Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What I Learned at Disneyland

"Don't worry, Kalei, I'll make her smile!"  These kids. 
A friend asked me recently how I figure out what to write about.  

The truth is, most of the time, I have no friggin clue.  In fact, on more than one occasion, panic set in: crap it’s almost Wednesday, what the heck am I gonna write about now???

But I’ve noticed a funny thing recently: during the week, a series of little events magically combine, and a theme emerges. And what I saw over and over this week was hope.  

Maybe it was completing a truly heinous half-marathon training run, a 6-mile doozy of stairs and hills and utter madness, which caused me to think hey, maybe I won’t die. Perhaps it was hearing the news that a dear friend who suffered a tragic loss, just had a beautiful baby girl.  Or maybe it was the hopeful little faces of my nieces as we waited in line at Disneyland to meet their heroes, Elsa and Anna of Frozen (a 1 1/2 hour I’m-now-best-friends-with-Tommy-and-Megan’s-mom wait, I might add). 

As I was standing in line at the Happiest Place on Earth, I thought about how my life now is in such stark contrast to a year ago.  It brought me back to the memory of a dark email I had written during one of the most difficult periods of my life.

That email was my first attempt at truly letting people know what was going on—a small cry for help that I sent to a few dear friends.  

Since I’ve always been a pretty positive person, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this: I had lost hope.

I hadn’t read that email in a while, and I was curious, so I went back and re-read it. I was a bit shocked.  This is the part that jumped out at me:

But as I sit here, crying my eyes out--after one of my resolutions was to stop crying so much!--I still question everything, doubt whether I'll ever be happy and live a life that makes me excited to wake up in the morning.

I guess I have to.  Because at my core, I believe this can't all be for nothing.  That all this hurt, pain, loss....there must be a reason for it. I have to believe it. 

Here’s what I found so interesting: I remember that email being completely dark, depressing and hopeless. 

As it turns out, that wasn’t so at all.  

I didn’t realize until now, that I did still have hope.  Even in my darkest hour, there was a part of me that didn’t want to give up. 

And my friends weren’t ready to give up on me either. 

One of my oldest friends responded within minutes: I love you and you’re gonna be ok.  And then she said something that pierced right through me: 

Never ever ever ever give up.  Like, ever.

I wish I could say that right then and there I made the decision to turn things around.  I didn’t.  It took a little while.  But I know she planted a seed. And along with friends, family, and most importantly, my renewed relationship with God, I eventually climbed out of that pit to a new chapter of my life--stronger, happier, and overflowing with hope. 

Of course today’s Jesus Calling is about hope (I wasn’t kidding about this theme thing):  

Waiting on me means directing your attention to me in hopeful anticipation of what I will do.  It entails trusting me with every fiber of your being, instead of trying to figure things out yourself.

I also found this little gem which is my new favorite verse on hope:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
So now, when I feel myself slipping into dark thoughts, I remind myself of this: 

There is always, always, always, always hope.  Like, always.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What Really Matters Most In Life

Funny story how I captured this bird flying across the
beautiful setting sun: the guy to my right was tossing Ruby's
french fries at the birds.  I share this for no reason other
than it makes me laugh every time I see this photo.

My friend is planning her wedding.  

She’s cool, calm, collected. In other words, the exact opposite of Little Miss Crazy Pants (aka me) during my wedding planning.

I was determined to have the Most Perfect Wedding Ever (because, you know, that’s the point).  

Especially when it came to my bridesmaid dresses.  And so began The Great Quest for the Perfect Purple Dress. I spent weeks searching—I trolled dozens of bridal sites, visited 9 salons up and down southern California, called stores in neighboring states—but no one seemed to carry The One.

Me: Excuse me, do you have deep-lilac-not-quite-aubergine-slightly-cerulean-above-the-knee-strapless bridesmaid dresses?
Store Owner in New York: [silence]
Me: Hello? 

It’s funny, because now, I could give a hoot. 

Maybe a bridesmaid dress seems like a silly example, but it led me to a larger truth: 

There is so much in my life that I thought was important, that’s just not.

Here are the things I always thought I needed to be happy: 
  • Married
  • 2.5 kids
  • A big beautiful home
  • VP at a stable company
And you know what? I have none of these things. None. Zero. Zip. 

And I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

I’ve not only accepted, but I’m reveling, in the right now.  Because this is it.  This is my life— my one precious life.  And it’s a life I’m incredibly grateful for.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want most of that list (except the VP thing—been there done that, no thank you very much).  But I now realize that my focus for so long was on trivial things, not the things that truly matter.  

Here are the things that now are most important to me:
  • My Faith
  • Family (this includes my dog of course)
  • Friends
  • Career
It's pretty easy to be grateful for this little one. 
And striving to be the most loving, joyful, fun, authentic human being I can possibly be.  

To quote a legendary coach, in honor of one of my favorite sports seasons of the year (don’t you just love March Madness?!?  I’m such a sucker for a good Cinderella story- Go Lumberjacks!): 

Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.  John Wooden 

I also love this sweet sentiment: 

You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy.  Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae.  Paul Walker 

(Yes I worked in a Paul Walker quote.  You’re welcome). 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Photoshoot

Ok fine.  Even though it was miserable hot that day,
look at this gorgeous sky!  Even I couldn't get mad at this. 

I had a photoshoot this weekend. 

I was already dreading it, this damn photoshoot.   

But then, The Perfect Storm of All Things Crappy came together to make it the absolute worst possible time for me to take pictures.

I was sick all week.  In addition to acting like a giant grumpy baby, I was sniffly, snotty, and exhausted, not to mention I reeked of Halls Honey-Lemon Triple Soothing Action Menthol Cough Suppressants (just wow, Halls marketing team). 

I skipped my workouts for a week due to this stupid cold.  Not exercising made me feel like a lazy, disgusting blob (picture Jabba The Hutt). 

It was freaking HOT.  As in, a sweltering 85 degrees, there-aren’t-enough-fans-in-the-world, sweat-running-down-my-legs hot.  I took hot mess to a whole new level. 

But the real reason why I didn’t want this photoshoot to happen?  

I’m too fat. 

That’s the tape that kept playing over and over in my head as my calendar crept closer and closer to the day marked “FREAKING PHOTOSHOOT.”   

Some crazy creative ideas popped into my head that, quite honestly, were downright impressive: Wear your snowboarding gear!  Position your hair to cover your entire face! Take shots from 1000 yards away! Google “best angles for chubby faces”! Buy Spanx for your whole body!   

But that thought—too fat!—kept haunting me.  Did I really want to take pictures knowing that I’m a lot heavier than I’d like to be?  And, more importantly, did I really want to share these pictures with, you know, people?

An extraordinary thing happened that day.  After a few minutes of shooting, the photographer asked me to look at the first pictures.  I nervously peeked at the camera.  And you know what?  To my utter surprise, they weren’t that bad.  

And that’s when I heard: 

STOP!  You are so beautiful and YOU’RE MISSING IT!  


This is making me cry as I write it, because that thought was clearly not from me.  That is not how I talk to myself, ever.  So I know this wasn’t some errant brain cell with a surprisingly supportive idea.

God wanted me to hear him, loud and clear.

While I’m getting better at being kind to myself, I tend to ride the roller coaster of I’m not thin enough, pretty enough, good enough.  And in those dark moments, what I need to desperately cling to is this: 

He loves and accepts me just the way I am—and I need to do the same. 

I did a little Googling, and found some great quotes.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14 

True Beauty emanates from a woman who boldly and unabashedly knows who she is in Christ.  Jen Smidt
I also came upon a disturbing statistic: Only two percent of women describe themselves as beautiful.* 
Yikes.  This struck me as incredibly sad.  I mean, I knew I wasn’t the only one, but that was worse than I expected.  
I felt moved to do something about this. So here’s what I’m doing:
1. I taped Psalm 139:14 to my bathroom mirror, and I repeat it whenever I see it. 
2. I’m committed to improving my inner beauty, too. 
And yes, I’m working on losing these 10 stubborn pounds, because how I look and feel is still important to me.  But. 

I'm reveling in the power of knowing that I'm beautiful just the way I am.  And more importantly, what matters most is my heart. 


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What a Difference A Year Makes

I cannot believe I used to work here.  I also cannot believe
it was 19 degrees and I was outside taking this picture. 
I visited New York this past weekend. Upon landing, I got a little emotional.  This took me completely by surprise, and made me a little embarrassed—I was having a fun conversation with Window Seat Guy, who, once I started crying, had no idea what to do with me.  I could literally hear the poor guy thinking: Lady, I thought you were normal till just now. 

I now understand why, it being my first time back since I moved 14 months ago, I got a little choked up. 

Let me back up. 

I had moved to New York for an incredible job opportunity: Awesome company, title, responsibilities, and salary that afforded me an amazing apartment, wardrobe, and the most expensive doggy daycare on earth.   

On the outside, I was living The Good Life.  I had the Job of a Lifetime!  I had a fabulous apartment on The Upper West Side!  I carried a Prada bag and wore Gucci shoes!  I dated snobby, wealthy Finance guys!

But I was far from family and friends.  I worked a lot.  I traveled even more.  I was expected to make $1 million in my first year of employment (I exaggerate here but only slightly).  You know, no pressure.

And of course, being a strong, independent, everything-is-fine kinda gal, I didn’t really tell anyone that I was freaking out.  I preferred to yell at myself. 

You’re an idiot.  You have your dream job in an awesome city, you’re making more money than you’ve ever made in your life—you’re living the dream!  What the hell is wrong with you?  Get it together! 

On the inside, I was unbelievably stressed, and lonely.  I felt totally out of control in every area of my life.

So I turned to Food.

Food easily occupied 60% of my waking thoughts.  The rest was roughly 30%= Work, 9%= Dog, 1%= Gee I wonder which I should designer bag I should buy this week.

I’d spend hours researching restaurants, dissecting menus, making reservations.  I’d design my weekends around visiting as many dessert places as I could.  And when I wasn’t dining at some of New York’s best, I was ordering a ton of delicious delivery food (stupid GrubHub and your amazing late night delivery service).

Not surprisingly, I gained weight.  Which made me even more upset.  And the vicious cycle continued. 

I don’t blame you if this is what you’re thinking: Good God lady, that’s sad.  

So back to landing.  It struck me that in just 14 months, everything has changed.  I’m now a completely different person, in the best possible way. 

I own my own company.  I’m in nutrition school. I have a much healthier relationship with food.  I have an incredible support network.  I volunteer regularly.  I’m training for a half marathon.  I’m fulfilled, happy, loved.  (And a tad busy). 

What changed?  I turned everything over to God. 

This doesn’t mean that my life is all rainbows and unicorns.  Nor does it mean that I sit on my ass all day waiting for stuff to happen.

But handing everything over to God has made a huge difference in my life.  I have such peace, especially when it comes to my problems.  From today’s “Jesus Calling”: 

Every problem can teach you something, transforming you little by little into the masterpiece I created you to be….I will not necessarily remove your problems, but My wisdom is sufficient to bring good out of every one of them.

With God’s help, I now see this painful time in my life as an incredible blessing.  The people and experiences he's blessed me with have enriched my life in so many ways. 

For example, Window Seat Guy: after wiping away a few tears and giving him an I swear I’m normal smile, he reached into his bag and handed antiseptic wipe.  

Ahh New York, I love ya.