Thursday, April 3, 2014

My 24 Day Challenge

If you are anything like most of America you spend the majority of your time hustling from one activity to the next, whether that be keeping up with your kids, your work or school schedule, or even just the busy demands of keeping your house in order. Chances are you spend so much time just getting through your day, you end up making a lot of unhealthy choices or feel like you have no energy.



I have three children who keep me very busy as well as going to school full time, and for me, it seemed that I would just barely making it through my day. I knew my weight was a problem, but dieting seemed so hard and I always felt limited. I tried so many fad diets and just could not stick with anything long term. Eleven months ago, on my daughter's birthday in fact, I was yet again trying another crazy diet and just like the rest of them, I was miserable and knew there had to be something better. I was currently 185 pounds, at risk for diabetes, and constantly tired. I felt that instead of actually living my life, I was slowly watching it go by.



Thankfully, that very day I was introduced to Advocare and their 24 Day Challenge by a local business owner of an indoor bounce house where I had taken my daughter to play. I was a bit skeptical as I had tried so many things before that hadn't worked, what was to say this would be any different. The very first thing that stood out to me was that the owner was not pushy or had a sales pitch all ready to go but rather listened to me and where I was in my life and what my needs were. Instead of giving me a quick presentation and then asking me to place an order, he just explained what had worked for him, sent me home with a sample of Spark, and encouraged me to do my own research on the company as well.



This sat well with me, because I absolutely hate the feeling of being pressured into anything and wanted to take my time and really take a look at the company. Coming home I tried the Spark, which is Advocare's energy drink. I was floored, the taste was amazing and for the first time in a long time, I actually felt perked up! Encouraged, I researched the company and decided to give the challenge a try.

That decision was one of the best decisions I could have ever made for my health. In my first challenge, I lost 17 pounds in 24 days. Fast forward to today, eleven months later and  I am down 50 pounds!! That's right...you read that correctly, 50 pounds! I started at 185 pounds and I am currently 135 pounds. The transformation is incredible in my outward appearance, but aside from that, I am for the first time in my life at a healthy height and weight ratio. On top of that, I have completely eliminated my risk of diabetes which is major, as this disease runs in our family. Looking at myself eleven months ago I was overweight, unhappy, prone to diabetes and exhausted all the time, and now I have energy not to just get through my day, but to live and enjoy each moment!



 As you can see, the picture on the left is my before picture where I weighed in at 185 pounds and climbing. At this point, I was wearing I size 17/18 pants and usually a 2XL top. The picture of me on the right is my after picture in which I weigh 135 pounds. I am in the dressing room at Walmart trying on a size 5 pair of pants and a medium top that FIT!! Never before have I ever been able to fit in a size 5, so naturally I was beyond excited!


I'm so grateful that I was introduced to Advocare because now I have added quality years to my life and can be a much better Mom and set healthy examples to my children. I am so excited to share my success with others because I know that there are so many out there who have been in my shoes and are looking for something that works.

The beauty of the 24 Day Challenge is it is not just for those that want to lose weight! It can be customized for you and your goals! Let's face it, not everyone is the same, so naturally, everyone will have different goals! For some maybe it is a weight issue or weight management, for others you may be searching for a way to increase your energy, improve your general health or vitality, or just up your sports performance.



For a long time, I had given up setting goals because I couldn't face continually failing myself, but now, I have this inner pride of seeing what I really am capable of doing and love finding new ways to challenge and push myself to new levels of success.

Take some time today to start dreaming again, figure out what your goals are, and look into Advocare and the 24 Day Challenge. It may be just what you are looking for! If you have any questions, concerns, or need anymore additional information please don't hesitate to contact me either on my blog, or through my Advocare site!

I look forward to helping you reach your goals!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Finding Fido: The Right Dog For Your Family



With Christmas fast approaching, many children have a new puppy at the top of their wish list for Santa Claus to bring them.  Although a new puppy in the house may delight your children on Christmas morning and provide lots of fun, adding a new member to your family is a decision that should not be impulsively made.  Many families purchase or adopt a puppy around Christmas and then later realize they are in over their heads when that sweet puppy grows up to a giant eating machine that cannot stop bouncing off the walls, herding your children, or creating a minefield of holes in your backyard.
            Currently, according to the Humane Society of the United States, forty-seven percent of all American families own at least one dog.  If you are looking to add a dog to your family, it can be very tempting to visit the local shelter and pick out the cutest one that you see available.  Unfortunately, this is one of the common pitfalls that families make when choosing a dog.  Even if that little ball of fur is adorable, it does not mean that it will be the right dog for your family.  Fortunately, there is a solution to finding the right dog and it is as easy as 1-2-3!
The first step is assessing your home life.  This means taking a look at all the factors a new dog would have to experience in your home and figuring out what you expect from a dog.  Things to take note of would be what is the activity level in your home?  Are you a family that is on the go a lot, spending a lot of time outdoors, or would you classify your family as the all American couch potato?  Are there small children in the home?  Other pets such as a cat or even another dog.  Other important things to consider are where you live.  For instance, if you live in an apartment or a condo, then you may not want to consider a very large or high-energy dog such as a Border Collie or German Shepherd.
Second, you need to do your research.  I know, the word research brings out a groan in us all, but it is vital to finding a dog that will fit to your family’s unique needs and environment.  This can be done one of two ways.  You can opt to research dog breeds on your own or speak to a professional such as a veterinarian or dog behaviorist for recommendations.  If you opt to do the research on your own, a great place to start is the American Kennel Club.  The AKC can give extensive information on the many breeds that are available.  Things to take into consideration are the dog’s temperament, typical personality traits, energy levels, growth, and prey drive.  This will provide you with the insight that you need to determine if you want a dog that can run and keep up with an active family, or if your family is looking more for a snuggle buddy.  In addition, prey drive can be very beneficial if you already have smaller pets in the home such as a cat, ferret, etc.  Paying close attention to the approximate growth of a dog is very important because not every family is thrilled with the idea of one day having a 100 plus pound shedding machine that has just stretched out in your spot on the couch. If you choose to speak to a professional, they can give you a few pointers, although it is important to remember that you know your family the best.
Lastly, when you have chosen the breed that is right for you, it is time to go find your dog. There are two choices when searching for your dog, purchase from a breeder, or adopt a dog.  If you choose to purchase from a breeder, take time to make sure the breeder is reputable and complies with AKC standards. Alternatively, you can choose to adopt a dog from your local shelter or rescue group. If you decide to look at your local shelter, do not be dismayed if they do not have your desired breed.  You can talk to the shelter workers and give them your information and what you are looking for and they can contact you if that certain breed comes available. Rescue groups are a great place to find a dog for your family because many of them are breed specific.  Also, the staff at rescue groups routinely places their dogs in foster homes, to get a better understanding of the dog’s likes and dislikes and temperament.  Most dogs in breed specific rescues are past puppy age, usually adults, however for some families this can be a blessing as they are past the common puppy behaviors such as chewing, potty training, and not sleeping through the night.
By taking the time to look at your family’s lifestyle, desires, and needs, you can get a better idea of what you are looking for in a dog.  Then you can take that list and compare it to your research to find the dog that will blend in with your family’s environment the best.  Spending a little extra time researching the breed that is best for you will increase your family’s success in finding the right dog that will be a life long match.  As always, remember that despite breed, each dog may have its own unique personality traits and behaviors.



Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tainted Tolerance

Have you noticed how lately the term tolerance has become overused to the point where its very definition has become twisted and abused? It seems that most conservative and Christian individuals find themselves staring down the barrel of so called 'tolerance' time and time again.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, tolerance is defined as the, "willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own". However, today that doesn't seem to ring true when Christians are continually being attacked for voicing their own personal opinions and beliefs.

This has most recently been seen in the public outcry that is occurring after Duck Dynasty member Phil Robertson was indefinitely banned from future episodes as a result of an interview with GQ in which he gave his personal opinion on homosexuality.

It seems to me that the word tolerance is taking on a completely new definition that means following the beliefs of the liberals and mainstream media. Since when is it acceptable to deem someones personal opinion as flawed or wrong? Personal opinions are just that...personal. They vary from person to person. Everyone is entitled to have their own beliefs, thoughts, and mindset regardless of what the rest of America feels.

For the record, I am a conservative and a Christian woman. I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman as God himself designed and intended it. I am against abortion and I believe that every life is sacred. Am I not allowed to have my personal opinion because it doesn't conform with liberal propaganda?

Our founding fathers recognized the need that individuals have in their right to have their personal beliefs and opinions as it is known in our first amendment. Why then, is our America now taking on such a tainted view of tolerance?

The answer is that as a society we have compromised too much. Too many times instead of standing up for what we believe we have laid quiet so that we don't offend anyone. Too many times have we looked the other way at an injustice, because what can just one person do? Too many times we have allowed the line of morality and values to be constantly pushed farther to stay 'socially accepted.' We have tried to make everyone else around us comfortable by compromising our own standards and beliefs.

The truth of the matter is as Christians, we are not going to have the same values and beliefs as much of the rest of the world. Christ didn't die for our sins so we would be comfortable and follow the world's ways. He died to free us from the sin we tangled ourselves in. Sins like putting the world's standards above God's standard. We are called to be DIFFERENT! We are called to stand out, to be the light in the dark, to speak the truth even when it's not socially acceptable, and we may lose some friends along the way. I am so thankful that my God is a bold God who gave His very life to save me.

Now it's our turn to be bold for Him. It's our turn to let our voices, beliefs, and convictions be heard no matter the consequence. This doesn't mean hating people or lifestyles that are different from us either. It doesn't mean accepting their lifestyle. It just means that regardless of who they are, what their lifestyle is, or what they believe, we are going to show them Christ's love. We have to remember, Christ loved them enough to die for them to.

It's not our job to convict anyone or pass judgement. We will all have to stand before God one day and account for ourselves. However, while we are here, it is time to get out of our comfort zone and be bold for God, to take our stand with Him even if it does make us less popular with the rest of the world.

How are you going to be bold for God today?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Overcoming Caregiver Stress



            Have you ever been in the situation where you suddenly found yourself the sole caregiver of a loved one that suffers from a debilitating disease? Perhaps you went from being a career professional, a student, or even a stay at home parent, to becoming solely responsible for the care and wellness of another individual.
            Almost overnight, your entire family dynamic has changed as your loved one moves in with you and requires nearly round the clock care.  This commonly involves constant supervision to ensure that they do not injure themselves or others.  Common caretaker responsibilities include assistance with almost every facet of their life from eating, bathing, dressing, medication upkeep, doctor’s appointments, and countless other day-to-day responsibilities.
            If this sounds like you, fear not, you are not alone! Currently, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than fifteen million caretakers in the United States right now, many of which provide care for patients that suffer from Alzheimer’s or Dementia related diseases (Alzheimer's Association).With the current influx of patients opting to forego nursing home care in favor of being cared for by their family members, this can sometimes create a great deal of stress for caregivers as they work to maintain the balance between caring for their loved one, while still meeting their own family and possibly work responsibilities.
            Caregivers of any sort are faced with many challenges, but when caring for an Alzheimer’s or Dementia patient, sometimes the challenges can prove to be increasingly difficult, and if not corrected, caregivers can be faced with an overwhelming level of stress that can prove to be too much to handle.  The first step to treating stress among caregivers is to be able to effectively recognize it.
            Although stress can appear in different ways to each person, the most common emotional symptoms of stress are increased levels of anxiety, frustration, and depression. Physically, this can be manifested in having trouble sleeping at night, loss of appetite, increased headaches, or even chest pain (Symptoms of Stress, 2013). Left unchecked, according to The American Institute of Stress, high stress levels can lead to a host of problems such as high blood pressure, increased risk of sudden stroke or heart attack, even possibly being more susceptible to certain forms of cancer (The American Institute of Stress, 2013).
            Caregivers that find themselves stressed or experiencing any of these problems need to recognize the need to take time to properly care for themselves.  I can hear many of you saying now, that sounds like a great idea, but who has time to take a break?  This is a full time commitment!  The key is understanding that stressed out caregivers are unhealthy caregivers, and unhealthy caregivers cannot provide the best level of care for their family members, much less themselves.
            The next step to treating stress is coming up with a plan of action and sticking to it.  One of the easiest methods to reduce stress and take time for yourself is to set boundaries with your loved one in terms of time limits.  Commonly, Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients get confused very easily which leads to their need to be reassured multiple times every day, and in some cases they fear being left alone, even if it is just in the other room.  Even with good intentions, one person, no matter how hard they may try, cannot be on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  You will burn out and will not be a help to anyone that way.  Instead, by setting time limits with your loved one, you are able to effectively balance their need for companionship with your own family and time for yourself.
In certain cases, your loved one may require supervision constantly to ensure they are not a threat to themselves or others.  This is where the caregiver must enlist support. Having an effective support system is crucial to being an effective caregiver. Caregivers may find support from other family members, friends, or even a senior sitting service.  Whoever it is, make sure they are fully up to date on the situation and can fill in for you if you need a few hours away to yourself…and believe me…you are going to need it!
Lastly, look around your area for local Alzheimer’s Association chapters or caregiver support groups.  Both of these avenues can prove to be an invaluable asset in your journey as a caretaker as they can provide further education related to the disorder or disease your loved one is facing, community referrals to programs that may assist you, or even caregiver support groups that meet monthly and address concerns and issues that caregivers commonly face.  If your area does not currently have a caregiver support group in place, do not get discouraged.  With more individuals becoming caregivers each day, chances are there are plenty of caregivers in your area that you just have not connected with yet.  Be open to connecting with local churches and even home health agencies that could potentially put you in touch with other families that are going through similar situations you are.  Above all else, remember the primary rule of being an effective caregiver; take time to care for yourself, because an unhealthy caregiver leads to an unhealthy patient.
By putting in place these simple strategies and utilizing the help of a support system, caregivers can ensure that they are not forgetting to take care of themselves in hopes to reduce stress.  In addition, when caregivers take the time to connect with others that are in similar situations, they are able to build relationships and cultivate friendships that have a comradery that is unique to caregivers because they share many of the same experiences.  For many caregivers, the friendships they find through support groups prove to last a lifetime and enrich both the caregivers and the patient’s lives. 


 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Beating the Christmas Blues



Tis the season for snowy days, sparkling Christmas trees, winter break, and perpetually happy children right?  Wrong!  If your children are anything like mine, they spend all year looking forward in excitement to Christmas break and the holiday season, only to join in a chorus of the Christmas blues within a day or two of being out of school.  Before you know it, the excitement of being on break wears off and the I’m bored blues set in!

As every parent knows, the Christmas season can hit wallets hard as it is one of the most commercialized holidays of the year, so how can parents keep their children entertained without breaking the bank?  Although it sounds like a daunting problem, it can be solved with a little initiative and dash of creativity!

To help fellow Moms and Dads out there looking for a lifeline to help beat the Christmas blues, I have put together a list of twenty fun and low cost activities that the whole family can enjoy this Christmas season!  To make it even more special, sit down with your family, go over the list of Christmas activities, and have a vote of what sounds like the most fun!  That way everyone will feel like they are included in the decision making process!

Christmas Activities
  1. Bake, bake, bake!  Christmas is known for whipping up sweet confections such as Christmas cookies, candies, and pies.  Children get a thrill in helping out in the kitchen, especially when they get to show off their handiwork.  To make it even more interesting perhaps you can invite over family and friends and have a cookie-decorating contest!
  2. Christmas movie night!  Bundle up in your favorite Christmas pajamas, break out the cocoa, and settle in for a fun movie night!  Some popular Christmas movies for kids are, The Polar Express, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and countless others!
  3. Play in the snow!  If you live in a snowy area, what better fun than to have a good old-fashioned snowball fight!  Other popular fun snowy day activities are making snow angels, a snowman, or even going sledding.
  4. Visit a tree farm.  If you live Christmas trees, bring the children along!  They will have a ton of fun racing up and down the rows hunting down the perfect tree!  Even if you opt for an artificial tree, a tree farm can still be a ton of fun as they routinely sell decorations and often have hot cocoa and apple cider on hand.
  5. Adopt a family through Angel Tree.  One of the best activities that you can do with your children through the Christmas season is to teach them to give back to those less fortunate.  Angel Tree is just one of many charitable organizations that allow you to ‘adopt’ a family for Christmas.
  6. Volunteer!  In the spirit of giving back, call up local soup kitchens, animal shelters, or even churches to see if they need any extra help.  Many times, with cold weather moving in, there are more needs for food distribution, jacket and coat drives, and countless other ways to get involved in your community.  This is a great way to gently remind children how blessed they are.
  7. Visit a live nativity.  Many churches nowadays are offering live nativities that you can either drive or walk through.  This is a great activity that is fun for all ages and puts the true reason for the season in perspective.
  8. Build a gingerbread house!  A family tradition in our house that our children look forward to each year is building and decorating their own gingerbread houses!
  9. Elf on the shelf.  One newly popular tradition many families are embracing is elf on the shelf.  Although this is more geared towards younger children, older children can get involved as well by helping come up with new ‘elf scenarios’.
  10. Candlelight Christmas service.  Many churches have Christmas candlelight services that are filled with carols, the Christmas story, and fellowship for all.  For my family, the candlelight Christmas service has become one of our favorite traditions.
  11. Create a care package for a solider!  This is a great way to give back and encourage those who can’t be home with their families during the Christmas season.  Possible ideas to include are hot chocolate mix, toiletries, individually wrapped Christmas candies, and a card expressing your family’s thanks for their service.
  12. Breakfast with Santa!  This time-honored tradition is offered frequently throughout the Christmas season and is usually always free.  Check your local newspaper as many community centers, YMCA’s, and farmers markets routinely have Santa visits.
  13. Christmas light shows.  Although this is not free, it is usually low cost.  Popular Christmas light shows are often set up in botanical gardens, parks, or even sometimes along the boardwalk at the oceanfront depending on where you live.  Check your local newspaper or radio stations for more information on what is available in your area.
  14. Christmas night rides.  A free alternative to Christmas light shows is hopping in your car, taking a ride through various neighborhoods, and checking out the lights.  Some neighborhoods collaborate together and even have luminary displays.
  15. Night adventures!  This is a classic tradition that my family does all year round, but during the Christmas season, it seems especially special.  On a weekend night when you don’t have to wake up early the next day, after the kids fall asleep for a few hours, wake them up and surprise them with an adventure!  It can be just riding and seeing the lights or even bundling up and hitting the nearest IHOP for some Christmas pancakes!  Children love it as the magic to them is having an adventure while the rest of the world is sleeping.
  16. Host a Christmas party for your family and friends.  Children love to help plan special events and have their input recognized.  Bring the whole family together and plan a party together, letting everyone in on choosing the guest list, to party food, activities and games, and decorations.
  17. Go Christmas caroling!  This is a great activity and can be done just as a family or part of a group such as with a church group.  Popular spots to carol are through your neighborhood, nearby residents of a nursing home, or hospitals.
  18. Bring Christmas cookies to your local first responders.  Nothing shows appreciation more than letting your local first responders know that you value their services.  Many times, they are working throughout the entire Christmas season and miss this special time with their own families, so it’s a great way to show that you care.
  19. Open one present on Christmas Eve!  This is another tradition my children look forward to each year.  Many times, we will put together a Christmas box for each child containing their favorite Christmas snacks, a small toy or book, and one pair of Christmas pajamas.  They love the excitement of getting to open one present early, and the Christmas pajamas makes for wonderful pictures on Christmas morning.
  20. Have a Christmas tree sleepover!  Nothing is more magical than falling asleep watching the twinkling lights of your Christmas tree surrounded by your family.  Even for older children, this is a tradition they won’t soon forget!

There are countless other activities that your family can participate in during the Christmas season, this is just a list to get you started.  Whatever you choose to do, make it something special for your family that you can keep going for years to come so you always have fond memories to look back upon.  Feel free to comment below with your own favorite Christmas activities and traditions!

Merry Christmas!




Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Meet Aspen and Luka!


                              Meet Aspen and Luka!

Love to snuggle!







Aspen and Luka were found last year right before Isaac.  They have both been neutered, have their rabies vaccine, and are on Advantage monthly flea control.  They are bonded to each other, so they would need to be adopted together.  They are good around other cats, dogs, and small children.

What a beauty!




 Aspen is the white cat and has one blue eye and one green eye.  He is very laid back and relaxed and his favorite playtime activity is the laser light!  Luka, the smaller gray cat, LOVES to be around people.  He is happiest when he is curled up on a friendly lap with lots of love. Both cats are inside cats and must remain inside pets. 




Fast Friends!
If interested in giving these two love bugs a forever home, please contact Jerri Singley at 228-355-0954 or jerrilynsingley@yahoo.com for an adoption application.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Breed Specific Legislation

Like many families across the world, our family is big time animal lovers. We have four pets; one dog and three cats. All have been rescues. We are firmly committed that is much better to rescue and adopt pets as opposed to buying them from breeders and pet shops.


 As animal lovers, we find it very troubling when we hear stories of animal abuse, neglect, and injustice. Like many, we recently heard about the heartbreaking story of Lennox who was a Labrador and American Bulldog mix that was heartlessly euthanized in Belfast on July 11, 2012 in accordance with their Breed Specific Laws.


 In Lennox's story, he was targeted because of his appearance and that he 'resembled' a pit bull. Lennox was actually a service dog to a chronically ill child and had never bitten anyone or exhibited aggressive behavior. Despite numerous pleas from dog advocates around the world to provide sanctuary for the dog, Belfast taunted the family by not allowing the family to even say goodbye to their beloved pet and euthanized him.

 The problem with Breed Specific Legislation is that it unfairly targets breeds based on preconceived notions and myths. Many times, individuals believe that certain breeds are just born aggressive, such as pit bulls, rottweilers, and other large breeds. The reality is, the problem is not with the breed, but rather in how the dog is raised.



 Breed Specific Legislation or BSL as it is more commonly known is set on wiping out breeds that they feel are harmful to society. In fact, much like Lennox's story, a dog does not have to be a pit bull but simply resemble one.


 Instead of creating laws that work to eliminate breeds, new legislation should be enacted that targets the owners. Responsible dog owners will raise responsible dogs. By going after individuals who operate dog fighting rings, abuse animals, and do not properly take care of their pets, much of the misconception regarding 'bully breeds' can be laid to rest.




 Although fighting Breed Specific Legislation is a large scale issue, there are many things that you can do easily to help raise awareness that BSL is not the answer.

First, educate yourself on BSL in your area. BSL laws vary not only from state to state, but county to county as well. It is important to find out if your area is affected and there is a ban on certain breeds.

Secondly, start writing your mayors, lawmakers, politicians, and animal rescue groups and share your position and ideas on how to reform the law and bring about positive change. It is important to note when writing, make sure that you do so in a classy and tasteful manner. Temper, slurs, and slander will not get your point across any faster but simply get your letter in the trash. Your letters can include solutions to better regulate dog owners, increase awareness regarding safer interactions between dogs and society, or even enforcing leash laws more. Whatever your point is in the fight against BSL, make sure that it is not lost in a fury of anger.


 Lastly, find a shelter and rescue group and get out there and volunteer. Many of the animals that are put down are in shelters and they just need someone to take a chance on them. Many times, shelters and rescue groups have low cost spay/neuter programs that are always looking for volunteers to help educate and increase awareness. Most dogs that have been violent are adults that have not been spayed or neutered and have been trained to be that way.


Wherever you are, no matter your age, you can take a stand and fight against BSL and be a voice for those that cannot speak for themselves.

It is incomprehensible to punish an entire breed based on looks, myths, and hype. As many have stated before, punish the deed and not the breed.

 For more information on BSL, check out Help me Put an End to Breed Specific Legislation.

Stay informed and if you hear about any families currently fighting to keep their dog from being euthanized under BSL, please let me know so we can increase awareness!

Until next time!