When Death Comes Knocking… Part 15 of My Journey

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(Image from abcnews.com)

Sitting in bed this morning, my mind and senses took me back to a moment in Tahoe when I was just a kid. I was hanging out in Myers which is a town just outside of South Shore at my friends’ house (two gals my mom cared for) and the rain had just ended. We all enjoyed some cream of wheat and the fresh smell of the after rain air! The grey sky, the mist that remained in the air over the greenery that surrounded the area, the warm and sweet taste of delicious cream of wheat… (deep breath) I can almost feel, smell, and taste everything about that moment! There’s something so healing and beautiful about this memory! How my spirit longs for those times when things seemed so simple, when eating disorders didn’t exist, when all that mattered was that sweet and fragrant air and that big bowl of warm goodness covered in butter, sugar and milk, when my stomach could actually handle those things without cramping up until I nearly curl over in pain, and when my body was free to run, hike, sled and ride bikes all over the Lake Tahoe area. I was always an active kid until my move to Las Vegas and sexual abuse started over, making me so depressed and not really want to do anything. In that moment in Tahoe, I was safe. No predators, just good friends, good food, and the sweet after rain air! Today, I’m definitely battling pain. I’ve gone from being able to run anywhere from 2 to 14 miles and training for what was supposed to be my first marathon back from forced retirement to finding it hard to walk and run again; However, I found out why oatmeal tends to be my staple food. It’s the closest thing to that warm and comforting bowl of cream of wheat that my stomach can handle and it brings me back to one of my most cherished memories and one of the few that I have that were free of emotional and physical pain. It also brings me back to the days when I was running and racing as it was my choice fuel each morning. Anyhow, I’m going to take advantage of this time, attempt to go on a walk (run if my body allows) and continue to share my journey with you!

Now, I left off in my last post as I had just finished my summer semester biology course with and was struggling to walk again. Now… on to part 15 of my journey.

My Journey Part 15

Now, I never intended for it to take this long to share my journey! To those who have been reading so far, thank you so much! I will try to keep details as minimal as possible and get through the rest of this as quickly and painlessly as possible!

Fall semester of 2015 definitely had its battles! Classes started only a few weeks after summer classes had ended, however those few weeks were a much needed break during which worked extra hours at Kmart and got a little surprise! As I mentioned before in my last post my sister was pregnant again and was just about to have another baby. Apparently she had cleaned up and, this time around, it looked much more hopeful being that the babies father really had his life together. The problem is, she had her baby on July 10, and because of the circumstances surrounding her firstborn son and my mother having custody of him, I was unable to see the baby. Shut out, from the beginning. As much as it affected my family and me, I had to press on and move on!

I was originally signed up for a full course load of, I believe 13 units, however due to the pain I had to take care of me, cut back to working 2 days at Kmart (doing housesits to make up for the lack of hours) and drop a class. My fall class lineup included experimental analysis biology, intro to probability and statistics, Gym, beginning swimming (as I was released to do balance and water workouts), and comparative religion (philosophy). I absolutely LOVED philosophy as it gave me such a wonderful opportunity to compare and contrast other faiths with my own and really see and connect the truth of God using it as a basis for all of my coursework. In essence, I was ministering to everyone who read it! What an honor!

(Evening swim where I enjoyed working off the stress from classes despite pain)

I was approved by medi-Cal for another round of treatment from the same physical therapist which was a relief. However, I was still battling a lot of the same aches and pains. Her treatment continued through the first month, but then… due to my coverage, had to come to an end. There I was, just barely through the first portion of my fall semester, and I had to use the tools that all my physical therapists had given me over time to do what are known as “self adjustments.“ With these adjustments, I had to learn how to use muscle energy to move my hips and spine back into place. However, these only worked for so long and I ended up in even more pain. During this time, I had become friends with a very kind lady who referred me to her chiropractor in El Cerrito. Meanwhile, in our visits together, she did make note of how thin I was. I took her comments as attacks assuming that she was just jealous. Yeahhh I was prideful! At the same time, I couldn’t understand why SHE would be jealous of ME because she is so beautiful! I used some of my grant money to go to a couple visits with the chiropractor she recommended and things begin to somewhat look up. He encouraged me to just ice and keep moving as it was the only way I could properly heal. Move and let the body adapt to being in alignment. That made sense! After a few visits with him, I continued to use my muscle energy exercises and combined that with his treatment in order to help me make it through the semester.

In the month of October, the pressure from classes, finances, not knowing what was going on with my sister and the new baby, and anorexia Athletica took their toll on me!

After spending several hours a week at the gym and in the pool along with all the studies and running around I had to do in order to get things done being that I didn’t have a car….. I became exhausted, depressed, and nearly lifeless. I was staying at a housesit, caring for the dog, studying till I couldn’t think straight, and on October 11, 2015, I was so exhausted from everything that I stayed home from church for the first time in a very long time. My mom came to pick me up and I was just sobbing telling her I just needed to be left alone. Even though I was dressed, I went upstairs, fell asleep, and cried when I woke up. I didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to live, but I ate anyway and spent the day resting. That evening, my godmother gave me a call and invited me to go swimming with her at her gym since the following day was a holiday and we both thought that my swimming class would not be meeting. (As it turned out it was meeting but thankfully my professor let it slide).I accepted her offer and met up with her the following morning. There. I spent over an hour in the pool and got out. Afterwords, I showered and met up with her in the main part of the locker room where she said, “I think I’m going to go and weigh myself.” “ yeah,“ I said, “I like to stay OFF of the scale, it can be a danger zone for me.“ The thing is, the Holy Spirit was using her to coax me onto that scale! After she got on, I felt the urge to get on and found out that soaking wet, after eating a huge breakfast and swimming, I weighed just over 84 pounds! NO WONDER I FELT SO LIFELESS! That evening, after she dropped me off, I started an Instagram page right away to log my journey. I decided I was not going to allow 84 pounds to kill me. Little did I know, the battle for my life was only beginning.

(I originally took photos w/ out my face showing to keep myself anonymous)

Though I was stepping into, my eating patterns were still out of whack! I still ate very few fats and was still eating way below the caloric intake that I needed to. At the same time, I was being a little more open about what I included in my diet. I started eating more grains and proteins from fish, eggs and even chicken (I later found out I’m allergic to chicken). At the same time, I drenched everything and Stevia, salt, and lemon juice or vinegar.

Meanwhile, I continue to drive every bit of energy that I had into classes, jumping from housesit to housesit, counseling appointments, doctors appointments, chiropractic appointments, constant issues with illness and all dealing with financial issues and my moms car having some issues as well.

Thankfully, I made it through and finished once again with straight A’s! It seemed like the only thing going for me with school! Though during the semester I was given the opportunity to take part in filming by doing some narrative in the school orientation video, outside of that, I didn’t really get to act. Physical exercise was painful, but I did anyway and really didn’t enjoy as much. However, it definitely helped clear my mind from all the craziness that was going on!

That year, just before classes ended I was singing in the choir in the annual “Singing Christmas tree.” Once classes and the show were over, I found myself having hard time walking again! I sucked it up, enjoyed the little time of Christmas break that I had and prepare to head straight into my Spring 2016 semester. During the break, my godmother got married and at her wedding, I sang “We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters. Still thin and frail, I had no idea how closely resembling my life and Karen Carpenter’s had quickly become (thankfully… I’m not dead).

As my spring semester started, I found myself plunging completely into classes.

I found it was a sanctuary away from my home life. It was a place where I could study and be away from the chaos at home. I found myself preferring to be at school drowning myself in studies rather than staying at home and facing my reality. My spring class lineup of 13.5 units included human anatomy, pre-calculus, acting on film and television, lab, assisted tutoring, swim, and Pilates. At the get go, the Holy Spirit was prompting me to take better care of myself. You see, in anatomy we had to look at cadavers throughout most of the semester. One of the cadavers just happened to have died from cancer that triggered anorexia nervosa. Her main cause of death was anorexia.

At the beginning of the semester, I began to get sick… repeatedly. I continued on with my classes. Despite the injury, I continued to do what I could to just keep pressing through. I started seeing a different chiropractor in El Sobrante. He was Very first one I had ever seen. While his treatments did help a little, I found myself still in a lot of pain. Medi-Cal was supposed to cover one visit a month and I found out later that he wasn’t taking Medi-Cal, so a bill was piling up. I was misinformed by his secretary, so unknowingly, I racked up a relatively large debt. Meanwhile chaos hit in my personal life!

You see, just as suspicions had arose, my sister had been using drugs again! As a result, she ended up in a situation that put both her and her new baby in danger and my mom and I ended up having him in our care for three days. Though this was an answered prayer because I hadn’t even met my new nephew yet, at the same time, it was me who had to stay home and inside with a traumatize child yet again!

I did the best I could to look past how the situation effected me, did what I could to emotionally hold it together, do my schoolwork, and be as loving to little guy is possible even though I was in pain. After all, it wasn’t about me, it was about my nephew who just really needed a lot of love. Soon, the little guy’s dad came to pick them up and he was taken from us once again. My heart broke! This was just another reason for me to dive even deeper into my studies and unknowingly into bad eating patterns. After all, though I was including new foods, I was not getting enough calories for all the energy that I was putting out.

Shortly after the situation with my sister and the baby, my mom’s car broke down which meant I had to take the bus to and from school and pretty much anywhere else I needed to go. It wasn’t so bad considering that I could spend the hour or so that I spent waiting for or on the bus to do my studies without interruption. The problem was that I was already putting out a lot of energy with studies and gym classes and was not eating enough to even maintain that let alone walking (carefully) to and from the bus stop and putting out more energy going from stop to stop. Along with that came trying to just maintain my health and not get hurt again. All the running around just increased the pain that I was in. To make matters worse, nearly 3/4 of the way through the semester, I received news that my grandmother on my dad side who I was not able to see and barely able to talk to over the previous two years due to the restraining order that I had on him and the fact that he lived with her had passed away! Not only that, but upon calling my Aunt D… I found out that she had suffered from severe abuse from some family members (Who I’ll keep nameless) until just a few months prior to her death. I had just gotten out of class, had been studying all day and received the original news of her death via Facebook! FACEBOOK OF ALL PLACES! No one had called me to let me know that her health was deteriorating, no one informed me of anything despite the fact that I was still in contact with some of my relatives on that side, I had to find out through Facebook of all places! I completely fell apart so much so that I ended up missing my swim class.

The next day, I Called my professor for swim and explained to him the situation with my grandmother passing and he totally understood!

(Empty pool all to myself was just what I needed to relieve the stress)

He allowed me to go to the pool and make up my class. The pool was empty, and I pretty much had it to myself that day. I think maybe one other person was there which was a total godsend! After my swim, I stood in the shower, half lifeless again, and began to weep hysterically. I then pulled my things together, finished up the little homework that I had left to do at the transfer station on campus, then caught the bus and went on with my day.

Throughout the semester, I found so much joy in learning anatomy! Professor Coatney had so much life and passion for what she did! Along with that, my acting in film and television course (taught by the amazing professor Mccarty-Shwab) gave me such an incredible outlet! I was acting, working out, and learning… I was pretty much doing everything that I loved to do! On top of it, I was just granted some help financially with getting started on my dream which is a clothing and jewelry line called “Messenger Gear” that help spread awareness and raise funds to stop human trafficking. The only problem was, my self-worth was in the toilet! The devastation from everything going on around me between my mom’s car breaking down, barely being able to afford to eat at times, the battle with the eating disorder and the death of my grandmother had finally taken their toll on my body and the Friday before finals… I was rushed to the emergency room with severe chest pain.

The ER team let me in immediately and I was placed on the scale to find that I weighed only 190 pounds. At 5 foot 4 1/2 inches, though I had gained 6 pounds over the semester, I was still not carrying nearly enough weight especially considering everything I was doing. As I sat there waiting for the doctor to come in, I obsessively went over my flash card cards for my Anatomy final exam. Then, a dear friend of mine that I had worked for as his personal assistant came in and saw the mess that I was! I was completely embarrassed!

(Yeaaahh I thought I was fat)

The doctor told me that I needed to be at 118 pounds so that my body can heal. My mind did not even want to wrap itself around the idea of gaining nearly 30 lbs. to me, 110 (which was recommended by my general practitioner) was OK, but one 118 was completely out of the question! Yep, I was definitely sick!

Finals week came and went and I came out victoriously by the hand of God with, he straight A’s again! Only by the grace of God was I able to even accomplish these things! Yes, I put in the hard work and the hours of study, but it’s only by His grace that I was able to achieve anything at all!

Summer break came and along with it came the invitation to go to my grandmothers memorial service with my cousins! This was such a bittersweet moment! My father had apparently moved back to Hawaii making it possible for me to go to the event.

(My beautiful cousin Natalie)

While there, I stayed at my grandmothers home and the PTSD set in more than I could’ve ever imagined! I repeatedly kept asking my relatives if they were sure that my dad was not coming. Around every corner of the house and everywhere I went, I watched cautiously, I panicked as my uncle took me from place to place in his car, and at the memorial I had a mini face off with my Aunt V who grabbed me by my wrist and made me feel like crap for staying in my grandmothers home while visiting. Despite what I felt in connection to the confrontation with this person, I decided to enjoy the time that I did have with my family.

The ceremony was absolutely beautiful! The thing is, the eating disorder reared its ugly head again! Though I tried to gain weight, I wasn’t eating enough again. I was very guarded about what I ate the entire time I was there! I didn’t let anybody in! I tried to work out, but my body just flared up again!

On the way home, my cousins wanted to go out to San Francisco which is just about a half hour to 45 minutes from where I live. So, in an effort to redeem the mess that my birthday was, they took me out for a day on the town!

(My cousins Josh, Brianna and me enjoying SF)

It was so refreshing to have sushi and to walk all over the city with my amazing family that I had really not even gotten to get to know until that day! Honestly, I wish I could do it all over again! That day, I experienced a lot of food freedom that I didn’t have before and was even able to do a nice long hike with them!

Then, at the end of the hike, my body acted up once again! All the sitting from traveling and the hiking up and down hills had taken it’s toll on me. Just prior to my visit out there, I had began to go to a place called the joint chiropractor in Pinole. After my cousins dropped me off at home, I rested for the evening. The next day, I tried to go for a walk and my body locked up on me. I quickly went to the chiropractor and they helped me figure out a way to help me recover. There I was again.. at ground zero, about to start summer classes and in pain. On top of it, as loving as the majority of my family was at the memorial, the whole visit caused a severe psychological set back. My being in the same area where a lot of the traumatization happened with my dad just really messed with my head! At the same time, I tried to hold onto any sign of hope that I possibly could which meant facing summer classes regardless of how I felt!

For now, I will have to leave off here! What I will say is that to give you an idea of what I’ve had to face in the healing process, it’s not just that I’ve had to go from practitioner to practitioner to practitioner, but if you all understand the fact that I’ve been traumatized by abuse repeatedly throughout the course of my life… to have to face different health practitioners who are supposed to help me only to have my health go down the toilet once again has been, to me, emotionally like being abused repeatedly. While I’m 100% sure that they all mean well and are doing the best they can by me (for which I’m eternally grateful)… Different hands touching my body, sometimes in places that aren’t quite comfortable in order to get the healing process to go through and being told by each practitioner that I will most definitely will be able to run and race again only to be left time and time again struggling to walk, crying out to God for help… I’ve just come to my wits end with the whole situation. Again, I’m at Ground Zero trying to figure out just what to do. Also, if I can be brutally honest with you all, throughout the semester even though I was doing things that I like to do, I was completely miserable! So much so that there were even times that I nearly checked myself into a mental hospital. The pressure, the pain, the trauma, emotionally and physically I just had enough! It’s only by the grace of God that I didn’t check in and that I am where I’m at today! Do know that whatever you’re facing, that God is with you! If you ever need help, don’t be afraid to reach out! I’m so grateful for my counselor and my mother that have been there throughout this time. Without them, I don’t think I’d be alive today. Until next post.. God bless and stay strong!

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One journey ends and another begins. My story continues in part 14

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Hello all! I’m sorry for the long break! For some reason, I’m finding it harder and harder to mentally pull myself back into my journey in order to get the events and timing In the correct order. AnyWho, I left off in my last post where I was barely able to walk, a loved one of mine had just passed away, I started seeing a counselor who helped me focus on Christ and His hope, and after speaking with my neighbor… I decided to focus my energy in getting signed up for classes at Contra Costa College. Now, I’ll continue where I left off! Fare warning before I begin… if you are someone who gets triggered by talking about food, over exercise, calories, weight, etc. I HIGHLY recommend that you do not proceed as I will be discussing some pretty detailed areas of my eating disorder in this blog post!!!

My Journey Part 14

Christ’s hope is the one thing that shines brightest in dark times! I found that to be true during so many dark periods of my life. As I got things in order to sign up for classes, my neighbor gave me a laptop and Internet access so that I would be able to get enrollment and School work done! What a sweetheart! Finally, everything was in place, and I was set to start school in Spring 2015 with an aim to get my degree in Liberal Arts: Math and Science with an emphasis on kinesiology. Yeah, barely able to walk and I wanted to be an exercise science major! My long-term goal was to obtain my bachelors of science at Cal State East Bay in their wellness program that includes nutrition and kinesiology, then transfer to UC Berkeley to obtain my masters and, eventually, my PhD in psychology. My purpose in getting these degrees was so that I could help people who have been abused and those who have been forced into sex/ human trafficking regain their strength psychologically, physically and nutritionally while including biblical foundations for them to build their platform from. As everything was ready for me to go, there was still the waiting period before I started classes. The months before school included Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they were some of the hardest holidays I have ever had to face! For Thanksgiving, I was housesitting and came home to enjoy dinner with my family and godmother. There I was, in so much pain! I sat there and tried so hard enjoy dinner with my family, but all I could think about was that my godmother got to race that morning and I was trapped like a prisoner pacing back-and-forth in my apartment and in the house that I was housesitting at the time. It was the only way that I could get any form of physical exercise without my body completely acting up on me. I missed the race field, I missed the people, the energy, the food, the social life connected to it all. I felt like a huge part of me died! It was like a part of my family had been ripped away! That’s something I still mourn to this day! On the up side, I used the time of pacing as my declaration time where I would memorize scripture and declare the promises of God over my life.

Anyhow, Still terrified to really eat anything solid, all I allowed myself to eat that day was a mountain of steamed vegetables, some turkey, and some fat free- sugar free pumpkin flan. The eating disorder was taking over my life at this point. I began this ritual of eating two apples for breakfast with two egg whites or half cup of nonfat cottage cheese. I would have snack of non-fat, sugar free Greek yogurt. Lunch would usually consist of just veggies and egg whites or a can of sardines. Sometimes I would have an occasional piece of turkey or some tuna or other fish. Dinner would usually be the same. I began stuffing myself with mini bell peppers and veggies until I would nearly pop. It’s as if I was panicked that I wouldn’t see another meal, I would just eat until I couldn’t eat anymore. At the same time, I still wasn’t getting enough calories in. The only source of healthy fats that I would take in were from the sardines that I would eat every other day.

As Christmas time rolled around, I prepared to do my first acting performance at Hilltop Community Church for their Christmas production! In this, I played a black Friday shopper! Being involved in this production was a total emotional lifesaver for me! The rehearsals, the performances, they were all moments of escape for me from my daily life and the struggles I faced. Meanwhile, I got to be a blessing to the community by helping to spread the story of Jesus Christ.

I mean… think about it, every day was a struggle! Having hard time walking, barely able to afford to feed myself, going to the $.99 store to stock up on the only things I could really afford and was willing to eat which were veggies, egg whites and sardines, stuffing myself into an oblivion every time we had food because I wasn’t sure if we were going to have enough, I was an emotional wreck!

Finally, once the emotional roller coaster of the holidays was over and the show had finished, I started to see a physical therapist and the switch from chiropractic to new therapy placed me in a position where I was in bed for three days and unable to walk. I iced as best as I could. I did as many stretches as I possibly could. I prayed, I cried out to God! I remember sitting down in chairs and standing up only to have my low back and sacrum literally pop right out of place… trying to walk in the parking lot of the grocery store or even through grocery store and my hip and groin area would lock up. I had to shuffle carefully everywhere I went! It was a nightmare! I continue to press on, and prayed my way through as I knew that classes were starting shortly.

The Sunday prior to my first day at school, I made sure I went to church despite the pain. I filled up on as much biblical truth as I possibly could by fellowshipping with my beloved purple book Bible study class and attending the Sunday service. That week, on January 12, 2015, I stepped onto the campus of Contra Costa College in faith. I shuffled my way through each appointment with EOPS and my counselor, shuffle from class to class, and finally made it successfully through my day! There I was, with a full 12 unit schedule that included Theatre Appreciation, Education For Healthful Living, Intermediate Algebra, and Beginning Fitness Center (so I could do core and balance work to regain my strength). I plowed myself right away into studies! This time, I was determined to not fail!

A few weeks into the semester, my theater teacher had caught wind from one of my former theatre professors that I was “one of the drama kids.” She quickly invited me to audition for the Spring show, “All in the Timing” which is a compilation of several short plays. Each actor would take on several different characters. At first, I was almost bitter that my professor would want to add more to my plate! I was already having a hard enough time walking around campus let alone getting my studies done through the chaos at home (my nephew was still dealing with temperamental issues and screamed A LOT). The thing is, I felt that art bug just tug and tug at my heart, so I took the dive! Thankfully, I was cast originally for 4 different characters and ended up doing 3 due to one of the plays being cut from the show. It’s amazing how God uses people to really help pull you into a direction that will help you find who you are created to be! Doing the production meant that I literally spent nearly every week day on campus from about 8:30 in the morning till almost 10 or 11 o’clock at night.

This time kept me focused on my studies, helped me get away from the chaos at home, and really helped me just heal emotionally giving me something good and hopeful to focus on! I continued to juggle classes, counseling appointments, doctor appointments, physical therapy, homework, family life and I still have no idea how in the world I managed to push through! Being a part of that production was such a blessing because it brought back several people who have become very much like family to me during some of the very darkest parts of my life! It also brought new people into that family! Just like running, there’s something about the performing arts that just really brings people together! It’s just so healing!

As the show was beginning to come to an end, the money that I had received from grants had run out, and as a college student, unless you’re working 20 hours a week, the government will not provide food stamps. So, I was facing some serious financial difficulties! Mom and I had no gas money and we barely had anything to eat. As a result, I started looking for work. The production went on, and it was such a wonderful show! I was so proud of all my fellow cast members and how well they had transitioned from character to character!

On top of it, I was exhilarated by having my acting skills challenged and built through my character transitions as well! What an exciting show!

One day, as I walked out on campus, I looked over at the school newspaper stand and… there I was!? Me? On the cover of the school newspaper? What a blessing! I was so humble yet excited at the same time!

The high from all the show excitement went down, spring break approached, and I began hard-core searching for a job! Finally, I landed a job at Kmart and I slowly started seeing my life come together! With hopes of getting promoted and working my way up to management, school going in a hopeful direction, progress in physical therapy to point where I was actually running on a treadmill at some points again, I was eating better well rounded meals again… hope helped me stay focused on moving forward and not the pain that tried to distract me from my school work each day. I’m talking pain when I stood up, pain when I sat down, pain when I walked, pain when I did anything. It was the hope that Christ placed my heart (and learning to take on campus naps lol) that helped me stay focused! Mind you, there were times I found myself crying in the bathroom during finals from the mental and emotional exhaustion mixed with the pain.

Finally the semester had come to an end. There had been a several week break between switching physical therapists and the stress from everything had taken its toll on my body. On top of it, I didn’t realize that my summer class was an early start, that meant I only had ONE week between the end of my spring semester and the beginning of my summer. I went to see my new physical therapist for the first time that week she informed me that she was going to have to completely take exercise from me for a while. Back in prison! The new diagnosis and form of therapy technique that she introduced landed me in bed for another three days. It’s as though every time my body had to adjust to a new way of healing, it would go into a bed ridden state. There I was, just finished with finals and all the craziness only to end up back where I started! I wept hysterically! Again… anorexia beckoned. I cried out to God and told him that I needed a sign to help me move forward! I needed to know I was going in the right direction!

The first day of my summer class, my mom dropped me off in front of the biology building and I carefully shuffle my way into the lab with a special foam roller for me to sit on, terrified of everyone and everything that I was about to face. Now, I was always told to never take a MATH class during the summer due to the amount of content that you have to cover in such a short period time. Little did I know, biology was just the same! Upon arriving, I was handed my course syllabus and was faced with a quiz every single day of the first week, three chapters of reading, our first of three major exams was after the first week and a half and a lab nearly every day! All of our labs had to be typed up! To add to the pressure, I was informed that the professor that I was working under was one of the hardest professors to get a passing grade from let alone an A. My gut sank, and I automatically felt like I was in prison! Finally, After several hours of class, we were released and I carefully walked down towards the transfer center where I checked my email and prepared to meet my mom. There, I received the greatest news and the sign that I had asked God for! Apparently, my grades from the previous semester had come in, and I had not only receive straight A’s, but I was also on the Dean’s list!!! I screamed out loud in the middle of the transfer center and began to cry! ME? The kid who could barely pass anything in elementary, middle and high school? The one who knew the “isolation table” in elementary school allll too well! The one who could barely walk during various points of the semester? The who was just trying to get their life back together? The one who had such a hard time focusing due to the pain that I was in half the time? I WAS ON THE DEAN’S LIST? That was totally by the grace of God! I took the energy and exhilaration from this and used it to help propel me through the rest of the summer semester.

Due to my courseload and pain issues during this time, I had to cut my workdays at Kmart to one day a week. Thankfully, I was asked to do a few housesits which gave me the ability to make money, some friendly critters to keep me company and quiet places for me to do my schoolwork!

Each day, I looked forward to seeing my classmates, two of whom I ended up being very close with as we formed a study group. I loved learning about the different ways that humans, plants, and animals are made! I loved learning about the ecosystems, photosynthesis and cellular respiration and so many more facets of basic biology!

To keep it short, my semester went like this… four days a week, I would go to school about 8 AM and class would be finished around 1 PM. Would usually take about a half hour to an hour break, then head straight back into the homework box to finish my labs, homework and study for any test, quizzes, and/ or exams that we had. One by one each quiz was tackled, each exam finished, each homework assignment completed, and each lab typed to near perfection!

(I found sooo much joy learning about basic biology)

A quarter of the way end of the semester, the computer that I was gifted fell off the bathroom counter and onto the floor. It was already having issues running and kept glitching but this made it worse! Thankfully, my grant money came in just before it actually crashed and I was able to get a tablet to finish the remainder of my coursework on. During the semester there were two field trips. The first one, I did get to attend, but it was also a very bittersweet moment for me. The location was at regional park that I spent countless hours training for races at. There I was, given walking sticks by my professor to help me along the journey, and I was about to walk into the very park that I used to spend hours upon hours pouring my heart out to God as I trained. Upon my arrival, I ran into somebody who used to see me running all the time. I was given a moment to briefly speak to her and then we headed as a class into the park as I swallowed back my tears. Halfway into the field trip, my professor decided to have me take the lead and show them around a bit. By the power of God I was able to help the class maneuver around on some of the trails, passed where at the Monarch butterflies hang around during butterfly season, and made our way back out to the parking lot. I felt alive again! In total, we covered about 4 miles of land! This is farther than I had walked in a long, long time! Afterward, as I went on to eat lunch with one of my lab partners and another class mate… The locking in my sacrum began again!

That week, I went and saw my physical therapist and we started from the ground up again which meant that I had to do an alternate project for the next field trip. My heart sank as my class went on to do an outdoor hike through some of the hills that I first started running in while I had to go to another location alone. Right around the same time, the same neighbor who helped me get signed up for classes allowed me to borrow a car that she had bought originally for her daughter. I went down to the other location given to me by my professor so I could do my sign meant. As I was gone observing various parts of the ecosystem and taking notes, someone broke into the car! I was mortified! Thankfully nothing was stolen, and I brought the car home and explained to my neighbor what it happened. I offered to pay for it, but by the grace of God, she refused. Wow… grace! As I continue through the semester, literally studying day and night, taking only Sundays off, I found moments of relief in the pool at one at my housesits. Finally, my body had allowed me to swim a bit here and there which was such a mental release considering all that I was dealing with! However, as the semester came to an end, the pressure from all the coursework and constant studying until nearly midnight some days along with family struggles (including the news that my sister was about to have ANOTHER baby) my body was beginning to show signs of having enough!

As the semester ended, I was relieved to have the work load lifted from my shoulders! I spent another three days in bed due to the pain that resulted from stress, and as I was carefully walking through target, I received an email from my professor letting me know that I had received one of four A’s in her class! Again, I was humbled by God’s grace and sovereign hand over my studies! I thanked her for all that she did, but then she reminded me that while she did teach me, I was the one who did the work! I then had to remind myself that it was God who gave me the grace, power, and determination to finish the work! So, another victory helped give me the strength and determination to just. keep. going!

Once again I find my post getting lengthy, so I will leave it here for now! I hope that those of you who have been reading my story are encouraged to continue pressing on no matter what you face! Know that God is with you, He sees what you need before you even need it. Never give up! Never lose hope! Until next time… GOD BE WITH YOU!

(Me with my nephew celebrating school victories! Despite the chaos, he and I have been like little buddies through it all!)

From race adventures to Shattered Dreams: Part 13 of my Journey

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Hey all! After a long break from blogging I’m back again! I guess now would be a good time to continue where I left off in my journey! Just a quick refresher, in part 12 of my journey I left off where I just received news that my godfather was slowly fading, I was finishing up a housesit while getting ready for a new one, and chaos at home was out of control! The reason why it’s taken me so long to post this portion is that the season I’m about to discuss is pretty heavy for me, meanwhile I have to be careful how I word everything in order to protect people that I love! That being said… I will continue with part 13 at my story.

My Journey Part 13

There are two places that I feel that I get to be myself the most. The first one is out in nature, running, hiking, training for and running races. I just feel so free! Second, is the one that I’ve known since I was a kid… the performing arts, when I’m acting, singing, dancing… honestly, if I would have a career of my choice it would definitely be as a professional actor! Now this next season that I was entering into was about to throw me full throttle into the race field while watching the very man that I called my God-dad… begin to fade, and soon pass.

During this time, I was also caring for my God Grammy and doing house sits. Weekdays, I would train early mornings and help out with God Grammy in the afternoons. Weekends, I started racing just about every weekend, sometimes multiple times in a weekend with my godmother! I’m going to keep the details here minimal because this time period is a sensitive season for both my God family and me. I need to honor their feelings and learn to be a little more guarded about my own.

While caring for my God Grammy just before my godfather passed, my godmother and I became nearly inseparable. It’s through her and her family that I was able to witness firsthand what a stable family life is like! During the most uncomfortable season of my godfather’s life, he was asked if he wanted me to leave and he responded with, “no, she makes it better!“ This statement was one of the most profoundly healing statements I’ve ever heard in my life! You see, the girl who was always told I wasn’t good enough, that I was an irritation, that I wasn’t pretty enough, that I was fat, that I was loud and annoying, the one that nobody liked, this… girl…. me? My heart will forever cherish the memory of that moment!

Upon the passing of my godfather, my life went even more out of control! While I did care for my God-grmmy from time to time, I wasn’t around her and my Godmother as much. Meanwhile, things with my sister began to go down-hill as well. She was trying so hard to get her life together. She was released to live in transitional home where the county was going to try to help her get back on her feet. The problem is, every time she tried to make a step forward, something got her way and set her back! I could see the hope begin to fade from her eyes! I could also see the presence of substance abuse returned her life. I told my mom what I suspected, she didn’t want to believe it at first, but as time went on it became more and more evident.

I continued to plow myself into training and racing! It was on the race course that I was given the name “scripture girl” Because I never race without one on my shirt! Everywhere I went, when people asked me why I ran, I told them the story of how God delivered me from drug addiction and gave me a new life! Each weekend held new racing adventures for me including my first ultra marathon called the Diablo Hills 50 K, during which I learned so many lessons! For more on the story behind this you can read the blog from that I wrote as a review of that race here: Diablo Hills 50k

Running was my passion, my ministry platform, my outlet… but little did I know… this season was fast fading. You see, with the chaos that surrounded me I became more and more restrictive with my eating patterns and dropped to a very low weight. While I was eating a lot, it wasn’t the right nutrients to keep me properly fueled and I believe it became more and more obvious to people around me. Meanwhile my visits to Dr. Runco became more and more often. I did everything I could to try to hold on to the one last bit of life I felt that I had left.

As my sister’s birthday approached, we went out to visit her and it was obvious that her situation had worsened! After we had eaten, I saw her coming down and passed the couch as my nephew walked up to me wanting to play. He was so exhausted, you could see the stress on his face… As my mom and I got ready to leave, little guy acted like he didn’t want my mom to go! He squeezed her and held onto her for dear life… as we drove away, I looked over at my mom and said “we’ve got to do something! There’s got to be a way to get him safe!“ As my mom and I discussed it we just didn’t know what to do. Soon, we found out that CPS had caught wind of my sister’s situation as it had worsened. In order to protect my sister, I do have to keep the details surrounding these issues quite as well! You see, she’s a very good mother when she’s on drugs. She’s a very good human in general when she’s not on drugs. She’s one of the most beautiful, caring, intelligent, talented and amazing young women I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around! I hate, and I don’t say this lightly… I HATE DRUGS AND WHAT THEY DO TO PEOPLE AND FAMILIES!

Now, in July, we found out that little dude would soon be coming to live with us! What a relief! By the grace of God, He was going to be safe! On July 10, 2014, just as I finished the 10k for the Brazen Racing 100th race anniversary, I saw my mom pushing him up in a stroller! I went and did another 3 mile loop to make sure I had my mileage for the next half marathon that I was doing, and… I felt a tug on the left side and what people have assumed repeatedly to be considered my sciatic nerve area! Whatever it was… I shook it off and did my best to hide it as I hobbled around and celebrated with everyone! I went and took pictures with my nephew and I was so excited to have him there getting to be a part of what I loved to do!

While I felt a part of me died since my sister was no longer clean and sober, I felt a sweet sense of love and admiration for a little boy would soon become a friend during one of the darkest periods of my life. We went off to celebrate, and then went home he enjoyed some family time together! As the tugging got worse, it was more more difficult to train up and down the hills in the area that I live in. Some days I would be able to go outside and run, others, I would attempt to, but my left side would get locked up! However, I chose keep pushing through! The half marathon I was training for came and I pushed through, however, again the tugging worsened! We got home, mom dropped me off that with little guy while she went to work, I went to pick him up and get him out of the high chair and… The tugging got even worse! I soon ended up taking a few weeks back from racing, and had to run back and forth in my apartment in order to be able to train on a flat surface and keep my mileage up for the next event I was hoping to run. During the days, I would stay home and watch little one when my mom went to work!

While home with him, I dealt with issues that I was not really ready to deal with!, You see, because he was flushing the drugs out of his system, he had a lot of temperamental issues. The tantrums were horrendous, and he would wake up, drenched in sweat after his naps. Since picking him up worsened my injury, I had a hard time comforting the poor kid, but through it all I found that we were healing together. Despite the tantrums, we found joy in our time together watching kids movies and playing together.

Right around the same time, my time caring for God Grammy had come to an end and she was transitioning into a new stage of care. She too was beginning to fade… and I had no control!

Finally, my injury seemed to be a bit better and I got the ok to run another event, so… off I went to

the Bear Creak half marathon!

There I was, thinking that all I had to do was one more half marathon after Bear Creek to complete the ultra half series, but little did I know that this would be my last race! Off and on prior to the race, the tugging got worse and my left hip begin to lock up. People kept telling me that I had sciatica, but what people don’t realize is that they aren’t doctors and that sciatica is just a SYMPTOM of a deeper issue, it’s not a proper diagnosis. This was DEFINITELY NOT SCIATICA!! Race day came, I got the medical OK to go ahead with it, and what an adventure!!! Every hill, every twist and turn, every view was just so breathtaking! Toward the end, the tug started again! Then, their came a drop that I didn’t expect! Just as I thought the race was almost over, there was a staircase that took me quickly down then back up and then… to FINISH!!!

I quickly went off to ice my injury and celebrate with the family. I kept quiet the whole time about how bad the issue was… as I was half hobbling around.

When my family returned home, mom went off to work and I was there at home with little guy… again… I went to pick him up, and the tug was horrific this time!

That week, I went to Dr. Runco and he could see that I was pretty bad. I continued to fight while not able run outside without having my left sacral area lock up. I continued to run back-and-forth in my apartment to keep my cardio up. I took baby steps and tried to keep proper form and found myself being able to finally run a few miles here and there outside but it definitely was a battle. I had to cancel race plans knowing my body just wasn’t up for it. Finally, my body had had enough. I went for a 4 mile run at Fernandez park and in the last mile as I headed toward the bridge… my left side locked up again. I took shorter strides and pushed myself through so I could get to the car, ice and stretch in hopes that it would go away. I quickly tried to shut off the worry of the pain that I felt and refocused my mind on the events of the evening at Hilltop Community Church. We were having a harvest day carnival and a very accomplished magician that grew up attending our church was scheduled to perform! I went in and did my volunteer work for the event, then quickly headed off to see the show! In pain, full of uncertainty… this was just what I needed! Afterward, I was blessed to be able to meet and speak with him. I felt like a total idiot! There was, talking to him about running ultramarathons, and little did he know… I could barely walk!

Then… it was off to face reality once more.

The next day, I went to try to walk at Fernandez park and on the way back, my sacral area locked up again. In pain… I panicked! Barely able to walk and it was my fault!! I’d pushed myself to run and race even though I felt my body begin to tell me no. I asked my mom to take me to the ER and they advised me to quit going to Dr. Runco (worst decision ever) and consult my doctor about getting physical therapy. Thankfully, I was just granted medi-cal, so… I started on my new journey to seek help.

There I was… racing dreams shattered, family life a mess, chaos around… it took me every bit of strength to just wake up and face each day… each. And.

Every. Day. I fought! I prayed, I paced back and forth in my apartment, read the word of God, unable to walk around my neighborhood without my left side locking up, taking care of a child that was recovering from his own trials and unable to lift and hold him without being in pain, feeling hopeless and like a trapped rat… thankfully my mom tried to take me out to the grocery store where I would shuffle around the isles frantically counting my steps as if they were something I could hold onto. Then the eating disorder soon got worse. I found refuge in escaping to a peaceful housesit for a few days, then it was back home to the chaos and struggle.

Soon, I received yet another call that I prayed to God I wouldn’t get… God-Grammy had passed! My mom let me use her car to go feed God-grammy’s kitties, and upon my arrival to her house… I fell apart! I shuffled my way up to where the kitties ate, and I wept as I fed them. I went back to the car, turned the key and started crying hysterically! I felt like such a fool for selfishly pursuing my running dreams while my family and I struggled to survive. I was an adult, living off my mom and my EBT food card (I promised myself that I would do everything I could to not ever end up on welfare) barely able to walk, battling the loss of my Godfather to cancer, my God-Grammy just passed, and my sister was back on drugs… I was a total mess! I cried out to God and told him that I didn’t want to take my life, but I needed Him to give me something to hope for! Immediately, I felt prompted to call a counselor and she almost automatically took my case!

Soon, I pressed on through doctor appointments (where my doctor pointed out my low weight), counseling appointments, and my God-grammy’s funeral. Also, after speaking to a neighbor, I began to get myself signed up to take classes at Contra Costa College. It felt like I was actually going in a good direction… hopes of making a better life for my family and dreams of receiving my degrees so I could build a ministry… life was starting to look brighter!

Well, I really need to leave off at this point! I apologize for the incredibly long post! One thing I do want to say before I go is that during my darkest times, when I was stuck in the apartment, alone, or when my nephew was taking a nap, times when I couldn’t hold him because of the pain, when paced back-and-forth in the apartment, I memorized scripture and made declarations of God‘s promises over my life! These are practices that I’ve continued to do even today! You see, I was continuing to try to train for California international Marathon this year to raise funds for an organization that helps women who have been abused and trafficked… however, I’ve hit a speedbump in the healing process which has left me at a point of feeling semi-debilitated again and without the means to get the help that I need. To have my freedom, the ability to walk and run all over the place given to me and then ripped away so quickly has been a nightmare! At the same time, I have to look back at all that God has brought me through. I know that whether or not I pull out of this, God is working, and He has great plans for me! Romans 8:28 is definitely speaking to me:“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28 NKJV

http://bible.com/114/rom.8.28.nkjv So… whatever you’re going through, hold on to God‘s word, and He will help see you through! Darkness can only last for a moment, God will bring forth new light and new hope!

Let The Races Begin: Part 12 of My Journey and Stovetop Baked Oats!

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Healing, it comes in many forms. For some, it’s a healing touch, comforting word, expressions of art or even a time of getting away from it all to clear one’s head. For others, such as myself, it’s not that easy. I’ve had to learn to heal as I go from one stressful and traumatizing situation to the next. I’m sure you all wonder if I’ve ever wanted my life to be any different. Of course I have! At the same time, more recently, I have learned that these trials are what have made me into who I am today. Without the stress, without the trauma, without the chaos, without everything that has happened in my life to bring me pain and to tear me down, I would not be nearly as strong as I am let alone have the knowledge and understanding of who God is in my life as I am and do today. No, I’m not saying that I’m in anyway shape or form perfect. I have SO far to go; however, I’m starting to see maturity birth in me as I have been more and more willing to except my circumstances, do what I can do to change them, press into God, find His strength through it all, and stop wishing my life was any different. My life is an example of how touch can cause pain instead of healing, words can tear one down to a point of feeling complete self worthlessness, and how the various forms of art that you use to heal can be torn down by others making you feel like you have no right to enjoy those things. The abuse that I suffered growing up physically, verbally, and the like along with being ridiculed and bullied as a child for liking to sing, act and dance… brought me pain in ways I can’t even begin to express. I guess you can kind of laugh with me and just call me the female version of the “Diary of Wimpy Kid.” What’s great about this is that it’s usually the wimpy kid to end up rising above by the power of God and changing the world for the better! I can only hope that my life has a powerful impact on at least a few people that I encounter during this brief moment in eternity. The main lesson I can learn from all of this is that when everything in life turns to pain, when every dream I have seems to just crumble and fall, there is one and only ONE source that I can rely on and that is Christ Himself.

Now, I left off in my journey last time where I had just had to leave my job due to lack of transportation and a severe injury. It was now time for God to strip away every bit of pride, selfishness, bitterness, everything that was not Him, and begin to build new strengths and characteristics I never thought I would ever have. Here goes with part 12 of my journey.

My Journey Part 12

So, there I was, jobless, fighting to regain my strength, and not sure of what the next day was going to hold. Each day, I forced myself to get up, get out of bed, pray and read the word, and yes … rebuild my ability to run again. One thing I witnessed during the season is God‘s providence! He always knows what we need when we need it! You see, just before leaving the grocery store, I had received a call from someone I did routine housesits for. She asked me to watch her home while she was out of town for a little over a week and then do another one for nearly a month right around Christmas. The second housesit for her would become the longest one I had ever done for anyone! The problem with this is, I would have to request time off right around Thanksgiving in order to do so because doing the job would require my not being away from the home for more than four hours at a time. I trusted God and excepted the job right away! After all, this woman had become very dear to me and so were her critters. I really didn’t want to see anyone else that she didn’t know he put in charge seeing is that she trusted me. Wow… this woman… a judge… trusted ME?! An ex drug addict… me? Yes! Truly God CAN redeem all things! Now, upon my leaving the job at the grocery store, it turned out I definitely had time to make sure that I was there for that entire housesit instead of having someone else take care of it. The first and shorter one was so refreshing! I spent most my time running and relaxing with the pup. Then I returned home and it was back to regular life where everything was a struggle. In the middle of it, my little sister reached out and helped mom and me. My sister… someone who had a kid of her own and barely had enough to take care of her self was helping us! I felt so awful! I felt like somehow I failed her! At the same time it was help… A few weeks passed and I was off to enter my next and longest housesit. This one took place over the Christmas season. Though I was very alone during this season, it was much needed time away from the craziness of life.

December 14, 2013 I FINALLY got to race again! I went to an event called “the Dam jingle bells” race hosted by a local family that has held a very special place in my heart! The feelings of being out on the race track again were incredible!

The energy of the people, the excitement of walking up to the start line, the quick push of my foot as I took the first step racing towards the finish, each moment of that beautiful course with views of the water as the clean crisp air filled my lungs all while adrenaline rushed through me like a wild fire… My spirit sang and soared! I was doing exactly what I was born to do! By the grace of God, I crossed the finish line and came in 1st in my age group! Fast… still… even though I hadn’t been racing for a while, God’s grace was on me!

On Christmas Day I went off with my mom, sister and nephew to enjoy one of my most treasured races! It was a gold rush five miler held in the Richmond hilltop area. When I arrived, I saw Big Al who automatically greeted me with a hug and a smile! I had called my godmother a few days prior and she said that she would be there, but come race day she was nowhere to be found! An anxiousness grew in my spirit. SOMETHING was off! I tried calling her a couple times, but there was no answer. I left a few messages, and prayed that she was OK. Meanwhile, the race had to go on! I stepped up to the start line, Big Al did countdown and… OFFFFFF I flew! Every step was such a blessing! The wind flowing through my hair, the pavement under my feet, my heart racing as I flew around each corner and up each hill all the way to the finish line to come in first place Female!!!! My first Christmas with my new nephew, and he got to see me finish what I love to do the most! “CONGRATULATIONS!!!” said Al! “You won!!!” “But my competition wasn’t here,” I said (meaning my godmother and a woman named Erica). “You STILL won!!!” He said! Then he continued to remark on how fast I came in for the 5 miles! It felt good, but at the same time everything just felt off without my godmother and godfather there.

Shortly after his congratulating me, Al took me aside, sat me down in his car and explained his concern to me about how I was doing. He was concerned that I left my job at the grocery store. He was just worried about me as a whole. I explained to him everything that had happened with my dad and the grocery store, and he encouraged me, like a dad, to find a way to pick up the pieces of my life and put it back together before it was too late! “get back into school,” He said, “ get another job, just don’t give up!” Those words, as encouraging as they were meant to be were better sweet to my ears! I didn’t want to do anything else but run! I was so tired of doing what everybody else wanted me to that I just felt like I needed a break from pushing myself. And looking back, I can see that his words were probably the wisest words I could’ve heard at that time. I’ll forever cherish that man and the impact that had on my life!

After the race, I went back to spend some time at the housesit with the dog, then it was out to my house to open presents and enjoy Christmas dinner with my family and a neighbor.

Just as I was sitting down for dinner, I received a call… it was my godmother. She explained to me that my godfather was in the hospital and that it would be best if I saw him as soon as possible. I knew that he had cancer, but I didn’t know how bad it was. For some reason, I didn’t realize how bad it was! I also knew that this call was serious because she had never asked me to see in the hospital before. Though we were close, she never called me unless it was important. That’s something I’ve always respected about her. I informed my mom about the situation, and we all dropped everything and went out to see them!

Upon arriving at the hospital, my godmother officially adopted me as her goddaughter. She told the staff that I was family and from that day on I have been called her goddaughter. For me, this is an honor I will cherish for the rest of my life. When I saw my godfather, they were preparing him to get to an actual hospital room. As I talked to him, he started talking running and told me my godmother was in her peak season for racing! Hahaha it was adorable how even in one of his most painful moments, all he could think about was my godmother and how much he admired her ability to run! I held his hand and talked to him a bit, and the walked out into the waiting room to spend some time with my God Grammy while my godmother and godfather got prepared to get him into a room. Once they had him settled in, my family and I went up to see him. We tried to talk as best as possible, but as it got late, we had to leave. Wow… the man who introduced me to my best friend and godmother, the man who watched over me at races, who would sacrifice his personal food preferences so that I could enjoy allergen free meals with them, who told wonderful stories of planes and cars and of his childhood, the man who cheered me on and coached me on my stride during races… the man who was like a father to me…. was dying! I didn’t know how to fully process it, so I stuffed my feelings in the back of my mind until I later found a moment alone to cry. I then went and said good night to my godmother and God Grammy, and I headed back to the house to get some rest.

The next few days and began to wind down and get ready to leave that housesit. I also beganto pray to the Lord because I didn’t know what I was going to do next about finances, and I really didn’t want to go home yet. Just two days before that job ended, I received a knock at the door. It was my dear friend and old landlord that had me caring for her husband before he passed! Apparently, her and her family were going on vacation and needed me to watch their property while they were away. The job would start immediately after I left the house sit that I was already doing! God heard my prayer! So… I gladly excepted knowing that God truly had my future in His hands!

Now, I’m going to leave off here for this week! BEFORE I go though, I’m going to give a recipe for simple stove top baked oats that I recently came up with! This is super simple and incredibly tasty. Also, since mother’s Day is tomorrow, it might be something you could make for mom for breakfast!

Stovetop baked oats

Oats

-1/2 plus 1 tsp rolled oats

-1 pinch baking soda

-1 pinch baking powder

-1/2 plus 1 tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk OR water

-1/4 tbsp olive oil

Topping

-1/2 individual container Oikos triple zero vanilla yogurt

-1/2 Apple

-1/2 cup blueberries

Directions

Put oats, water/milk, baking soda, and baking powder into a blender and blend until smooth. Put Oil into a mini egg frying pan that has a lid I’ll put the link for the one that I have right here. Cook with lid on, on medium temp until baked all the way through. Flip the pan over to release oats onto a plate, top with the yogurt and fruit and serve!

In closing, I just want to say that I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day! Here’s to my mom who has been one of the greatest blessings in my life and who stood by me when most people wouldn’t dare be there for me! She’s my best friend, my rock, my everything!!!

The Face Belonging to the Voice: Part 9 of my Journey

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Well, here I am after a few weeks of stepping back from the blog. As you all can see, diving into my journey has been a bit heavy for me. Meanwhile, things at home have been challenging to say the least. Honestly, it’s been as though hurricane has hit my life and it’s taking every bit of me to stand my ground. As I’ve stated in my previous posts, I’m really trying to keep quiet about what I’m dealing with. I know that God is a powerful God and that he will see me through this time. I just hope that somehow, someway, my Journey will encourage those of you who actually read it find strength on your own path. Also, I hope that it helps you see that I was there and every moment at all times, He is always there! Without further ado…

Part 9 of my Journey

Stable home. Finally! Mom and I had a stable home! On top of it, I was finally in contact my dad and believed that I was on the road to a healed relationship with him. It was, April 2012, mom and I had just moved out to Crockett, other than issues that kept rising with my sister… life just seemed like it was finally coming together!

Now, my dad and I were continuing to talk. I did take some caution in completely connecting with him because of some prior discussions my grandmother and I had had. She warned me that he suffered from extreme schizophrenia and temperament issues. She also solidified what I had learned growing up from my mom and some of my own experiences that he was a compulsive liar. So, when I actually received the iphone, I started to begin to believe that he wouldn’t want to lie to me. I did try to keep myself guarded, however at the same time the little girl me so desperately just wanted daddy.

In the conversations that we had, he would tell me about how he wanted to move to the mainland again and was tired of how expensive everything was on the islands. He said he had an extremely successful T-shirt selling business and he wanted to sell it because he really felt it was time to come out to California, to his family, and restore the lost years. Something in my spirit knew that the whole situation was just a little off. I wanted to believe him, but the same time everything I’d known about him told me not to. As life went on, I continued to work at the coffee house, did house sits, started working for my dear friend that I met while working a 24 hour fitness as his 2nd admin assistant/ house manager, and trained for the San Francisco Marathon.

Soon, my dad finally said that he was actually going to move! It was SO surreal to me. I still didn’t believe any of this was happening. Then, some time in May, in the middle of the night, I received a phone call from him saying that he was at the Oakland airport and that nobody was there to pick him up. I offered to get him even though I had to work early the next day… “n no b b butter cup.” He stuttered. “J just go back to b bed.” He sounded really stressed out, and I asked if he was sure but he insisted that I go back to bed. So, I did just that.

The next day at work I was so excited! I was on a natural high! My dad was finally in California!!! I went all day and didn’t receive a call. Another day went by and still no call. Then another… I tried calling, but no answer. I kept thinking he just wanted to spend time with his family… then my got started to hurt and I felt abandoned. Something was just off.

About a week after his arrival to the states, I was doing a housesit, and it was my birthday (June 2). I received a phone call from my aunt V and she was yelling at me asking what I did to him. She literally went off on me as if I did something wrong. I started crying hysterically and told her I didn’t do anything. I told her what happened and that I offered to go get him when he had arrived, but I hadn’t heard from him since. She calmed down and we ended the phone call.

Right away, I begin trying to call my dad. I emailed him and all I go back was an email saying that he was leaving and there was nothing I could do about it. Finally, when I did get him on the phone, he started saying that my grandma and the rest of the family were asking him questions about what he did to me as a baby. He also claimed that I should’ve gotten him from the airport. “How dare he make this all my fault,” I thought. I reminded him that he told me to just go back to bed. He insisted that as a family member I should have gotten up no matter what he said to go get him. I told him I lived over 45 minutes away from the airport, and he told me that I was lying because he could track my cell phone…. , first off, Crockett is over 45 minutes away from Oakland. Second off, this put a stop to everything. He began to tell me that he’d known where I was my whole life, and that he’d been using my cell phone that he gave me to track where I was. I. Felt. Violated. Devastated. Stalked. Terrified…. He then told me that he wanted his phone and I had to send it back. Thankfully in the middle of the call, my dear friend that I was working for called. He asked why I sounded upset and I explained to him what was happening. He told me to immediately hang up the phone and to refuse to give the phone back because I had my personal information on it. Walked me through the process of turning my GPS off so that he could no longer track me. Then, I switched over, told my dad that I was not giving it back, he was not going to Yell at me and make me feel like his molesting me or him getting stuck at the airport was my fault on my birthday, and that I was not going to be held responsible for him going back to Hawaii. My friend then came over to talk to me. Being someone who himself dealt with some parental issues, he give me some sound advice and I decided to keep the iPhone off and refused to answer calls from my dad.

Just as I was leaving the house sit I had yet another shift at my coffee house job. Not only was I working for my friend, but I was switching coffee house locations in order to keep myself protected from my dad. Since I was working for my friend as his family manager and second personal assistant, he decided to include a cell phone in my pay. Just as I was at the Verizon wireless office to have it set up, I Received a call from my dad saying that he had shown up at the coffee house that I had recently transferred from. They were instructed to tell him that they had no idea who I was. This infuriated him! Long story short my friend and I ended up at the coffee house, told him to either take the iPhone back or at least sign it over so we could put it on a different plan, but he refused. I have to say, seeing him for the first time in over 20 years… the man who stole my virtue before I knew I had it… It was terrifying! On top of already being traumatized, I had to stand my ground as he made complete scene outside of the coffee house. My friend and I were fed up and we went off to get a different cell phone. I gave the iPhone to my friend to hold and cut connections with my dad.

Within a few weeks, I had received an email from my dad apologizing for everything. He wanted to meet up, and have a real birthday dinner and make up for everything. So, I took into consideration that he was in a lot of stress from the move, and I agreed. The meal went wonderfully and I got to learn a lot about him and what he been doing over the years. The things he said I had to be careful to sift between fict and fact… Regardless, I truly felt like this was a positive step forward!

(The first gift I received from my dad person. This was from the Mercedes-Benz dealership that my grandfather worked for before he passed away)

I agreed to turn on my iPhone and keep it on just so he could call me. Meanwhile, he was not allowed to have my work number, Let alone know it existed. I kept the iPhone GPS off, and learned something. The only way I could use my map my run device on my phone is if the GPS was on… So, on the days that I needed to do a long run and need my GPS I would turn it on. This led to another discovery… He would call just after my runs, or on the times that I’d forgotten to turn my GPS off, so, I decided to play a little game. If I didn’t hear from my dad for a few weeks, I turned the GPS on. When he’d call he dumped a boatload of stress and emotional garbage on me like a garbage dump! I was already dealing with things at home, working both jobs, worries if my sister, training, ect… I tried my best to listen, that was all I could do. I felt overwhelmed and hopeless .

Soon, my dad began to promise a car. I already had one so, I was excited but at the same time… I wasn’t too worried about it.

The first week of July, I received an email … and then another one … and another one… each one displaying pictures of a brand new Honda fit… Then, an email with a question saying “which one do you like?” I freaked out! Within a matter of hours he finished the paperwork and send me an email giving me a visual tour of my new car. Almost a week later, I was on my way with him to Folsom lake to pick it up. What I did with my other car, is between me and Jesus. However, I had no idea what I was getting myself into in accepting this vehicle from him. I believe that part of him really did want to be a good father. I believe that he really wanted to make things work after all these years. However I do know that another part of him was being very manipulative in his actions.

(Me and my dad’s scarlet macaw. I was smiling here, but I was so terrified at the same time.)

Just as my family management business was picking up. I got hurt at the coffee house, and made the decision to leave. Hurt again, and training for yet another marathon. Ughhhh! Meanwhile, dealing with stressed out phone calls from my dad…. I switched from seeing Dr. Runco to seeing a different chiropractor in El Cerrito, started not only working in choir but also on the worship team at church, The clock ticked down to marathon day… so much craziness and chaos! I enjoyed being in choir and on the worship team, but the one thing I was REALLY looking forward to seeing my dad at Finishline on marathon day. To me, it was like that little kid inside that always want to daddy’s approval was finally going to get what she wanted!

So I’ll leave off here for now. I apologize if this all seems a bit heavy to you all, however this is the reality I’ve lived. If anything, I hope that my journey inspires you all to move forward nomatter what you’re dealing with!

A voice from 20 years past… part 8 of my journey

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Here I go procrastinating again! Sorry for being so MIA y’all! I hope all of you have been doing well! As I promised, I’m going to continue with my story. I hope that, again, through the sharing of my trials someone will be encouraged to press on through their own!

In my last post, I left off with the phone call to my dad who I hadn’t spoken to in over 20 years. This is the same man who molested me as a baby, and pretty much robbed me of my chances at purity and security before I even knew what either of those things were. No, he didn’t take my virginity (thank God), however; he did do plenty of other sick and twisted acts that psychologically wounded me in ways I can’t even begin to properly explain. No, no one properly warned me to stay away from him. There were warning tones, little hints, but no one blatantly said , “do not come in contact with him because he is still a psychological wreck.” For me, the little girl inside desired to have that dad that I never knew in my life.

(Photo credit theparentcue.org )

I remember growing up and seeing other little girls with their dads who took them out and did things out of love and not out of some sick twisted desire. Most of my life, I secretly envied those girls who’s dads cared for them, who hung around and listened to them, cheered them on at performances and other events, went and got them cars and took them out on special daddy daughter dates. I will tell you one thing, be careful what you wish for, and don’t ever wish that you had something that someone else has, because jealousy is definitely one of major roots of evil! Now that this is said and done, I’ll continue where I left off!

Part 8 of my journey

Running and the performing arts… these have been major outlets in my life! There’s just something about being on stage and taking yourself into a period of time and into someone else’s world, away from the troubles of your own to help the audience come into that world and escape the troubles of theirs… it’s such an incredible gift for everyone involved! As for running…. ughhh the feel of wind going through my hair and in and out of my lungs as my body rhythmically moves over the ground’s surface, feet gliding, heart pumping, sweat dripping, all the worries and stress from everything I’ve carried just melting away as I talk to God and clear my mind. So many times I left some of my greatest fears and challenges out on the roads, hills, and trails of various cities throughout the Bay Area. Both aspects of my life have become such a relief during some of the most seriously trying times that I’ve experienced. Had I not had God, these two aspects, and my mother during the season, I really don’t know how I would’ve coped.

While on the phone with my dad, he made the promise to stay in contact with me so that we could build the relationship that the little

girl in me so desperately desired.

(The only photo I have of my dad and me when I was about 2 or 3 years old)

In that he promised me a new iPhone and said he would cover the bill so that I could afford to be able to talk to him more often. I was SO excited! Here I was, working my butt off at a coffee shop, doing random house sits for people, having constant shifts in my living space, and still trying to take care of the kitty house all while dealing with car issues and being drained of my finances to find I was barely able to buy food, let alone pay my own cell phone bill. Here was my dad, this man that I so desperately wanted to get to know and forgive for what he had done to me and he was offering me the relationship that I wanted along with something that so many people were trying to obtain at the same time, a new iPhone 4s! I felt like I had suddenly been promoted from scroungy servant girl (Believe me I looked like a hot mess half the time unless I was working or performing) to a new level of princess! It felt like life was finally smiling on me!

During the call, I found out so many things about him and where he had been over the years. He informed me that he had been ordained as a priest for the church of Whales (mind you this man is a compulsive liar, so I still don’t believe this) and owned a T-shirt company that he was getting ready to sell, so that he could move to the mainland (from Hawaii). Before we got off the phone, he told me that he was going to call Verizon and set up a way for me to obtain a phone and that he would call me a soon as it was ready! Wow! What is this really happening? I couldn’t believe a single word that I was hearing! My dad… He wanted a relationship with me, to get to know me, and provide for me!

After the phone call, I went kept working at the coffee shop, and continued working on a production at CCC that I had been invited to come back and perform in as one of my previous characters, Cami in “Rockin at Richmond High.”

Throughout this time, I was getting ready to run yet another event, the San Francisco Marathon. This event held a special place my heart, since it was going to be the first full marathon that I would get the honor of running with my mentor and godmother! The show went on during the beginning phases of my training, So I made sure to take it easy so that I could focus on the show and then have the energy to dive full throttle into preparing for the marathon. Meanwhile, things at home began to fall apart.

The lady that I was taking care of the kitties for had decided that it was time for me to go. While there were issues on both sides that I prefer not to get into at this time, I will definitely say that there were things that I did that weren’t right and left her upset (for some reasons that she definitely had a right to be upset about and I would honestly try to fix if I could) there are also things that she did to me that left me emotionally scarred yet again. Put it this way, I had a tendency to act as though people owed me something because I had been abandoned and abused. Though my actions weren’t necessarily intentional, I had a tendency to take advantage of situations when people would give me things. I didn’t know when to stop letting people give things to me, and often found ways to manipulate in order to survive. This poor woman suffered the consequences of my internal baggage. At the same time living there, was a good taste of what goes around comes around. I used to verbally bash people behind their backs and even to their faces. I was not a nice person by any means! I went around praising God, but was so mean and hateful towards myself and the world around me. While living there, I received a good taste of my own medicine both to my face and behind my back which scarred my reputation with a lot of people, and left me hating myself even more. The blessing from all this? Well, it was through this season that I learned to treat people with kindness. If I had not lived there and dealt with that, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’ve now learned to use my words to uplift and to heal instead of tear down and injure. While I’m still a work in progress, I have come journeys away from where I used to be!

A few days after my performance in “Rockin’ at Richmond High,” I received yet another call from my dad. He told me to go to the Verizon wireless in El Cerrito where I would be able to obtain my brand new phone! I remember walking in and being so awe struck and excited! I told the girl who was getting my phone about the story, and she almost started crying! The whole experience was like something out of a movie! As soon as I walked out of the store, I called my dad, and we were officially connected! I no longer had to deal with a cell phone that kept breaking and could call people without worrying about being able to afford my bill!

Then, it was time to head back home to face a new moving situation.

I packed my things and soon after moved in with my mom in Berkeley where she was informed she too had to find a new place to live because they were going to be renovating her apartment complex. With nowhere to go, we prayed and searched, and finally I received an email from brother Bob containing some craigslist links to apartment rentals in Crockett. Thankfully, my mom went out to see one, I came to see it soon after, and we both fell in love with what would soon be our new home! We packed our things, and moved to Crockett, Ca and to the place that bears so many horrific memories for me. At the same time, it’s the place that I found the greatest level of healing.

For now, I feel that this is a good place to stop. As you can see, my life has been a bit of a whirlwind. Great news is, I’ve had Jesus all along! It’s through my trials that I have learned some of the most valuable lessons. I’ve learned to love myself and to treat others with kindness at all times, and best of all… I’ve learned to rely on God and not my own devices in order to survive which is exactly why I’m leaving my current situation in silence. It’s in this time of silence that I know I’ll hear gods voice clearly and I’ll be able to report to you all the wonderful victory that He has prepared out for me!Until next time… God bless and stay strong!

Adventures in Boston Qualifying: My Journey Continues With Part 4

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Hey all I’m back again and I hope you all have had a wonderful week! Mine has been trying to say the least, however I’m learning to be grateful for the little things. I’ve really been trying to work on my attitude most of all. To be honest, it hasn’t been the greatest. I was hit in many areas… my body has been hurting and I went to see Dr. Runco. He had to adjust my hips, neck, lumbar, thoracic and other regions of my spine and legs. Facing each day has been a challenge. Between the pain and not having a vehicle and ether being stuck in my apartment all day or having to stay out with my mom all and/ or take the bus in order to get things done… my mind and body just feel worn and beaten. Don’t get me wrong, I love ❤️ taking the bus but the hill up to my house from the stop tears my body up. On top of it, it’s been a struggle to make ends meet at times. At the same time, I feel this gives me the perfect opportunity to really, truly trust God! In these moments, I’ve been able to make lists of things I’m grateful for, and lists of people and things to pray for. In these moments, I’m free to study the word and get to know God so much better than I EVER have before. So… I’m choosing to cherish them.

No, when I left off in last weeks post, I had fallen asleep and was getting ready to wake up to run my first marathon in Oakland, Ca in March 2011. Now, my journey continues…

My Journey Part 4

Marathon… for those of you who don’t know what exactly this is… let me clear up a little bit of confusion for you! A marathon is not a 5K, 10K, 1 mile, 10 mile or even 13 mile foot race. A marathon is the name given to a race with the precise distance of 26.2 miles. Anything outside of that range is given an alternate name such as 5K (3.107 Miles) 10k (6.214 miles), ultra marathon is anything greater than 26.2 miles. The list goes on… so, Marathon is not a name given to any other distance other than the 26.2. For more history and information on this event, please take a look at this article: History of the Marathon.

So, why was the marathon distance such a big deal for me? Well, it is estimated that approximately only 1% of the worlds population has actually run a full marathon. I thrived on distance, I loved distance! I wanted to challenge myself to really go the distance as a way of celebrating freedom from drug addiction! The training with long runs (which I increased in a very different way than most people do) followed by gluten free pancakes and eggs… hours of open road, clearing my head, praying, worshipping… such an incredible time of connection with God, nature, and my body unlike any other! Mix that with runner’s high and a sense of accomplishment that comes from achieving a new goal… mannnn! I was definitely doing what I love to do! Also, while in training for this event, the possibility of running in the Olympics at some point was brought up to me. I will talk more about this later.

Marathon morning, I woke up expecting to just see my mom in car. I was really hoping for just a peaceful event. My heart sank, selfishly, as I saw my troubled loved one sitting in the passenger seat. I quickly adjusted my attitude, chose to remain mostly silent on the way out to the start line, and just prepared myself mentally for the event that was to come. I remember nervously chewing an entire pack of gum on the way out there, fidgeting with my packets of gu to make sure I had enough, checking and double checking my shorts, stretchy pants that I wore underneath, and my purse to make sure that I had my ID and everything I needed at the finish line.

Upon arrival in Oakland, my heart began to race! This was it! I was really going to do this! The moment of truth, do or die, all the training, all the hard work, all for this moment! My mom dropped me off with everything I needed and I headed towards the restroom line to get prepped for the event. While there, I ran into a woman who is part of the “marathon maniacs” crew! She mentioned that she was only going to run the race slowly and stated that she ran marathons and ultramarathons regularly. Ultramarathons? I had heard about these events before. My pastor at the time had previously told me about Dean Karnazes ( lithe amazing ultramarathon man) and I had actually wanted to run one. I just never met anyone that actually ran them… FREQUENTLY! I felt two mixed emotions. 1. I was semi-prideful, wondering why she wouldn’t want to run fast. All I knew was fast running! I loved running at a competitive pace! No feeling like it! 2. I was in awe that a female ran these insane distances! I shook it off, completed my pre-race preparation, and headed off to the starting line.

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or those of you competitive athletes who are reading this, you will probably laugh because in all honesty, I had no idea how big of a deal the Boston marathon was let alone that there was a qualifying time for it. I seriously went into this race to simply run and finish it. I had no intention of placing or achieving one of the most coveted qualifications in the running world, a chance of possibly running Boston.

That being said… I walked up to the start line. Beyond nervous… While there, I saw people holding signs. Each had a different set of numbers on it. One of them said “3:00” another “3:30”… yeah, I did not do my homework! I had no idea what these were! I had no CLUE where to stand either! So, I walked confidently up to the 3:30 pacer, hoping I wasn’t standing in some designated spot. There I stood, nervously waiting for the start!

As I waited, I talked to a few people that were standing there. One person was talking about injuries, so I diverted my attention to something less stressful for my mind. I then talked to someone else who asked if it was my first marathon. I told him that was, so he told me to pace myself, stick with him, start at a slow speed, gradually increase the pace, then finish with a bang! As it just so happens, this was a man partnered with the pacer for the 3:30 mark. I then turned inward, and began to pray asking God to help me make it through the event. I just wanted to finish!

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y heart started racing as the countdown began! I could feel the energy from the crowd of people watching the event from the sidelines… ba dum.. ba dum.. ba dum…. then, race signaled to start, and we all headed on our way through the city of Oakland California! What an incredible journey it was! Around every corner, was a new portion of the city! I was able to view the beauty of the greatest cultural mesh pot cities in the country by foot!!!

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rowds were so encouraging as they watched from the sidelines! The energy from the people in the city was just so amazing! I even met someone who was running the marathon as his long run for an ultra marathon! He gave me some tips on prepping for ultramarathons, and we chatted a little bit. He then encouraged me to push past him and said to just keep going because I “was guaranteed qualify for Boston!“ Again, that Boston thing! Looking back, I feel so ashamed of not knowing anything about that incredible marathon!

The best part of this event is that I was asked by a couple people why I was running the marathon. I got to share my testimony with people as I ran! I got to tell them how God delivered me from crystal meth addiction and made me a runner for Christ! I told each one of them that my purpose for crossing the finish line was to meet my troubled loved one who was there waiting for me. I wanted to prove to her that her life could change too!

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ot closer and closer to the final 10K of the event, something that Kara Goucher mentioned in a Runner’s World magazine I had received in the mail a few weeks prior kept running over and over in my mind. She said that the last 10k of a marathon is like a whole new race! That’s when you have to take everything that’s left in you, and give it all you’ve got! That’s exactly what I did! The final 10k approached, my endorphins kicked in, the exhaustion I felt from the previous 20 miles seemed to dissipate, I popped a packet of gu and began to run as though I just heard the gunshot go off at the beginning of a 10K race!

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ush towards the finish line, I was again given me opportunity share my story! A woman in the crowd yelled out, “El Sobrante Runner!!!” “What?” I said. “ you run all the time by my house!“ this is a name I had been called before, and I was always humbled that someone would recognize me and give me a label. I was even stopped at times in the grocery store and asked why I ran. Each time, I used as an opportunity to share what God had done in my life. This time though, on the race field? I was totally humbled and in awe of opportunity God was giving me share his glory with yet another person! I slowed my pace for just a moment to give glory to God for all that he did and to encourage her to keep pressing on! She then told me to push my butt towards the finish line and cheered me as I went on ahead of her! WHAT A BLESSING!

The last 3 miles felt like the longest 3 I’d ever run! Suddenly, a young guy looked like he was going to give in. His legs were aching and cramping. I encouraged him to keep pressing on. I ran next to him and kept letting him know we were almost at the finish line, to keep his chin up, and that I was rooting for him! Shortly after that, began to get dehydrated and needed some fuel. I encouraged him to sip on some water, just enough to make sure he didn’t get stomach cramps and to take another packet of gu.

Soon, I started to grow weary. A woman who was like an angel came right next to me, cheering ME on, handed me gu, kept telling me to keep going and let me know as each mile passed. After the last mile, she ran on ahead of me and I pushed into finish at the incredible time of 3:32:06!!!

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a few seconds after I cross the finish, I heard, “Hey Romans!” I looked back, remembering that I had “Romans 10:14-15” on the back of my race shirt! “ I can’t thank you enough for encouraging me,“he said! “I never would have finished, if you didn’t help push me along! My legs were so tore up! I didn’t make my goal time though!“” but you finished right? That’s what matters! And it was only by the grace of God that I was able to help you! I’m so glad you finished, “ I said. He have me a big hug and we both went on to get our finisher medals and foil blankets so we could recover.

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st immediately, I saw my troubled loved one. Meanwhile my mom was trying to track her down because she had taken off with her cell phone! So, the family drama had already begun! I went on to take my pictures and decided not to let my home life destroy what was probably the greatest moment of my life! After I got my photos taken and grabbed a few snacks, we headed off to have Pho at one of the local restaurants. Thankfully, it was such a nice time enjoying hot meal with my family talking about my journey! When we headed home… it was time to face reality again. Just prior to the marathon, I begun to transition into a new job at a restaurant in Orinda. I headed home, hopeful about the new opportunity yet dreading having to sleep in a cold mobile home alone and worried about what might be ahead of us now that my troubled loved one had returned.

Again, I had to shake off the worry and focus on recovery! Soon, I was informed by Big Al that I had qualified for Boston! Still… I had no clue help major this was! Not only that, but I also found out that I was Second in my age group and had won a pair of skecher running shoes that I gove to my mom as a thank you for all she had done for me! So many great happenings mixed with so many uncertainties…. so the recovery process began.

Now, I’m afraid of gotten carried away with this post! As you can see, this race holds a very special place my heart! Once again, I’ll have to continue with the rest my journey in a later post. Thank you all for joining me and reading about the events that made me who I am today. As for my current situation, each day I’m thankful for each step that I take. My body aches, yet my spirit begs to be set free to run! I can only hope that God‘s hand will move miraculously to release me to do so! Yet, one thing that I learned especially from running the Oakland marathon… in life, you have to continue cheer people on. Even when you feel like your legs and your body can’t take it, you have to press on, finish your race, and help others do the same! No matter what the outcome of my life is. Whether or not I ever run or walk normally again, I have to choose on a daily basis be grateful for life and ask God for the grace to keep pressing on until my dying day! Until next time, have a great week!