep up, you too are doing OK!

Keep a smile on your face today friends despite whatever mood you are currently in and know we got your back.

Catie Manning

Monday, March 31, 2014

Moving makes me realize just how blessed I am

Moving. I hate it. But honestly, who doesn't? Your life is stirred up for the minimum of a month and everything seems chaotic. And for Type A personalities like myself I start packing at least a month in advance and I want to be unpacked within 12 hours of moving in (and surprisingly often accomplish this) . This will be my 11th move since I was 18. I'm a pro at it. But I still hate it.

With each move there is a mourning. A letting go. Even if it is just 20 miles away I am closing a chapter. A long time ago I wrote in a journal of mine "live in NYC for a year"... it was a bucket list type goal. Well, I didn't live in NYC for a year, but I have lived in Chicago for 1.5 years. And I've loved it. City living isn't easy. It has challenged me and made me learn a lot about myself. There is a new meaning to "just running to the store". And I never thought I'd be so good at parallel parking... even in 2 feet of snow.

One of my favorite streets in Ravenswood

I've been tucked away in my little Ravenswood/Lincoln Square neighborhood. I know these streets forwards and backwards from the hours I've spent walking them. I have a favorite ice cream shop, a favorite neighborhood pub, a favorite house, a favorite Thai restaurant, a favorite Indian restaurant, and a couple of my closest friends just a short walk away. And as I face this move to the suburbs I mourn the loss of what has been home. I know without a doubt I am making the right move, but I still mourn for the comfort of my sweet little apartment with the brick walls and character that only an old city building can have.

As I've sifted through my things... as I've mourned the loss of the city... as I've thought through all the reasons I know moving to the suburbs is the right option I've been faced with a strong reality. I am blessed.

Often because of growing up in the U.S. I can lose sight of just how blessed I am. Life gets stressful and it is easy to focus on the stress, but I am trying to focus more on the blessings. I am incredibly lucky to have the ability to move. Even more so, I am blessed to have a roof over my head and a lot of things in this roof. I am blessed to have a job I get to go to every day. I am blessed to have an incredible education. I am blessed to know that I CAN pay my bills.

So as I take this step that is hard, yet so right, I want to step into it know that by reducing costs, reducing commute times, reducing stress, and so many other things I am stepping into a place where I can bless many more others. And as my church steps into what they call the "Celebration of Hope" where we spend 3 weeks focusing on helping both worldwide and locally I am challenged. Challenged to look at the ways I'm using my time, my money, my education, and everything that has been entrusted to me. I want to use all of my blessings to bless others. So, as I take this step into a new season of my life, I'm asking myself "how can I best use my blessings, skills, time, and money to bless others?" I want to pack every box with a purpose. I want to live every second of my life with a purpose. I want to know that in my last breath, I made decisions that allowed me to love and bless others well.  Will you join me on this journey? Can we embrace just how blessed we are together?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Out of Hibernation Leapt the Manning Sisters and It All Felt So Glorious

For many of us, this has been an extremely long winter.  I have found it so unnerving with every ounce of my being lacking motivation to work out, clean, and be a productive member of society.  My extreme lack of sunshine is reflected in paleness, mood, and body.  I NEED SUN ASAP!

Recently, I have been spending a lot of time together bonding with my sisters.  You see my beautiful sister Mary Jane entered the world of the married a year ago and then more recently motherhood this January.  We had some fun bonding in between all of her major life changes and it was good.  Our baby sister Claire just got her license.  EEK!  I have been personally trying to spend more time with them as I know they both need girl time and it's important for us to be close.

This past week at work, Mary Jane and I had to replace a few office chairs that were worn.  There were 5 that were purchased.  Well when she got back to work, we got them on a cart and took them where there was some open space to assemble them.  We only assembled 4 of them due to the fact our shipping department got antsy and assembled it by himself.  We started pulling the pieces out of the box and of course we got bothered the whole time.  Our dad, brother and cousin all approached us at different points of starting and everyone had a different suggestion.  Give me a break boys!  We got this.

The old chairs practically leaped into the trash!
Chair Races....ready, set, go!  We did it  :)
I didn't have to work on Saturday.  It was a nice chance to catch up on some spring cleaning, sleep, and laundry.  I asked my sister Claire if she wanted to get a pedicure as we both needed one.  Upon getting the list of Claire's chores we were on our way.  We stopped by Starbucks first then it was on to  the Spa.  I wanted to catch up on everything that was going on in her little world.  She got asked to Prom by her boyfriend of 4 months.  She was excited at her new found freedom of driving and most of all just excited to relax a bit.  I told her that I would help her with part of the list (which included making dinner) in order for her not to get into trouble.

My mom had already started a roast so it was a matter of making sides and a salad to accompany it.  While Claire did her laundry, cleaned and organized her room, and dusted the back porch I produced the remainder of dinner.  No one seemed to be bothered by that so it all worked out well.

Then on Sunday, Mary Jane and I got motivated and finally went out on a walk.  It was warmer than it had been for a while and the sun was still shining.  I'd like to think we had some fun...
We may or may not have started off jogging when we realized that was a poor life decision...

We discussed our current fitness goals, men, Caribou (her daughter Carolyn Rose), and girl stuff.  There were a lot of laughs and honesty.  My phone ended up dying and her phone was left in the car.  Oh darn!  That meant there weren't going to be any distractions and Caribou was in her precious Grandma's hands.  We were only going to do one lap at the YMCA which is 1.65 miles but we quickly decided to do another one as to continue our chat. 3.3 miles down, some great laughs in and awesome bonding time with my sister we finally headed home feeling accomplished.

There is nothing more refreshing than the ritual of sister bonding.  I love hanging out with my sisters and even though we are all at different points of our lives that's what makes it even more special.  All of us couldn't be more different aside from the fact we all may or may not be over achievers!  I am the single, educated (2 degrees) career driven girl who has the social life.  Mary Jane is the educated (going on second degree) married girl with child at 25 and Claire is cute 16 year old who is maneuvering high school well with awesome grades despite her sports schedule, who is boy crazy and dreaming of what's next.

The Manning sisters haven't bonded like we have this past week in a very long time.  It was long over due.  One might say there were a few beautiful byproducts of this long winter.  Out of hibernation, leapt the Manning sisters and it all felt so glorious!

Welcoming Spring with open arms whenever it decides to stay....
Catie Manning

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Our Crazy Life: Basement Edition

Hello! I am glad to be back! The move is over and we are settling in well. And I have to say, I am so glad it is all over. As well as trying to pack with a one-year-old, we were also patching nail holes, painting, and finishing up our basement.

Before we put our house on the market, we had to do something about the basement floor. We had a tiny leak last spring which got the carpet wet enough that we had to rip it out. Since then, we have lived with a pretty junky basement (not quite the selling type, ya know?).

And then we decided to just go ahead and redo the entire basement floor. (Why we get these ideas, I'll never know- we love to make more work for ourselves.) Here is the laundry room as we were in the middle of pulling up vinyl tiles.

After it was all said and done, we learned a lot about refinishing and staining floors. Here are the DOs and DON'Ts that might make your life easier if you decide to take the same path.
  • Do rent a diamond grinder to grind off old carpet glue, paint, and any other junk that is stuck to your floors. We rented ours from Home Depot but you could get yours from most tool rental stores. Some floors won't need such a heavy duty tool, so definitely research the best option for getting your floor back to the bare concrete. 
  • Do use a hot iron to remove old vinyl tiles (place a steaming iron on a tile for about 15 seconds and then use a paint scraper to peel back the tiles; its amazing how easy this is!), don't attempt to chip away at the tiles with chisels...its AWFUL and doesn't work. And just so you know, this will ruin your iron; mine has been banished to the home improvement bucket for future projects.
  • Do purchase a massive squeegee to use while grinding the floors down. You have to grind the floors while wet so there ends up being a lot of water on the floor that needs to be guided to a drain. Don't even try to grind the floors without water; you will go through the blades in no time and they aren't cheap! Hook up a garden hose to a tap to make the "wetting" process easier on yourself.
  • Do clean your floors, re-clean, and clean them again. This is a must. If your floor isn't clean, the stain won't stick well. Mops (using a "wash" and "rinse" bucket for sure), sponges, and scrub brushes all work well. Don't use the cheapo twist mops for this; they disintegrate pretty fast when used on concrete floors. 
  • Do make sure that the floor is completely dry. Also, a vacuum job right before you stain isn't a bad idea either. 
  • Do grab a friend to help out with the staining process. We used a garden sprayer to apply the stain which worked okay but we were new to the whole thing so we had to figure it out as we went. If you are going to use the sprayer, make sure to use some masking paper (12" is wide enough) on the walls to protect them. Have one person spray the stain and the other use a roller to blend the stain on the floor. We used 3/8" nap microfiber roller, but would recommend something else. Work fast as the stain soaks in quickly. We ended up with a lot of roller lines in the first coat, which didn't look good at all. After a second coat, rolling in the opposite direction, and a second coat with two people rolling the stain, we had a finished floor. It ended up darker than expected, not quite as "semi-transparent" as we expected, but we like the finished product despite that. What do you think?

We also painted the paneling to update the walls a little.  

The variations in the floor color are from the reaction of the stain with the components of the concrete. There are also concrete patches that took the stain differently. If we did it again, we would try applying the stain with rags to try and get a more even finish with the first coat, however you could also apply the stain with paint brushes. It is recommended that you apply a sealer top coat for high traffic areas and for some extra shine; we didn't use it as we liked it as is. 

What home improvement projects have you worked on lately? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hosting a Meaningful Bridal Shower

While there are some people who LOVE the bridal shower games and prizes, my best friend is not one of them. This past weekend I had the honor of throwing a bridal shower for my very artsy and coffee loving best friend. I searched and searched on pinterest for ideas that fit her and her soon to be hubbie. I was pretty excited how things ended up and thought I would share the ideas I came up with :-). (Thanks Pinterest for the help!)

Adel is a coffee lover... and that is an understatement. So I took the lovely idea from this blog. Check out how this project turned out for my coffee loving best friend:

The second project was writing out an actual recipe or a "recipe for a happy life together"... especially since Adel loves to cook, even if she doesn't follow the recipes exactly...

To go along with the cooking theme and also Adel and Josh's love for Africa I had Ruth, owner of Bound With Hope, make his and hers aprons with an Africa theme. Adel LOVES purple so when I found fabric that had a purple undertone to it with little Africas all over it I was super excited! For Josh, I chose a very African themed fabric. Ruth did an absolutely fantastic job... check them out:

Ruth also made her Painters Drop Wedding Date Pillows and Adel absolutely loved them:

When I was walking around Party City to try and found decorations an idea hit me (Adel HATES pink and all bridal shower decorations were pink). It isn't a new idea, but I know Adel. The last thing she wants is money wasted (she is after all the daughter of an accountant). While decorations can be fun, they aren't Adel. So instead of decorating a large amount and party favors that would most likely be thrown out, there was a donation made to I need Africa more than Africa needs me

And lastly, I had people write on a chalkboard created from a a canvas and chalkboard paint a message to Adel. Since Adel doesn't get married for a few more months, I can't post what the messages were (but I can assure you many of them were QUITE amusing). Adel is in the picture with each of her friends/family and on the night before her wedding she will get all these pictures to help calm the nerves and provide encouragement.

Since this is my 5th wedding party, I've had a little practice with this. My advice is to think about the bride and groom and what it is that fits them :-). In the end, it isn't about the money spent it is about the time spent together, the memories made, and the preparation and encouragement to enter into such an exciting (and nerve racking) life change! Congratulations, Adel! I can't wait to continue to celebrate with you over the next few months!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Fitness Challenge for Global Health

To all of Erica's friends, family, and followers:

Hi! My name is David Silbergeld. I have been close friends with Erica for many years now, and when I mentioned to her the details of a major upcoming event that I am participating in, she graciously offered to help out with fundraising by offering me the chance to write a guest blog on here (no beating around the bush, this post is in part about donations)! So, here's a little bit about me, about what exactly this event is, and about why I'm doing it, and hopefully a few of you out there may deem it worth donating a few dollars for the cause (literally every penny counts!)...

At the end of this month I will be participating in a cross-country bicycle trip, from San Diego to Washington, D.C., as part of a cycling team of medical students and other medical professionals raising funds for global health, sponsored by Ride for World Health, a 501(c)3 organization based in Columbus, OH.

About me: I am currently a fourth year MD/MPH student at Rutgers – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey. I grew up in Seattle, Washington, before moving to New Jersey at the age of 16. I graduated from Georgetown University in 2007 with a BA in Chinese and a premedical concentration.  After college, I traveled to South Africa with the Peace Corps, where I was involved in a variety of projects – including children’s after-school programs, environmental NGOs, and crime prevention – but found a particular passion as a capacity builder with a home-based care organization, providing care for patients suffering from diseases ranging from hypertension and diabetes to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. My interest in world health continued through public health expeditions to Northern India and the Dominican Republic during medical school, and I plan to enter a residency in Family Medicine and to remain involved in global health throughout my career. I view the Ride for World Health as an opportunity to challenge myself physically and mentally, to form lasting relationships with medical students from around the country and, most importantly, to support an invaluable cause by asking interested people to sponsor my ride. I have never done a ride remotely like this, but have participated in nearly every team sport you can think of, and I enjoy the opportunity to push my limits doing crazy things like this.
Where the donations go: The organizations that will receive the funds raised through this year’s trip are “HEAL Africa,” “Empower and Advance,” and “PODEMOS.” HEAL Africa, founded over a decade ago by Congolese surgeon Jo Lusi and his wife Lyn, sponsors a full-service training hospital in Goma, Congo and community-based initiatives in public health, community development, and conflict resolution.  It helps to support a Congolese staff of 28 doctors, 54 nurses, 340+ community development educators, a small administrative team, and hundreds of Congolese volunteers. Our donation will go primarily towards women’s health including safe childbirth, fistula repair, and HIV and contraception education. Empower and Advance is an organization dedicated to empowering members of vulnerable communities. Their current project is an innovative curriculum to train secondary school graduates in Haiti to become Emergency Community Healthcare Workers. The Partnership for Ongoing Developmental, Educational, and Medical Outreach Solutions (PODEMOS) is a student-founded organization with the goal of developing international sites for outreach and clinical care where medical and health profession students can be involved in caring for and learning from patients from marginalized populations. PODEMOS initially identified three underserved communities in Honduras  with which to build sustainable partnerships and is working to develop medical-cultural exchanges in these sites.
If you would like to support my ride and these projects through a contribution, please visit where you will also find more information about the project and our itinerary.

Thank you all! And a huge thank you to Erica for her support!!!!

Friday, March 7, 2014

I Propose a Challenge!

Yesterday at work, I had a confrontation with a coworker.  He gets stressed easily and I get stressed easily.  In this part of my journey, I am trying to focus the next 6 weeks on my reactions.  I am working on being calm for those who are around me that seemingly "spaz-out".  I hope that I can learn to diffuse some of the stress through not making situations any bigger than they are.

So in this confrontation, I realized several inconsiderate notions that I was allowing to occur.  I was selfishly seeing that the tasks on hand should revolve around me where as I should have been considerate an asked when it could be fit into his heap of work.  I was too busy in my own little world to see that.  I also didn't realize that my coworker had not eaten anything.  He was what I call hangry (anger caused by hunger) and being that he too is a diabetic he definitely needed to eat something and make it a priority.

I am sure that you all have seen this article gliding around cyber space about how this husband is going to get a divorce.  Immediately you think--what??  Not the d-word!  But this divorce is a positive one!  huh?  Just read:

Texting and email can be used for good, yet it has it's drawbacks too.  How many of you are chained to your email?  Or your phone in general?  How many times do you feel the need to check the weather, check your Facebook, tweets...etc?  How many of you feel that you can text better than you can talk? Sometimes texting might be easier, but nothing is a replacement for a face to face conversation.  We all do it.  Technology can trick us into believing we need it for survival and that we need everything done right now...Good Knight!  How did we ever do it before smart phones!  No wonder no one has patience...

Texting has killed the art of conversation making.  It's awkward to pick up the phone and tell someone they are on the way...why not text, you say?  I will tell you why!  I want to tell that person and put some excitement into it, or not!  I want them to feel that they are important--too important for just a simple text.  Texting and email has eliminated the emotion and left interpretation wide open.  So you know if you weren't insecure enough or you already didn't like face to face interaction...whew! (wipe the sweat off of your forehead) Your covered!

Eliminating emotion from the deal doesn't really help anything, it just makes it a little easier for someone to be a coward.  Break-ups via text?  Yes. That happens more times than you think!  Individuals getting fired via email?  You better believe it!  Whatever happened to just doing it face to face?
Today, I will not be chained to texts....will I survive?? (GASP!)

Technology in general has made our lives easier and efficient in a lot of ways.  It has also made it easier to make excuses.  It IS easier to accommodate a short text rather than engaging in a long conversion.  But that is because our lives are so busy that we almost skim over the fact we thrive and need the human touch!  It also makes us more selfish.  Our time is our time and yet everyone expects everything to be done right now.  If we want to ignore someone's text or email, we can.

Can you ever imagine a doctor texting you the news, "You have cancer.  Here is opt a and b..."?  Or a nurse texting you the oh so comforting words, "it's gunna b OK" ?  No!  Because they know interaction with the patient are necessary no matter how hard it is.  There is a level of compassion there when they speak to a family about real life situations and scenarios.  They know it is a tough position, but I am pretty sure that they know that is apart of their job.  They have to confront situations head on and speak to the individuals involved no matter how ugly it can be.  That is hard business, but they do it!

Even though my confrontation yesterday was hardly enjoyable and it made me a slight afternoon grump, it was needed.  I needed to literally see my coworker's stress (and feel it too!) to know that his stress is real.  He is a little rough around the edges and we can joke about it now.  This morning we even hugged it out!  But he needed that interaction as much as I did.  We made light of the words spoken and left it in the past.  We just simply bonded.

Today I want to propose a challenge to you.  One day this next week, divorce your technology (which ever it may be) and go out in your community and bond with your fellow humans!  Leave your phone and iPad in the car and just go get a coffee with friends.  Discover one place new to eat just by driving around--not looking it up on your phone.  Go on one technology free date.  Just one.  Who knows!  You might actually enjoy a text free dinner!

I challenge you to look at the way technology has masked the very need of face to face interaction.  You might find, like I did,  it's nice to just hang out care free and not being chained to a piece of metal.  It was nice simply talking to friends without considering what fire I was going to have to put out next.  It was liberating actually....almost a little piece of paradise!

Now entering the text free zone...
Catie Manning

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dear teenage self, beauty really DOES come from ashes-Eating Disorder Awareness

This post is a letter to my high school self when I was struggling with exercise anorexia severely. I talk about God in here because He is the strength that has brought me to where I am. Whether you are a Christian or not, I hope that if you struggle with this you can relate to the fact that we all believe lies about what will make us happy, and for those of us that have believed that controlling our food and exercise (or lack of controlling them) will bring us fulfillment and happiness are dead wrong. I truly hope that if this is a struggle you currently have, you will have the strength to stare it straight in the face and tell it that it will not control you anymore.

Dear teenage self,

The teenage years are hard. They start in middle school... and those 2 words alone send shivers down 99.9% of adults' spines, because those are the most awkward and hard years of your life. They are full of body changes, friend changes, life changes, activity changes, and a lot of mean comments. Even when you are 27 almost 28 years old you will remember the mean comments. Let's get real for a minute, the mean comments that you remember most are the mean comments you made yourself. While for the most part you are a gentle nice person, there are a few times you let your mouth run away from you. But let me be honest, this is something you will still be learning to control even when you are 27. The mean comments you remember from other people, thankfully have helped you learn to be a better person.

But what I want to talk to you about in this letter, my teenage self, is when you were 17. At 17 I remember life revolved around cheerleading, tennis, being social, figuring out what college you were going to go to, how you were going to be a nurse, and control. Control over the activity you were doing and the little food you were eating. Life looked really good on the outside... in fact despite the hard break up you had had and the fact that your best friend wasn't talking to you... despite the fact that things in so many areas of your life were falling apart... you made it look like you had it ALL together on the outside. The scary thing though was this, that you were allowing the "you look so good you've lost so much weight" comments feed your unhealthy habit. You have all the lies down of "I ate before I came" "I'm not really hungry" "I haven't felt well...". You eat a bagel in the morning and go to both cheerleading and tennis practice and don't eat anything else except maybe a banana the rest of the day.

Your senior pictures were bad, you were a size 0 for the first time since middle school, but it was a few weeks later when your cheerleading pictures for the year were taken that are the worst of all the pictures you have from this time. This picture is still up in your parents house and at the age of 27 almost 28 you will cringe. You will look at it and see how thin and straggly your hair is because of the lack of eating. Your arms look like sticks and your eyes are sunken in. Oh teenage self, your outside look does not define you.

It was shortly after this picture was taken that you look down in the drain to see all the hair falling out and you realize, you finally realize that this type of control isn't helping all the other chaos and hurt in your life. In fact, this type of control is hurting you far more and will continue to hurt you for years to come. But in this one moment you make the decision. You make the decision to eat and to control the amount of exercise you do. And let me tell you something amazing, there truly is beauty that comes from these ashes and you will recover from all the pain you are feeling right now.

Undereating and overexercising is something you will still struggle with in your late 20s. But you will continue to choose to make a conscious effort to not do things that will put you in danger of this happening. And you wanna know the crazy thing? You do become a nurse, but it isn't your first or even your second degree, it is your THIRD. Because before going to school to become a nurse God will take your ashes and help you get degrees in both exercise and nutrition so that you have the tools to help people who are struggling the way you once did.

High school self, you are going to learn that your worth and beauty are not found in your looks or in your control or in what you can or can't do, but your worth is found in your Heavenly Father. So high school self, I'm SO proud of you for looking this struggle in the face and choosing to change because it was in that one decision that God was able to make a beautiful and incredible story and career path.

Sincerely and with love,

Your older self

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