Wednesday, June 21, 2017

McFarland Memory Lane

I graduated high school in 2003. That year and for a few years after that, my friends and I hung out at "The Trailer." There were older guys, no adults, loud music, and endless amounts of fun. There was drama, sometimes there were fights, there were tears and there so much laughter. We would hang out late nights into early mornings, or we would spend the day sitting around watching movies, taking naps, or fishing. We played drinking games until we couldn't see straight. If we were not supposed to do it, we did it out there. It was a parent's worst nightmare, yet it was some of the most fun I have ever had.

Ben was the type of guy who would show up to anything with the same attitude. Whether church, work, class or a party. He had a laugh that was incomparable to anyone else's. He was always smiling. Ben drove a big green truck and worked every day that I knew him. He would be dirty and tired and even still ready to have the best time. He was instant friends with anyone who knew him.

I can remember playing Presidents and Assholes with him one particular night. We played that often, but the night I am thinking of my best friend Beth and I had split a half gallon of CHEAP Vodka and we were cheating (like we always did). Somehow Ben was trying to see my cards and I jerked and my entire chair flipped upside down. I was stuck in this little bitty computer chair with my legs straight up in the air. All 250 lbs of me was upside down and all Ben could do was laugh. I was laughing too, but I was mad because he couldn't help me up because he was laughing so hard.

Those times, times that I can barely remember, were some of the most wild and fun memories I will ever make!

Life pushes you in so many different directions, and some of us have grown apart. But we will all always have the times we shared with Ben. The memory of his sweet smile and his infectious laughs. His ability to play hard but to work even harder.

This makes me want to drink cheap vodka, in a smoky trailer with rap music in the background. Or put on my hoodie and head to 2 Mile with some Crown Royal. Rest in Peace Ben Allen Burns. I hope there is plenty of Crown to welcome you home!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fat Chances

So as you all know, I am a big girl. And when I say I am a big girl, I do not mean in that cute "everybody loves a thick chick" type of big. I have been considered morbidly obese since probably the 5th grade. Who knows why! Is it genes? Is it inactivity? Is it thyroids? Do I really eat that much more than the average Joe?

I suspect I have a slow metabolism. I also work at a job where I am sedentary 90 % of the day. I also have begun some piss poor eating habits that include late night munching and loads of sugar.

I know that most of you have been with me throughout this whole journey. You watched as I lost 135 pounds! You watched as I transformed my body! And then I am sure, you felt a surge of disappointment as you saw my weight loss dwindle.

I could never describe for you readers my feelings about my weight. Frustration, Exhaustion, Despair, Anger. Those words can't even begin to describe my feelings. But something I didn't anticipate feeling was sorrow, embarrassment, and guilt. If I am being completely transparent with you guys, letting down the people who were so excited for this journey with me was not something I was concerned about until I started to see the level of enthusiasm this blog got!! I get it, everybody struggles with weight in some form or fashion. Whether they are too skinny, too big, uncomfortable in a bathing suit or just uncomfortable in jeans. Everyone can relate. And transformations are always fun to watch.

The attention was well received and I am not entirely sure what "went wrong" with my journey except to say that I am burnt out on dieting and meal plans and food sans sugar. I didn't want to mess with it any longer. I still have my "tool" of a smaller stomach and my knowledge from all my nutrition classes. And all the support I could ever need.

This post is to let you know I am grateful to all of you, and I am still here, still big, still beautiful, and still determined to live my best life yet.

Stay Tuned ...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Kids on a Farm

When I was younger, we had a family farm out in a small town called Habit, Ky. We had a barn that was built over an old cemetery (where I saw my first ghost may I add), we had an out house, some rolling hills, honeysuckle, crab apple trees, and a well. I was too young to know the danger of the well, but there were many precautions around it ensuring that we were unable to fall in. As a kid, I have so many memories of this farm.

I ate frog legs and okra there for the first time. Used the outhouse for the first (and ONLY) time in my life. Ate honeysuckle straight from the vine. And went on numerous exploring adventures with my other cousins. I had an older cousin, Sarah, who was 5 years older (and much cooler) than me. Then there were 2 cousins, Rachel and Kathryn, that were very close in age to my brother Clay and I. There were other cousins (and a brother) that were born at that time or much later, but for purposes of these stories - they were much too young!

So, the Fab Four - myself, Rachel, Kathryn and Clay - would line up with our backs to our uncles and they would throw ICE cold WELL water on us!!! It was so cold it took our breaths away! I have no idea why that was fun for us, but we would beg for it!!! If any of you have never felt or tasted well water, you'll have no concept of how cold it could be. I am surprised our bodies didn't go into shock! I have certainty if I were to do the same thing today I wouldn't survive.

I can remember one Sunday afternoon my dad had all of us kids out at the farm for some reason by himself. In the midst of our day, he swallowed a bee that had flown into his coke. It stung his uvula. Still to this day he says that the whole ride back to town he thought he was going to die, that his throat was going to swell shut and he would suffocate. Thankfully it is a story we can laugh about.

My brother Clay got his first BB gun during one of the summers we spent at the farm. I say first, but I venture to guess it is the only gun he was allowed to have under my dad's roof for two reasons. One is that he shot one of the neighbor girls from a very far range - not thinking he could hit her. He shot her in the face, while she was on a horse. So while Clay had scarily good aim, he also didn't have a lick of BB gun ettiquette. Cut forward to the next weekend, as my dad was locking the barn to leave one day he noticed there was glass on the ground in front of the barn. He looked up and the lightbulb of the second story barn had been shot out. When he asked Clay if he knew who shot out the light, Clay without hesitating told him that our next door neighbor Steven that had spent the day at the farm with us did. Furious, my dad asked why Steven would do such a thing. My innocent, sweet little brother who was probably 12 years old responded simply "Because I missed"

Friday, June 2, 2017

Spiritual Journeys

I was raised in a Christian home. My mom was raised Church of Christ and my dad grew up in the Baptist church. I went to a Private, Christian school from Kindergarten through the 8th grade. I was active in several youth groups, went on several mission trips, and attended church camp almost every summer. It was an amazing childhood and I wouldn't change anything about it. It taught me to be a kind, respectful person. I forged so many memories in those years, and made some incredible friends.

But in my adult years, I have let humans and their inherent sins, effect my own personal walk. I am so over organized religion. I am not over God! I am not over Spirituality, so please don't misunderstand what I am saying. I am over the church being judgmental and exclusive. I am over condemnation and narrow minds. I am over it being about money and other humans. I think, the worst thing about Christians that I have ran into in my life is that they somehow lost the point. I respect all religions, to a certain extent. I have an issue with atheism and radicals, but not enough of an issue to speak out about it. I also respect their rights to believe whatever it is they choose to believe.

If I said that I was questioning my faith, which I am not, I think that my mom (and her entire family) might have a heart attack. That is not what I am doing. I am simply searching for an alternative way to connect spiritually with God. On this journey that I am on, I have found that I believe there are a few things that I know in my heart to be true. I believe in Karma. I believe in energy. I believe that if you make a choice to be positive, that in any situation, you will have a positive impact. I believe that those emanating Good Vibes will receive Good Vibes. I also believe if you do wrong, you will have consequences. Maybe not immediately, but they will come. I believe there is a higher power, and that that higher power is in control. I am just not sure that I believe that for centuries the religions that were practiced throughout the world were suddenly wrong one day. And that then centuries later, that religion was also found to be wrong. And that there is one true religion in the universe, and I happen to be lucky enough to be born into that religion.

I want to love with reckless abandon, and if ANYONE tries to put down or "infect" my vibes with closed mindedness or naivety. I don't want it around. Be open. Christians, God is love! He commands us to love our neighbors! I am so sick of seeing the hypocritical believer. Be humble. All that we have can be taken away from us in an instant. Do good! I cannot stress that enough, DO GOOD!!!

My favorite verse, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. These are all things that God says we will "bear" when He is within us. That doesn't look like many of the Christians I have encountered, and that is disappointing to me.

Believe what you Believe. But ALWAYS do good!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sweet Summertime Part 2: Purple Cows and Fireworks!

So there are lots of fun things to do in the Summer, right? Maybe when we were younger! For those of us who are not teachers, summers are just warmer days in which we still have to work! Here are a few other ways to have fun this summer - without breaking the bank! Celebrations Galore!!!!

Go out for a Dessert Date to celebrate National Donut Day 06-02. Obviously Rolling Pin has the best donuts in this area, but my favorite is the Apple Fritter! Oh mylanta! That counts as one serving of fruit, right?!? If you aren't into doughnuts, I also HIGHLY recommend the Ek Mek at the Famous Bistro in downtown Owensboro.

Throw together a Crawfish Boil for the First Day of Summer. There are several different variations, I have never cooked with crawfish before, but I have used shrimp! This is a wonderful way to celebrate with friends. My mom and I attempted to do a "Shrimp Boil" last summer, and it was good - however we overcooked our shrimp and undercooked our potatoes. Wah Wah - Practice makes perfect though!!

Head to the Movies with your Best Friend for Best Friend Day 06-08. The coolest movie theatre experience that I have had lately has been at the Royal Suites in Evansville. You can order food and drinks directly to your seat! Oh and your seat, yeah, you get your very own recliner!

Celebrate National Iced Tea Day while drinking tea and playing Bingo 06-09. My favorite tea is McDonald's Half Sweet/Half Unsweet, but Sonic's Diet Green Tea is a close second!! Don't overestimate your Bingo ability either, I made the mistake of buying six books when I played for my first time - and I found out quickly that I could only handle two!

Father's Day is in June. So whether you are a dad yourself or you are celebrating the father figure men in your own life. Be sure to take Father's Day to do something fun for Dad!!

Pina Colada Day 07-10 No explanation necessary.

Poker Night/Macaroni Competition to celebrate Macaroni Day 07-07. Ray doesn't play poker, so we have different games we play in place of poker. But the men in my family LOVE it. Have everyone bring their favorite macaroni (Panera IMO) and spend the night eating cheesy pasta and playing card games for quarters!!

Celebrate Ice Cream Day 07-16 with Clue or Mystery Dinner Party and Sundae Bar. I have always wanted to throw one of those Mystery Dinner Parties, but have not had the chance to do so. If timing or money is an issue - the good old fashioned game of Clue will work too! National Ice Cream Day sounds like a dream come true, doesn't it ?!? Put out all the fixings and let the Murder Mystery begin!

Celebrate Root Beer Float Day 08-06. When I was younger, I sometimes visited my Aunt Linda in Nashville, where she taught me how to make a Purple Cow. I am not sure that this is what was intended with the start of Root Beer Float Day, but it is close enough. Add ice cream to Grape Soda if you don't like Root Beer - and voila! The Purple Cow.

Fourth Of July! Makes me want a hot dog, real bad. One of my all time favorite stories about Ray was our first fourth of July together. We were on the beach at Panama City, relaxing at dusk waiting for the fireworks show over the ocean (Bucket List Adventure by the way), when the rednecks at the beach chairs next to us began lighting bottle rockets and other various fireworks. I voiced my concern to Ray, because anyone that knows me knows I love fireworks - but they make me extremely nervous. Ray dismissed my concern with a flippant "Those fireworks won't hit you! And even if they did, it will be okay, we used to shoot bottle rockets at each other when I was younger, etc." Surprisingly I was able to perk up a bit and think, he's right - I am 30 years old, I shouldn't be scared of fireworks. And then it happened, I heard "Shit!" from the rednecks next to us and the fireworks shot straight for us. Ray rolled out of his beach chair, as our other friends spilled their beer and hit the sand, our friend Deanna took off running back towards the hotel and actually got hit in the back. As the dust settled and the explosions stopped, I looked at Ray and said mockingly "Those fireworks won't hit you!" We still laugh about that story to this day.

Back To School Another opportunity to celebrate! We have made a tradition of Orange Leaf and Back to School Shopping, but I am sure there are other ways to celebrate. Even though summer is coming to an end at this point, you have to find the Silver Lining!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Sweet Summertime

As promised, I would like to do a series on Date Night Fun. Last Christmas I put together a "Date Jar" for Ray's sister and Brother in Law. This basically consisted of 52 dates written on popsicle sticks. I even went as far as to color-code them according to the season they were appropriate for (ie Summer Dates written on yellow and red sticks, Fall Dates written on Orange, etc) With Summer just around the corner - here are the date ideas I came up with.

Picnic Date - Whether you head to a local park or simply put a quilt in the backyard, pack some sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables, and some chips or pretzels and head out. Don't forget drinks! We recommend a pitcher of Pineapple Mango Mimosas and bottles of water. For our Pineapple Mango Mimosas we used Kroger Orange Pineapple Juice and Svedka Mango Pineapple Vodka.

Mexican Date - On night's where a Taco Bar just seems like too much energy, we head to our local favorite Mexican restaurant - Papa Grande. Try something new! It will make a staple restaurant feel like a fresh new experience. If you go to Papa Grande -
try the Burrito Tropicale! And don't forget to make your margarita a Jumbo Margarita!

Grilling Steaks - Be sure to pick your favorite cut of meat, bake some potatoes and head outside for dinner a la fresco. We add in some Louis Armstrong Pandora for an added romantic element.

Riverfront Date Night - If the Riverfront is not an option, pick your favorite scenery spot - whether a park or the top of hill - for a leisurely walk. Hold hands and make a point to smile, only if it's comfortable. I have found that it makes walking and nature feel a little romantic.

Outdoor Movie Date Night - Whether you can project a movie on the side of your house and get comfortable with pillows and blankets, or attend the drive in movie theatre and get comfortable in the back of a truck. Popcorn and outdoor movies are always fun to share!

Baseball Game - Whether it is at a 5 year old's tee ball game or at a sunset Cinncinnatti Reds game, we have had so much fun at the ball field. The Bowling Green Hot Rods and Evansville Otters are both fairly close!

Nacho Bar & Tequila Shots - Brown some ground beef, Shred some chicken and sautee some shrimp, once you add all the fixings - the Nacho Bar will let you eat as much as or as little as you want. Add in some tequila shots (we chase with pickle juice) for some adult fun.

DIY Project Date Night - Recently we planted an herb garden and lit up our back deck in DIY Project Dates. This is a fun way to get things done while enjoying each other. Plus who doesn't love watching a hard working man ?!? ;)

Miniature Golf and Go Karts - Competition keeps things fun, you could always add "stakes" to the game (ie feet rub, back scratch, etc) Cotton Candy, Soft Pretzels or Funnel Cakes are an added element of fun. There is something refreshing about acting young for the night!

Board Games and Home-Made Pizzas - Yahtzee, Monopoly, Sorry are some favorites of ours for game night. The trick to Home-Made Pizza is CHEESE. Wine goes really well with Board Games and Pizza. (We added some of our fresh basil to our pizza from our above mentioned Herb Garden)

Barbecue & Beer - Another night of fun is firing up the grill - barbecuing some hamburgers or chicken thighs. Anything goes with burgers and chicken to drink, but there is something about an iced cold bud light (or in my case a Cherry-Rita) at dusk. If you put on some 90's Pandora - it makes for a relaxing nostalgic night.

Winery Date - There is not much better than unlimited free wine tasting! Different cheeses add varieties of tastes to wine - so consider tasting a couple different types. We have recently tried a wine that both of us highly recommend called Frost Bitten. While I have not yet been to the winery here in Owensboro - I have heard good things!! We traveled the short distance to French Lick, because the French Lick Red Wine is my jam!!

Enjoy your Dates this summer with someone you can easily vibe with! Whether it be your best friend, an old friend, your love, your mom, your dad, a new friend or a group of people! I have found if you focus more on the experience and the people you are with - you can turn any outing into a damn good time! In encouraging my little brother to get out and date, I often use the line "Go on dates! Some of them will be bad - but those make for good stories. You have to have bad ones with the good ones!" In all honesty though, I haven't had a bad one yet!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Falling in Love and Lists

To start, I would like to say that this blog is no longer going to be focused on the physical aspect of my health. I will, undoubtedly get into my physical health at some point in my blogging, but for reasons I will explain later, this blog is now going to explore different aspects of my health as a whole. Emotional, mental, spiritual, financial (yikes!), social all of these aspects I will touch on and elaborate on. I can still promise honesty, humor, and rawness (at times I am sure you will still think - TMI) I still promise my foul mouth and anecdotal memories. I just want to take the focus off of my weight. Can I say that again?!? I. WANT TO TAKE THE FOCUS OFF OF MY WEIGHT.

Okay, so a lot has happened in the past 4 years of my life (while I took a break from blogging). I have had several new experiences, traveled to various new domestic locations, experienced loss and joy. But perhaps the biggest news in my adult life, I am in love for the first time. A fun, exciting, feels like home type of love. Falling in love has been the most ridiculous, fun, scary and confusing thing I have ever done.

In March of 2014 I was pretty busy on the internet dating scene. Beings that I was in a fresh new body had a new lease on life - I was ready to have some fun! Initially I thought that I was interested in dating! Like going to dinner, seeing movies, going to ball games. All these are things that my peers had been doing since they were 16 or 17 years old, but I had not yet experienced them. Here's the thing though - I HAD experienced them. I had experienced them with friends. I had experienced them with family. I had conditioned myself into thinking that I was missing out because I didn't have a boyfriend. If I had only known then. So, back to what I was saying, I THOUGHT I was interested in dating. But the more I experienced online dating and men of an appropriate dating age - the more I realized that it wasn't them that I was after. It was attention!! It was approval!!! It was a "good morning beautiful" from a total stranger? I know it doesn't sound right, but anyone of you that suffers from low self esteem knows what feeling I am talking about. After meeting several different guys and developing what are still what I consider great friendships, I met Ray. Lord, have mercy! THAT SMILE. Initially, I dismissed Ray as being too cute or too much of a ladies' man - but as he pursued me I thought to myself "Okay? Let's try this! Let's have dinner and hang out, at the very least, maybe he will become another great friend!" In April of 2014 I invited Ray to have dinner with myself and a couple of my friends. I was going to cook my famous Baked Spaghetti (like I always do when trying to impress). Ray showed up with his million dollar smile and two bottles of wine and the rest is history. We caught like wild fire.

We were INSTANT friends. Both of us had convinced ourselves that we didn't want serious relationships but that we really enjoyed being around each other so we were just going to do our best at communicating our feelings and see how that went. It was fun, but it was rough too. Like anybody that involves too many people in their business, the more people there are involved - the more opinions are shared. And not all of them are welcomed OR encouraging. I will be the first to say that in 2014 - my friends and my family were my "other half". If that makes sense to anyone, they were who I called when I made a big decision or when I got a promotion or when my car broke down or if I simply needed someone to go to the movies with me. So it is 100% my fault that so many different opinions and advice were given.

Cut forward to May of 2017 and here we are. We have traveled to Panama City, Cincinatti, French Lick, Nashville, New Orleans, Huntsville, Boonville, Buzzard Rock. We have tried new foods like Alligator, Ek Mek, Veal, and Haricot Vers. This year it is an effort, but we have been able to maintain our Weekly Date Night Routine. Whether it is Grilling Steaks and listening to jazz music on our deck, going to Lowe's for new flowers and herbs for our garden, or attending a Paint and Sip Painting class. So ... that leads me to the second point I was wanting to make.

I am addicted to lists. It started when I was much younger. I would spend hours practicing my penmanship in both cursive and print. I would go through the alphabet for various topics and try to think of words to associate with each (ie Fruits: Apples, Bananas, Concord Grapes, etc; Girls Names: Alivia, Beverly, Caroline, etc) Literally hours of my childhood and teenage years were spent on such lists. This past time/hobby of mine, while making me an incredible Scattergories player, never proved to be much of an asset to my adult years - or at least it hasn't so far. I do, however, get the occasional text from one of my girlfriends saying "Help me! AK has a show and tell tomorrow and the letter is Y. I am stuck!" However,lately I have combined this weird quirky hobby of mine to use with something that else that I am addicted to - PEOPLE. Date Night, Girls Night, Dinner Dates, Coffee Dates, etc.and have come up with several (52 to be exact) fun, new date night ideas!! I want to REITERATE that this does not have to be "dating your spouse" only. As my first 30 years have proven - Mother/Daughter Date, Dad/Daughter Date, Girlfriend Dates, Group Dates - they ALL count. They are ALL experiences to be had, all experiences to be enjoyed. So my first blog series is going to be on Dating Ideas!!

Hope you guys enjoy! It has been way too long. XOXO