Lessons learned from dad…

Lessons learned from dad…

When you’re a child you don’t realize how much your parents are teaching you just by the way they are living their lives. This father’s day is different for me, I see things through different eyes after being tossed around a bit by life, and I appreciate now more than ever the lessons I’ve learned from my dad.

This father’s day I’d like to share with all of you the lessons I’ve learned from my dad. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last two years it’s that life is hard, but with my dad’s guidance I know I can overcome any challenge. I will always aspire to be like my dad—to display determination, respect for my country and heritage, to be creative, and to live my life to the fullest. I hope you enjoy my recollection of lessons I’ve learned from my dad.


While on the phone with my mom the other day I realized something about my dad, he NEVER gives up. While explaining all of the difficulties I’ve been facing at work to my mom I realized my parents have both been through complicated work and life situations, I asked mom how she and dad got through tough times when they were my age and working in physically demanding jobs for long hours. Mom replied “your daddy never gives up, he always tries, even if he can’t do something he’ll try first”. After our conversation I took some time to reflect and I began to imagine how I would deal with the challenges dad faced as a father, husband, son, homeowner, employee, friend, and patient. I thought to myself “what would I do if my body began to change because of a disease like Muscular Dystrophy, if I realized I’d have to retire in my 30’s, and how would I handle all of this while caring for my children, wife, and elderly father?” Then I challenged myself to look back at my childhood memories and analyze them from an adult’s perspective, what did my dad’s actions throughout these challenges say about the way one should handle difficulties in life? I remembered how dad continued to take care of our house and yard, how he must have struggled to find ways to make ends meet, I remembered that I always had what I needed, how I attended public school for only a year before he and my mother found a way to pay the tuition so that I could return to Catholic School to get a better education. Through this exercise I realized that it couldn’t have been easy and in fact I still can’t figure out exactly how he kept it all together, but that’s exactly what a determined man would do. My dad’s determination pushes me to keep trying, and I’m proud of him for fighting through his personal struggles, while being a provider and a dad. Dad—your strength amazes me.

Unit. Core. God.

From the time I was a little girl I understood that my dad served in the US Marine Corps. I recall hearing him shout “get up, get up, get out of the rack” many early weekend mornings, and I can assure you mom, Janie and I were not enthusiastic after receiving that wake up call. While there were disagreements between my father and I about military service, I have always respected him for serving our country, and I have benefited in so many ways because he is a veteran. One of the lessons I can appreciate today is the lesson of personal discipline. While I didn’t always appreciate that I was forced to iron my school uniforms, shine my shoes, and keep my room and the house neat and clean I can recognize as an adult that these lessons were important to learn. Thanks to dad I’ve learned the importance of discipline and this has helped me to lose over 80 pounds, maintain a clean apartment (even when my roommates and partners haven’t been supportive),and even retain an orderly system for personal record keeping; all necessary elements to becoming successful professionally and personally. Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet many different types of people from all walks of life, I’ve witnessed people young and old who weren’t taught discipline, and I’ve seen it prevent many from progressing as adults. I’m proud to say that I’m a Marine’s daughter, and the importance of service to my country resonates with me every day that I serve as Social Worker. Dad—I want you to know that I appreciate your dedication to our country, and I want you thank you for applying that same dedication to raising your daughters.


While talking with mom the other day I remembered how creative my dad can be. She recalled that dad created a safety gadget for mail trucks that was later installed on all mail trucks throughout the city. Dad’s creativity showed me that it’s important to be efficient. He always told us to do things right, “don’t half ass it” he would say. I understand now that professionally and personally, you have to be creative in life. No matter what difficulty dad faced, he has always made time for his hobbies and while not always successful he’s tried to include his family in sharing those hobbies. I have many fond memories of camping and fishing with mom and dad, some of our happiest family moments happened around a camp fire. My parents traveled all over the country with my sister and I in the back seat watching the clouds and stars pass by. I’m lucky that I had the opportunity to see this beautiful country, from the Appalachian Mountains to the beaches of the Carolinas. Not only was dad creative with vacations and at work, he also made things fun for Janie and I at home. Dad created a safe and fun place for us to grow up in a neighborhood that was always changing and sometimes deteriorating. On snowy days he’d take us to Lake Erie to sled down hills, he’d attach ropes to our dog and pull us through the snow, in the summer he taught us how to garden and plant flowers, he gave us plenty of toys to play with to expand our imagination, and we even had a pool and swing set right in our back yard to play with. Dads—thank you for showing me how to be a creative employee, student, friend, daughter, and someday parent.

This father’s day I hope you see how many amazing lessons you’ve taught your daughters. As the years pass I recognize a new lesson every time life hands me a challenge, and thanks to your determination, dedication, and creativity I know that I’ll be prepared to face each challenge with my head held high. I love you dad—Happy Father’s Day!



My battle with earworms

I’m writing today to open up about my battle with earworms. I’ve spent years fighting this tragic condition that is not only disruptive in my life, but also causes pain to those I love.

Earworm sufferers: I hope for those infected this space can serve as an open forum where earworms can be shared and cures can be discussed.

Friends of Earworm sufferers: I empower you to use this area to openly discuss (with positivity) your personal coping strategies. I want the families, friends, coworkers, and other loved ones of those effected by earworms to use this space as well to support one another in maintaining relationships despite the risks.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with earworms you can find more information here: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20030227/songs-stick-in-everyones-head. Dictionary.com defines an earworm as “an irritatingly catchy tune”. Earworms are common, “a recent poll suggested over 90% of the population experience them at least once a week” says a University of London article (http://www.gold.ac.uk/music-mind-brain/earworm-project/).

While I don’t remember my first outbreak, I do recall the distressing voices of family and friends who pleaded for me to stop reciting catchy song excerpts. It wasn’t just songs though; film quotes, catch phrases…anything that I remembered could become a contagious earworm to those around me. My least favorite earworm can be seen here: http://www.retrojunk.com/details_commercial/7030/. I remember singing the jingle and physically reacting to prevent from finishing the song.

Unfortunately, my battle continues today. Last week I watched Jamar Rogers (http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/jamar-rogers/id442425561) perform during his first competition on NBC’s The Voice (see here http://youtu.be/DnOmbE0jk48) and last night I met Jamar for the first time after my roommate Jose invited me to his going away gathering. ImageFor over a week now I’ve been battling the ear worm “I want to know what love is”. The earworm is only that line from the song, and at times a follow-up is added: “I want you to show me”. My goal this week is to cure the “I want to know what love is” earworm and stop the relentless torturing of the earlobes attached to those I care about most.

Again, I’d like to see this post foster a supportive community for those effected by earworms. I hope you’ll all feel open to share your personal experiences and battles here. I welcome all comments and will continue to fight this tragic condition. Thank you for reading, I know sharing with you all has already helped me in my personal battle with earworms.

Moving is hard…

I was 4 years old when my parents became homeowners. Our house was on Woodgridge Avenue down the street from Metro Hospital where I was born. There were 2 floors, with an attic and a basement. The backyard was big; my father planted pine trees, put up a fence, and purchased a swing set and above ground pool, and there was plenty of room to play Frisbee with our dog Bo. The front yard and tree lawn were small and we eventually fenced the area. In the summer we would plant vegetables and flowers.

But I digress from the most important part of the house, my room! I don’t remember moving into my first bedroom, but I remember growing up in it. The room had blue carpet, it was on the second floor overlooking the back yard and even had a balcony that I could use with permission. The room was larger than my sisters, and had an odd shape as one of the walls was cut short by a diagonal ceiling. My mom and I always talked about painting stars onto my weird ceiling but I was never creative enough to fulfill that dream, although I did add a Winnie the Pooh wall paper border around 3/4 of the room. My room was my sanctuary, it was where I spent most of my time when I was at home. I lived in that room until I was 19, and then it was time to move.

Time to move…

As a sophomore in college I was ready to move out and experience dorm life, I left my room at the age of 19, excited to make my own rules. While I wasn’t a fan of my fathers rules, I learned quickly that no rules come at a price (financially speaking that is). I decided to move back in with my father during my last year of graduate school, and I quickly came to remember the price rules came with in the first place (no offense dad). It was time to move again, into my first room as an adult.

My first place…

At 23 years of age I moved into my first apartment with a roommate. The room was in a house owned by a friend and her husband who occupied the downstairs unit. The arrangement was perfect socially and financially. My friendships with my roommate and “landlords” made our house feel like a home. Although I loved living with my friends, I did not enjoy the feeling of continuing to live in a one-mile radius of the street I grew up on, and at 24 years old I found myself once again ready to move. After a short conversation with a friend who lived in New York City I applied for a job, was hired, and made the choice to relocate. It’s true what they say; life really does happen fast.

Like I said…moving is hard

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to move from Cleveland, Ohio to Manhattan, New York. Apartment searching in New York City is like nowhere else in the great United States of America. I wasn’t sure of the neighborhoods, but thanks to my friend Lisa, I was able to locate an apartment in close proximity to my job and my only friend. I spent a year finding my way around, making new friends, and learning lessons the hard way while visiting home often.

Moving isn’t so hard after all! Or is it…

One year was all it took to realize I couldn’t afford the lifestyle I set up for myself. Monthly I was spending over $3000 and earning only $2000. Once I exhausted the plastic resources I realized it was time to move to a more affordable apartment in a more affordable neighborhood. I began my search in November 2011 and started by e-mailing friends hoping someone would have a coworker/friend/family member that was looking for a roommate. To my surprise I immediately got an e-mail from a coworker of a friend, she sent photos of an amazing 3 bedroom apartment in Spanish Harlem on the other side of Central Park (my first apartment was in Manhattan near Broadway and West 110th), and the best part was the rent, it was $200 less than my current apartment with $50 less in utility expenses and the commute to work was reduced by 20 minutes! There was even a backyard for barbeques! It was perfect! Or so I thought. Before moving in I was aware my friends coworker and I would be taking over the lease and that the current lease holder was moving on March 1st. We agreed to find the third roommate together to replace the lease holder. After I agreed to move in I was introduced to the current lease hold who collected rent for January and February. It was through the leaseholder I met the roommate I was to replace. The leaseholder suggested I pay January rent to her and collect from the current roommate money for days she remained in the apartment. This seemed perfect financially and I agreed assuming the money from the current roommate could be used for moving expenses. The roommate I was set to replace postponed the move in date several times, then finally in mid-January we agreed she’d move out on January 20th. I visited the room the day of her move to collect $400 for the 20 days of January she lived in the room, but there was no money order on the dresser as agreed. I later realized this roommate often didn’t pay rent, and I was recruited for January and February so that the leaseholder would be able to cover rent until her move out date of 2/29/12. Not only did I realize there was no money order, I was also left to clean a filthy room and apartment. I spent that Thursday night cleaning, Friday painting and packing, and moved on a snowy Saturday morning. The moving company, 2 guys and a van, took care of everything for $325, and by Saturday night I was unpacked and ready to enjoy my new apartment and upcoming birthday.

This is going to be harder than I thought

Shortly after my move the acquaintance roommate became ill and was hospitalized. I spoke rarely to the leaseholder roommate but began to take action on the lease after the other roommate remained hospitalized. I imagined taking over a lease would consist of providing copies of my identification, paystubs, and maybe paying a fee for a background check/credit report. WRONG. For this $2,300 Spanish Harlem apartment with no upkeep and repairs for 4 years required a guarantor who earns $161,000 annually (or several guarantors equaling that amount), an over $3000 brokers fee, and a possible rent increase of $200 a month. The apartment quickly became too good to be true. In the middle of the shortest month of the year I realized I had to move, AGAIN. Initially I fought by researching housing laws in New York City, contacting legal assistance at the local Lenox Hill Neighborhood House and the Legal Aid Society, and even through personal contacts with the New York Public Advocates Office. Every source agreed: because no written lease or sublease was signed, and because no rent was accepted by the management company, myself and my other roommate had no legal right to live at the property. I knew from work at the shelter that there were other ways to remain, like evoking squatters rights, but I decided it was less stressful to begin searching for another apartment than to navigate housing court and fight an eviction (a lengthy process which would force me to take time from work where schedule flexibility is not offered).

Great…I have to move…again.

I searched and searched, taking trips to Queens, Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights, and the Bronx. I saw tiny odd shaped rooms, met nudists, walked through rough neighborhoods, waited for countless buses, got lost, walked up/down stairs, made hundreds of calls, searched craigslist postings all day, and got nowhere. Apartments were dirty, people were odd, neighborhoods were creepy. February 29th grew closer, and I grudgingly prepared to move what little I have into storage and sleep on friends couches until I could find a suitable apartment and save enough money for first months rent, security deposit, possible brokers fee, and moving costs. I was scared, I was stressed, this was not happening…only it was.

I’m going to actually be homeless

February 2012 was the month that brought me a little closer to the clients I work with each and every day at the family homeless shelter. Social work is a challenging field, but the lives of those we help are so much more challenging. I was for the first time in my life faced with the reality that I might not have a place to go to after work that I can call “home”. I am in no way comparing my struggle with that of residents I work with, it’s clear that I am immensely more privileged than many as I have family and friends willing and able to help, an education, and a steady job; not to mention I only have to look after myself and have no children to provide for. This experience awakened inside me a compassion that was forgotten, and opened my eyes to privilege I failed to recognize before. I can say that these last few weeks have been new, I feel more committed to work, while still feeling held down by the systematic failures clients face every day. I am thankful to have a place to lay my head tonight, and I am lucky that it’s safe, clean, affordable, and mine. I’m happy the search is over, and I now understand exactly why my family never moved throughout my childhood, and that’s simply because moving is hard.

There’s No Place Like Home

Everyone has a place that they call home, a place where family lives, where things are familiar, “where everybody knows your name” (wait, that’s from the TV show Cheers, and yet it still applies).  Living away from home has helped me appreciate memories of time spent there with family and friends.  Tonight I’m inspired to share these stories, and I’m thankful to have so many happy memories to choose from.

Missing the Mountains

Most of my family is from Eastern Kentucky where my mother still lives.  Several times a year my mother and father visited Elliott County, “a remote part of Kentucky” http://www.elliottcounty.ky.gov/ where a statue of my cousin Keith Whitley still stands in the towns center.  My paternal great grandmother Mable Ison lived on the top of a steep gravel hill in the mountains of Appalachia.  At the bottom of the hill stood a red barn for many years.  Just to the left of her small wooden cottage-like house was a stone stair path to a chicken coupe that was in use until I was about 14 years old.  As a little girl I have memories of Granny inviting me to collect fresh eggs with her.  It was always appalling to me the way she slid her hand under the rear of the chicken to take the egg, but Granny knew best the way to collect eggs, so I said nothing.  We would take the eggs inside where Granny was already baking home-made biscuits and frying cinnamon apples, potatoes and bacon.  Granny would always wear an apron, and she would sometimes sing while she was cooking.  Across from the kitchen was a fire place which provided heat to the house from an old wood burning oven in her bedroom on the other side of the wall.  The mantle held old photos and various scattered trinkets.  Granny was a giving woman, who cared for almost 3 generations of children when they needed a home.  My father loyally visited Granny as often as possible, and always told us how important it was to see Granny when we came to Kentucky. Kentucky is where my parents met.  My paternal grandfather moved to Cleveland to work for GM after my grandmother passed away of Leukemia.  My father and his sisters lived with Granny until grade school age when they moved to Cleveland with their father Elmer Brickey.  My mother lived in Columbus with her mother and father, and also lived in eastern Kentucky with her Aunt Cloteen.  As a little girl my younger sister only understood we were in Kentucky when arrived at my Aunt Cloteen’s house.  Driving up, you could see her trailer from the road, and at the end of a long driveway was a red barn next to the mailbox.  A beautiful wooden porch with swings on each end wrapped around her long trailer. My late Uncle Wilferd was often seen rocking on the porch swing as he sat quietly after a long days work.  At the center of Aunt Cloteen’s bedroom was a large glass window with a view of a 5-story high cliff across the road.  Another cliff was positioned to the left of the trailer, and a steep hill to the right.  As a little girl my cousins and I would try to reach the top of the hill, holding on to trees and catching butterflies on the way.  Aunt Clotten was a thin woman who wore thick glasses and a short hair cut, she smoked cigarettes constantly and let out a wheezy cough each time she would laugh.  There was a small creek next to the house where my city-slicker sister and I would watch our cousins catch little animals.

I’ve memorized many of the landmarks between Cleveland and Sandy Hook Kentucky where we drove so often.  My parents loved to travel and we spent a lot of time in my dad’s old grey 2-door hatchback truck, and later my moms black camaro.   My dad would tell the same stories each time we drove down Route 1 after crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky.  “Girls look, that’s where your dad went to school”, he would shout as we rolled our eyes.  Now I’m thankful he repeated it over and over again, because I’ll always remember the place my dad called home.

Why Oh Why Oh Why Oh Did We Ever Leave Ohio?

Each time we crossed the bridge back into Ohio my dad would sing, why oh why oh why oh did we ever leave Ohio?”.  I didn’t know this was a song until later in life, I just thought my dad was amazingly Clever and a good rhymer.  Kentucky was a different world than the suburban house we drove to in Columbus to visit my maternal grandparents.  On the way to and from Kentucky we would pit-stop at Mamaw and Papaw’s house.  Mamaw was a hair dresser and her hair was always neatly styled as if at any moment she would receive an invitation to a fancy party.  Papaw was quiet and often found listening to talk radio or bluegrass while enjoying a piece of chewing tobacco.  My sister and I often spent our school breaks at Mamaw’s house.  As a little girl Mamaw would enlist me to sweep up at her beauty shop.  I always felt important helping out, and my Mamaw’s friend who I knew as Aunt Charlie would bring me in the back for a break to watch Fantasia while enjoying a snack.  Mamaw’s house was always fun, before bed we could go to the kitchen, just she and I, for a bowl of bed time cereal.  Mamaw moved to Florida when I was older, and traveled the country for some time, today she and Papaw live in Columbus and wherever she is feels like home too.

The Cleveland Zoo

After a long trip it was always comforting, though, to see the exit sign for the Cleveland Zoo as the car slowed to a stop off the highway.  My childhood house is in an urban Cleveland neighborhood west of downtown.  Most of the houses are historic colonials, with grassy front yards, and wooden porches.  Every weekend my family would pile into the car and race north to Edgewater Park to watch the sunset over Lake Erie.  Winter trips to the lake were peaceful, there is no quieter place in the world than next to a large body of frozen water.  Next week I’ll visit Lake Erie, and I’ll sleep in the house where I grew up, I’ll sit on my front porch, I’ll drive on familiar highways, I’ll meet with old friends; all in the city I call home, Cleveland.

There’s No Place Like Home

And so on Monday evening, in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, I’ll be wearing my red shoes as I enter the Cleveland-bound Greyhound bus, and once I settle into my seat I’ll be sure to click them together and remind myself, “there’s no place like home”.

Live to eat, or eat to live? Neither, and both.

Live to eat, or eat to live? Neither, and both.

Live to eat!

Food! It’s delicious! I love it! I admit I loved it a little too much, and that’s where the problem began. I loved bad food; Arby’s roast beef sandwiches and mozzarella sticks, Burger King whoppers and onion rings, McDonalds chicken nuggets and fries, Wendy’s bacon cheeseburgers and baked potatoes, KFC biscuits, Long John Silvers fish…just to name a few. I was living to eat. You get the picture.

Damn! Now I’m hungry! You probably are too…sorry!

So, now that you’re all famished, I’ll continue; any given day of the week I would visit one of these fine establishments, sometimes more than once a day. Weekends were for restaurants; Cracker Barrel, Carrabba’s, Olive Garden, TGIF Friday’s, and so on. I didn’t only eat at chain restaurants, I would order fried foods, with fries, and extra grease on the side at local restaurants too! I couldn’t imagine eating any other way, I knew it was unhealthy, I knew I would never lose weight like this, but it was part of my life and I didn’t know how to change it.







If I move to New York City I’ll have to lose weight, right? Wrong.

Regular exercise was a challenge. Some days I would go for a walk after work in the Cleveland Metroparks (http://www.clemetparks.com/), or take lunch at Edgewater Park (http://www.clevelandlakefront.org/Parks.htm) and walk the loop. Despite my good intentions, I would easily become frustrated and a workout regimen never stuck. It seemed hopeless, until a bright possibility entered my life: a move to New York City! I imagined it would be easy to exercise in New York, I knew I would have to walk to and from the subway several times a day and I assumed my eating habits would change considering I would be preparing most meals at home. Surprisingly, I was wrong. There was a KFC, Chipotle, McDonalds, and later a Five Guys within walking distance of my apartment, and when I had the energy to cook I craved food that reminded me of home, basically I craved grease. The walks to and from the subway and up/down the stairs weren’t enough to burn the calories I was eating. Lunch in the Bronx where I work was no help either. There weren’t as many chains, but the pizza and Spanish eateries were enticing. I didn’t have a car but a new employee was hired that I became close to, she did have a car, and we drove to White Castle at least twice a week. I felt trapped, like nothing could or would ever change.

Happy New Year! Resolution: Get healthy.

It was January 2011, and my resolution like that of many others, was to get healthy. I felt bad, physically and mentally. I was usually exhausted, especially if I deviated from my regular routine. Once a week I was required to attend a meeting downtown for clients, the meeting location was difficult to reach from my apartment forcing me to walk almost a mile or wait for a bus that never seemed to come on time. I remember the first few times I attended that meeting, I would lie in my bed that evening and actually feel sore the next day from all the physical activity. It was clearly time for a change, and I was mentally preparing myself for a new lifestyle.

I live in New York City…there must be free exercise classes somewhere.

One March day I had an epiphany; I live in New York City, there are thousands of recreation centers, one of them must have a free exercise class I can attend. A short search on the internet turned up a city funded program called Shape Up NYC (http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_things_to_do/programs/shape_up_ny/shape_up_ny.html), the website description boasted “expert fitness instructors who know how to make fitness fun”. I was excited, I love aerobics classes! Something about having other people around brings out my competitive nature and I end up working significantly harder than I would if I were alone. So, being the organized freak that I am, I created a calendar of classes for myself complete with the name of the class, location, and time. I attended my first class on my way home from work at Harlem Hospital, the class was called Aerobic Kickboxing and lasted an hour. It was hard. Really hard. I was out of breath, I stopped often for water breaks, and I even left early sometimes. The instructor was tough; she looked like she just stepped out of an exercise video and into Harlem Hospital to teach us. I was nervous and spent most of my time in the back of the class, I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed, but I kept going. Some weeks it was hard, sometimes I didn’t want to go, and sometimes I didn’t go at all. I also knew it would take more than a tough aerobics class once a week to see results, I had to start eating healthier, and stop eating fast food. I was filled with dread imagining that I could never have a can of coke for lunch or an order of McDonalds French fries, but I was also filled with dread imagining that I would never fit comfortably into an airplane seat. So…I started eating vegetables.

Vegetables aren’t so bad, with the right recipe!

It started with my friend Lisa (mysophistacatedlife.wordpress.com) and her chef of a husband Saul. They introduced me to vegetables I hadn’t seen or heard of, and I actually liked them! Brussel sprouts and broccoli rabe were foreign foods to me, but with seasoning and a little olive oil they were delicious additions to a meal. Salads were foreign too, there were so many types of dressings and cheeses I never tried or even heard of. I learned what dressings to stay away from and started ordering salads when out to eat. Sometimes I didn’t like what I ordered, but I’m an adult and as my mother always sang “You can’t always get what you want” (courtesy of the Rolling Stones). It wasn’t always easy, but I knew I could do it and I knew it would make me healthier.

All work and no play makes Jessica a dull girl.

Salad and vegetables were starting to grow on me, but I still needed sweets. I craved them night and day, it was torture, so I found another option: Skinny Cow. Skinny Cow was a delicious find for me, the ice cream cones are by far my favorite, just ask my roommate what hell I put him through when he ate my last one! I limited myself to only 1 box a week, and ate a treat only if I exercised that day. I cut out all soda’s and most other drinks, especially juice (drinks often have just as much sugar as a dessert). I would limit myself to either a can of coke OR a Skinny Cow ice cream cone, NEVER both. Eventually, I craved sugary drinks and foods less and less until I started substituting all desserts with a Starbucks drink; iced non-fat caramel macchiato. Soon I craved sweets so little that this drink was even too sweet and I began ordering non-fat latte’s which have only non-fat milk and espresso. Today I have bites of desserts, I’ll rarely order an entire dessert for myself, and if I do I decide how much of it I eat instead of eating every bite on my plate.

What’s for lunch everybody?

Workplace lunch is always a challenge, especially when your coworkers offer something that isn’t part of your eating plan. We’ve all been there at a staff meeting when it’s someone’s birthday; coworkers act like it’s a sin not to take a piece of cake (especially since no one wants to find a place to put the uneaten remains). But sin or no sin, don’t eat the cake. My coworkers have stopped offering at all, and don’t hassle me as much especially since I’ve visibly lost a significant amount of weight. I’ve also set up a strict workplace food plan that I adhere to weekly, there’s always variety but I usually order a large Greek salad that with grilled chicken (2 days), a subway club with all the veggies on wheat bread (1 day), and canned soups (check the sodium content) with fruit and cheese or nuts (2 days). I may allow myself a small portion of rotisserie chicken with rice and beans once a month, but only if I plan to exercise after work and a small dinner always follows. Changing my lunch routine not only helped improve my health, it also improved my mood. High calorie lunches drained me of energy, and were always followed with feelings of guilt. A small lunch with a light snack before going home has helped me keep my appetite satisfied while losing weight.

Running feels good, after a couple miles.

I was walking daily but I knew if I wanted to see results I would have to do a more challenging work out than walks and aerobics once a week. I started running during my walks. I couldn’t run far at first and I was out of breath in under a minute, it felt as though I would never be able to run a significant distance or amount of time, but I continued pushing and today I can run 30 minutes without stopping to walk even once. My walk/run routine began in May, I would run as much as possible and then when it felt I couldn’t run any longer I would walk to catch my breath. As soon as I felt I could run again I would. After a few weeks I started to push myself, even if I felt like I had to stop I would pick a landmark and force myself to reach it before stopping. Eventually the distance and amount of time between the landmarks grew until I was running the entire path non-stop. The routine was repeated 3-4 times a week at the park near my apartment and lasted 30-45 minutes. I hate waking up early, but I knew to see the best results I had to ensure I ran, and the only way to ensure that some days was to do it before my day even began, at 6am. It was hard, and sometimes I wanted to stay in bed but I got up anyways, and I ran. Running was difficult every time and I hated it. Friends who ran regularly told me running feels good, after a couple miles. I dreamt of experiencing the “runners high” and hoped one day it would become easy. Today I can say that every run is still a challenge, but it feels like a productive challenge, and after the first mile is behind me I usually have a burst of energy to continue in my rhythm and press on to the miles ahead.

Eat to live.

Many people have asked me with concern if I am eating properly. The answer is: absolutely! I eat to live. Some days I eat a lot, other days I don’t. Most days I eat breakfast (fiber one cereal with low fat milk and a non-fat latte), lunch (can of soup with fruit and nuts), and dinner (salad with meat). Some days I meet a friend after work for dinner, and if I’m aware of my plans I’ll prepare by eating a smaller lunch. If I eat too much one day I’ll be more aware the next day of my food intake. I never go without eating. Ever. It’s physically counterproductive in weight loss to refrain from eating, and that’s science talking not me (google it). My portions are small when I eat, and are often measured by the amount of physical activity I plan to do in a day. If I’m spending my Saturday on the couch watching Netflix I’ll have veggie snacks and fruits instead of a meaty-carb filled dinner, if I’m planning to run 4 miles I’ll have pasta with seasoned turkey meatballs. The human body needs calories to function, but lazy days need less calories than active days.


I had to start rejecting food as a source of comfort, or as a thing to do when I’m bored. I wasn’t living to eat anymore but I also didn’t want to only treat food as a tasteless necessity. I like food, there’s no denying that, and sometimes indulging can be rewarding if you monitor the portions and type of food you’re indulging in. New York City has helped me cultivate this idea, and some of the best restaurants in the country serve food right here in Manhattan. Now I indulge in rich and flavorful meals at well rated restaurants, I feel satisfied but not full when I leave and I always enjoy the flavors the chef combines to create an amazing entrée that makes you wish you lived to eat.


My conclusion for maintaining my weight loss is that you have to live to eat AND eat to live. Finding healthier (or at least less harmful) options that are still satisfying is important, and indulging in your favorites SOMETIMES is okay too (sometimes meaning once a month or less, and always followed by physical activity). I also learned my body needs certain things to feel good, vegetables being one of those things. Going forward I’ll begin to experiment with recipes to make foods I used to enjoy healthier so that I can maintain my weight loss but still enjoy traditional home cooked favorites. Overall the physical and mental improvements to my health are worth every ounce of greasy/sugary food I haven’t eaten since May. I’m missing out on taste, but I’m gaining so much in other aspects of my life that taste is no longer that important to me.

Now What

We’re told to follow a certain path of hard work and long hours to get the “American Dream” our parents once knew. But do we even want that dream anymore? Didn’t our parents work hard so that we could do what makes us happy for a living? As we navigate adulthood we begin to realize the contradictions in choosing a profession, we ask ourselves “is it more important to make enough money to have the traditional American Dream or should I love what I do for work and risk not being able to earn enough money in the present?”

College allows us to spend 4-6 years asking the question above, we change majors, talk with advisors, travel to different countries, and join clubs to figure out what we’re good at and what we like. They tell us to get an education, then work hard. Okay, so we did that, but the banks won’t loan us money, the credit card companies sent us cards to use when we were 18 and we can’t pay the bill now, and Sallie Mae calls our phone once a week to remind us we owe “her” money. So I ask: Now what? The unfortunate reality is now we owe thousands of dollars in student loans and we’re forced to pay these loans despite being consistently underemployed and underpaid. So considering all of this, my answer to the “now what” question is: make your own path. That said, the bills still have to get paid and financial stability is as rare these days as typhoid, which those of you who played Oregon Trail as a kid will remember, your best friend always died of. But I digress, the goal of this post is to propose a beginning; the start of an exploration that so many of us are doing on our own without talking about it, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do: talk about it.

What’s so wrong with Social Work? Nothing! But I don’t think it’s my last stop...

The decision to begin exploring other options for my career began over the last month when I started to meet people in the process of developing their own businesses. They were working in various industries, recognizing clear contradictions in the effectiveness of their work, and most importantly recognizing that if their employers weren’t going to consider another more productive way, then they would, on their own. In addition to diversifying my social network, I recently had a conversation with a friend who attended graduate school with me. After our discussion I realized something about our profession…it’s not for me. At least not right now. Social Work is something that comes easy to me, I’m able to build rapport with clients from all walks of life, this is even true of friends I meet and complete strangers. It’s a gift I’ve developed over the years, but only recently have I realized that this gift can be applied to much more than the non-profit sector.

Many of the reasons for reconsidering my professional choices are financial. In 2009 I finished graduate school; our country was still heavily engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the recession was effecting nearly every aspect of our lives, and social service agencies were seeing cuts to their budgets causing a perfect storm for those of us entering the workforce. Some lucky few were able to land jobs right away, but others searched on for months after searching unsuccessfully or refusing positions that were educationally and financially inappropriate. Through a networking program that matched me to a professional in a local non-profit, I found work immediately, and was lucky to have the opportunity to learn a variety of positions at a small non-profit in Cleveland. This learning, while useful, came at a cost; the days were long, the work was never finished, and there was never enough funding to hire enough people to do things properly. These facts didn’t prevent supervisors from holding you accountable when goals weren’t met, and despite the impossible nature of the situation you always left feeling guilty that you didn’t finish the job. Growing up my father used to always tell us to do things right if we were going to do them at all, “don’t half-ass it” he would say (for all you Yankees this is a common southern saying meaning don’t just do what you need to do to get by; do the task well and complete it). I try to practice this idea with everything I do in life. Unfortunately, I’ve found that in many environments doing the work right doesn’t always align with doing it effectively. Sometimes you can’t take all the necessary steps to finish the task in time and you have to prioritize and do what’s absolutely necessary to meet a deadline. So, in an effort to maintain my own ethics, I’m attempting to create a path here, at wordpress where I’ll explore my personal and professional goals in writing.

Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll follow my page for the next post. See below for a short description.

Live to eat, or eat to live? Neither, and both.

In the next post I’ll discuss my weight loss of over 45lbs since moving to New York City including diet and exercise tips that worked for me and might work for you too!