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growth, health, life

You are Not Broken

August 3, 2015
You are Not Broken

This was originally posted on my graphic design website back in April, 2013. I am in the process of creating a series of posts about how I became “unbroken;” how I healed from my chronic illnesses. But first, I’ll share this one:

Being that I am sitting in a hotel room in Charlotte, NC for my annual visit to my fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue specialist AND that May is Fibromyalgia Awareness Month (what, you hadn’t heard?), I figured I’d do a little blog post about living with this diagnosis.

My journey with fibro/cfs (Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue/Myalgic Encephalopathy) began 11 years ago when I was rear-ended on the way to work. Long story short, I was hit pretty hard and pushed underneath the car in front of me so their back wheels were on my roof. It was terrifying. I drove a little “tupperware car” Saturn Sport Coupe and I had no idea if it’s frame was going to collapse below the weight of the Chevy Malibu that was suddenly imposed upon me. It was definitely one of those moments where you wonder, “Is this how it is going to end?”  I ended up with some pretty intense pain from my injuries, but was fortunate to be able to crawl out the window of my car and walk away.

Fast-forward several years and I had the most bizarre constellation of symptoms. I was still dealing with a decent amount of daily pain in my back and neck, but I was also experiencing migraines 6/7 days of the week. I developed TMJ and my skin became so sensitive it hurt when the wind would blow against it. My eyes would often have difficulty finding focus and depth of field in a large space, and when I got really overwhelmed, they would spasm and rapidly twitch back and forth. I couldn’t sleep at night, and then would fall asleep at work. I never felt like I could get a good night’s sleep, even if I had slept for 8-10 hours. I had difficulty articulating my thoughts and even more difficulty managing multiple tasks/projects at once. My skin would itch, my nose and knees would sometimes go numb, and my hands and feet would always throb and feel swollen in the morning. It hurt to put weight on my feet and felt like I was walking on pins and needles every single morning. I would get so tired that my entire body burned—simple tasks like picking up a glass of water would sometimes make my muscles fatigue as if I had just completed a strenuous workout. And, finally, I had terrible abdominal and chest pain that would sometimes hurt so much I couldn’t stand up straight or take a deep breath (which later I discovered was due to IBS and food sensitivities). Last time I checked, I have battled at least 35 distinct symptoms. Each day was different—some days I would have five symptoms, some days I would have 10, some days I would only have one or two. I never knew when I would be able to get up in the morning or if I was going to make it through the day.

I grew up as a highly competitive gymnast, so I was trained to always push through pain and just work a little harder to achieve anything I set my mind to. The biggest thing I have had to learn through the past decade is that I have to work harder at doing less, not more. I have to constantly ask for help. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do as it goes against every fiber of my being. It makes me feel broken, incapable, and defeated. It is absolutely impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue (the two syndromes are typically present together) what it is like to live, er, feel trapped, inside my body.

It would be easy to give up, and honestly, it is often quite tempting. I’ve been on this chronic illness journey for pretty much all of my adult life and it has cost me everything that the world would call stability. I must constantly remind myself that God will not abandon me, thus He must be up to something here. There must be something good that will come out of this. I even have this art, designed by a friend of mine Jim LePage, hanging on my living room wall that reads:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.”

I need that reminder. Every. single. day. I also need to remember that I am not broken and I am not past the point of repair. I am simply on a journey, albeit a difficult one. Something more lies ahead. I have made progress over these years. Sometimes it is hard for me to see that, but the indicators are certainly there. On the hardest of days, I cling to those indicators—they give me hope and motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

If you happen to know someone with chronic illness, be it fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue, or something other (often hidden) disability, give them grace. For most of us, our lives feel like they are not our own. We will let you down. We will not carry “our fair share” or “our weight” in most relationships, but I promise you we are carrying weight 24/7. If you happen to suffer from fibro/chronic fatigue (or are in the midst of recovering from an serious injury or trauma), my best advice to you is to give yourself grace. Take time to rest. Then take more time to rest. Surround yourself with supportive people that love you regardless of how well they can understand you or how much you can do for them. And never give up.

You are not broken.

fitness, health


July 29, 2015

About 18 months ago, Shaun T and I first met. He had changed some friends’ lives, so I figured he couldn’t be too bad. We hung out in my living room nearly every day and he told me what to do and made it so easy. He even gave me a helper (Tania) that showed me what to do when things were too hard.

I started his T25 program right as I was really starting to improve my health. It got me in the best shape of my life, even though I was doing almost all modified/no-impact moves à la Tania. Stuff happened (like that time I moved to another continent) and we haven’t hung out in a long time. But, the guy earned my respect and trust real fast.

I also kinda love Shaun T because he is an AMAZING dancer. And I always wished he just would create a workout program where he would teach me to dance like him. Since we are besties and all, he must have heard me and he went to work. The result: CIZE (the “end of exercize”). It just launched last week and I gave it a try today.

EEK!! It was so awesome! I was worried it would be corny, honestly. Let’s be honest: an exercize program for “everyone” that is dance-based could easily be cheesy. And then there is that line in the preview where the girl says “that made me feel, like, really cool.” Don’t worry, he redeems the whole video by ending it with “this ain’t no cha-cha-cha.” I’m a swing dancer and ex-gymnast, so I can dance a bit. I don’t THIS kind of dance, but I can dance. So, somehow, in his Shaun T awesomeness, he made Cize easy to follow (it was about as easy to learn the choreography as his other workouts… he breaks it down but you still need a couple of tries to put it all together without a fumble), and fun! So FUN! NOT CHEESY! I was dancing between the “sets” and the best part: my cardio workout—which is NOT my favorite thing and I usually have to block the clock on the screen so I stop staring at it the whole time—flew by!

Shaun T, you won me over again. I’ll see you tomorrow!


Wanna join me? You can even try it for free for a month! Hit me up if you want to join my daily dance parties or get started here and click on “Beachbody on Demand” on the top left.

health, nutrition

HEALTHY EATING TIP: Eat what you love

July 29, 2015

Eat the foods you love and enjoy! This salad contained some of my favorites, and yes, some are healthier than others. But it averaged out to a very healthy meal and finished as two cleaned plates! I learned this tip long ago when I started eating salads for lunch every day. I found that if I threw in a few “treat” ingredients (at the time it was black olives, organic corn and green grapes), I ended up LOVING my big healthy salad. Eating, and being, healthy should be an enjoyable experience. It should be more about adding in the GOOD STUFF and loving it so much that you stick to the plan. No one likes deprivation, and no one is going to stay in deprivation mode as a lifestyle. This salad included some of my favorite foods and flavors (sweet potatoes, grapes, chèvre, sriracha, cayenne and chipotlé) and came together harmoniously. If these aren’t some of your favorite foods, try putting together a salad or healthy meal that incorporates them. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


RECIPE: Sweet Potato Salad with Sriracha-Lime Dressing

(serves 4)

➵ 3 sweet potatoes (including my FAVORITE Japanese yams—it’s purple on the outside and white on the inside and amazing), cubed
➵ 2 tbsp of melted butter or coconut oil
➵ 1 large avocado, cubed
➵ 1 red onion, thinly sliced
➵ 1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
➵ 1 cup red grapes, halved
➵ chèvre (optional for serving)
➵ mixed greens (I used romaine, spinach, mâche and roquette)
➵ 2 tbsp mayonaise
➵ 2 tbsp (or more to taste) of fresh lime juice
➵ 1tsp sriracha
➵ pinch of cayenne
➵ pinch of chipotlé
➵ 1/2 tsp of honey (optional)
➵ salt and pepper



  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cube sweet potatoes, toss in melted butter or coconut oil, season with salt and pepper. Retain the skin for added nutrition!
  2. Roast sweet potatoes until soft and slightly browned, about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and let cool to room temperature after finished.
  3. In small bowl, make lime-sriracha dressing. Combine mayo, lime juice, sriracha, cayenne, chipotlé and salt/pepper to taste. Add the honey if desired. Stir well and set aside.
  4. Prepare other salad items: onion, cranberries and grapes. Toss with greens, add cooled sweet potatoes, optional chèvre (but this is not “optional” if you live in France! 😉), and top with dressing.
  5. Enjoy!


growth, health, life


July 25, 2015

Life is full of change. Sometimes its big changes, sometimes its small. But it all amounts to something really important: YOUR LIFE. This month, in the midst of summer vacations and whatever else may be going on, we are committing to DO SOMETHING every day to make our lives more like we want them to be. More healthy. More authentic. More what you imagine when you dream. What will you do today to change your life?

This is something I need in my life. But I know I am not alone. And I want, more than anything, to help others out of the ruts in which they may find themselves. So, I’m asking if I can join with you on your journey, and you on mine?

Starting August 1, The DO SOMETHING Project is going LIVE! We already have a group forming over on Facebook, so all you have to do is hit me up below in the comments or on FB and I will add you! We are committing, together, to DO SOMETHING every day that gets us closer to our goals. It can be small steps. In fact, I encourage you to make them small steps. Lots of small steps = one giant leap toward the life you desire.

“What’s simple to do is also simple not to do. The magic is not in the complexity of the task; the magic is in the doing of simple things repeatedly and long enough to ignite the miracle of the Compound Effect. So, beware of neglecting the simple things that make the big things in your life possible. The biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not.”
– DARREN HARDY, The Compound Effect

So here is a little of my story. This is WAY scarier than posting about some of the hard stuff I’ve been through. Because I’m on the other side of that stuff. But this journey is still very much in it’s infancy, and I’ve taken more steps backwards than forward. That hardly seems fair to say when I look at all of the steps forward I’ve taken in the last two years… heck, the last 13 years. But, I was SPRINTING forward, and then… I got de-railed. By myself.

I discovered Shakeology and Beachbody right before the holidays in 2013. I had been following my friend Becka on her journey and I couldn’t not join along. We had both had some tough health issues and I could SO RELATE to her story. Our bodies were different in a lot of ways, but our stories were so similar. I was watching her come alive again and I knew how desperately I was seeking to find life. So, I did it. And, HOLY CRAP everything changed. I was able to drop several more medicines out of my regimen, and ALL of the other supplements I was taking (at one point I was on 30 pills a day between medications and supplements). I got in the best shape of my life, and FAST. It was almost enough to make me upset because I trained so hard for so many years as a competitive gymnast and I struggled SO much with me weight and my ability to build muscle (sidenote: I was eating all the wrong things back then.) That experience gave me the confidence I needed to know that I could do what I was doing: move overseas. I was leaving behind my team of docs that had supported me and treated me since I was 15 years old. I was going into so many unknowns, but the biggest thing I wanted to do, other than find myself and be true to my being, was to prove to myself I could still do hard things.

And I’m doing hard things. I’m learning a new language at the age of 33 (try it. I dare you.). I got a visa and then renewed it (you have no idea how hard that is!). I have been over a year with only a couple of doctor’s appointments when I’ve visited home, aside from my newly-found acupuncturist here in Paris. I’m designing again, working with French clients, and have built more websites in the last few months than ever. Hardest of it all: I was finally willing to do what I needed to do to get rid of the toxicity that had been literally keeping me ill for 7 years. Change is hard. Really hard. And really scary.

But through all of that, I totally let myself get de-railed, for much longer than I would have liked, with my fitness journey. As a competitive gymnast turned chonically-ill patient, getting “back in my body” and feeling strong was so redeeming. So encouraging. So invigorating. It gave me confidence in every other area of my life. This isn’t about being skinny. It’s about being and feeling healthy in your own skin. Being in the kind of shape that allows you to do amazing things like climb monuments or hike trails. To be able to ADVENTURE.

I’m getting back on the wagon. And this time, I’m doing everything in my power to set myself up for SUCCESS. I am reading my personal development books (in English and French). I reconnected with my success partner. I am exercising as much as I can when I’m in the city. Now it’s time to get back to my favorite kind of exercise: the 30-minutes a day in my undies in the comfort of my own home! 😉 You guys, it doesn’t get any easier than that and it WORKS! (kicks self in the butt for stopping)

But more than working out, I want my life to matter. I want to breathe my own significance and spread it as far as I can. I have been searching for the way I could make my life count for so many years. I’m passionate about so many things. If I was a kid preparing to go to college, maybe I’d become a lawyer so I could fight human trafficking alongside the likes of IJM. But, I have lived through a lot. I have learned a lot. And I’ve always been convinced it was for a reason. To prepare me for the next phase. That it would be redeemed in some amazing way. So here is my chance to use my story, my journey, to make a difference.