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Unforgettable

It’s been a long two weeks since I have checked into LifeisKatetastic.

I will be honest…I’ve been avoiding this blog big time. In the past I have had a few times where I have spent an extended amount of time away from it, but that usually was because of the fact that I was overwhelmingly busy. I wish I could say that I have been busy these past two weeks, but that would be a total lie.

It is crazy to think how fast your life can change. I have always been one to think that my life would have seamless transition after transition. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that isn’t always the case.

Two weeks ago I had just finished writing a blog article on Don Draper, one of my favorite characters from Mad Men. It was a show I had fallen in love with and wanted to share a thing or two about with those of you who hadn’t given the show a chance yet. After publishing the article and closing my laptop I decided it was time to get my daily workout in and focus my attention elsewhere. I was happy with the way the article turned out and in a very solid, happy place.

Minutes later, life as I knew it would change.

As I was firing up my Beachbody On Demand, Kyle came downstairs and asked me to sit on the couch. He then said the words I would never forget:

“Your mom just called. Your dad had a heart attack….he didn’t make it.”

What happened next I cannot tell you. I remember throwing my phone and crumbling to the floor as my legs gave out. I remember vaguely talking on the phone to my mother and brother. I did not even know how to comprehend what was happening. How does a heart attack happen to literally the HEALTHIEST guy I know? Someone who, at 61, was in better shape than most of the people my age? I didn’t understand then and still don’t understand now how this happened to such an incredible man, and I know I never will.

The past two weeks have been a series of minutes and days running together. Im not sure how my family and I would have survived had it not been for our family and friends who have been with us nonstop. I always knew my family was strong and our friends were amazing….but I realized they were even more amazing than I had ever even imagined. When my mother and I expressed our desire to not partake in the usual holiday traditions, no one questioned us or expressed disappointment. Instead, they stood by our sides, bringing over Chinese and just BEING there for us.

Throughout the past few weeks I have been going through an emotional roller coaster and have realized grief really is strange thing. Unfortunately, I have many friends who have lost parents who have been trying to help me, and for that I am forever grateful. I know there are stages of grief and have been reading a lot about them in place of the daily personal development I typically read. Right now I am really in the denial stage where I just keep thinking my dad will be coming home. There are moments where I somewhat acknowledge what has happened, but most of the time I just am not getting it. I know in time I will come to terms with what has happened…it just isn’t going to be anytime soon.

One big step I am trying to make is just getting back into my routine. On the days I have been able to eat and exercise I feel like a little part of me is alive again. I’m getting back into my daily routine with my business and team, and getting back to this blog definitely helps. Most people don’t realize that my biggest motivator and reason for this blog even existing was my dad. He was a phenomenal writer and liked knowing about the things going on in my life in detail, so I started this blog to not only share our mutual love of writing, but to keep him informed, too. Even though we talked daily, I know he loved opening his email and finding a notification stating I had a new blog article posted. He liked making fun of me for some of the blogs, too.

I cry a lot these days. In fact, I have only worn makeup twice in two weeks…..and we all know how I love makeup. I cry mostly for selfish reasons….I feel robbed of many more memories with my dad. So many people have said to me throughout the past two weeks that everything happens for a reason. I believe this to an extent, yet I have a difficult time thinking that there is something good that will come out of so much pain and sadness. Regardless of that feeling, I trust that something will. I have to.

I’ve written so many times about how Beachbody came into my life, and it is one of those things that I truly believe happened for a reason. For the past two years, I have thought that reason was for ME. I needed to become healthier, both mentally and physically, and I believed that was what this company and opportunity had brought into my life…..a healthier me. Now, after losing my dad, I realize the reason it came into my life had nothing to do with me.

Instead, this opportunity had come into my life so I could be a support for my mother and family. Had I been working my old job in higher education, I would’ve been given a day or two of bereavement and been forced to return before I was emotionally ready. Now that I work from home, I’ve been able to stay with my mom for two weeks without having to answer to anyone. I can be with my family whenever they need me or I need them. It has been the greatest blessing to all of us. I remember back when I first told myself I wanted to coach full time so I could spend more time with my family….It have never occurred to me something like this would happen, and while I desperately wish it hadn’t, I am thankful I can provide in the ways I have been able.

I could go on and on and on in the blog about my dad, but the truth is, there are no words to describe the greatest man in my life. Instead, I have opted to share with you the eulogy I wrote for his service. I am thankful our pastor was able to read it on my behalf because I emotionally could barely speak.

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Those of you who knew him….you were very lucky people. I wish all of you could’ve had a few moments to chat with him . So many of you have been sharing stories and funny moments that involved my dad, and I encourage you to keep doing so. His memory will be alive with me as long as I am breathing, and even though sometimes the memories make me sad, I love hearing about them. To all of you who visited, called, sent flowers, made us meals, came to the service, or simply sent your love……thank you so much. It has meant the world to us.

I am proud of the work that I do because I can serve as a beacon of hope and positivity and inspiration to others. These past few weeks I have not been able to exude the positivity I usually do, and for that I am sorry. You all have been MY beacon of hope, and I thank you a million times for that.

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We rise by lifting others.

You have lifted me when I needed you, and I am grateful.

Please keep lifting others. You never know the battles people are facing. Your kind words, your hugs, even a smile to a stranger….they are all small moments that can impact someone. NEVER question your ability to change someone’s day.

This life event has been the most difficult thing I have ever been faced with. I know the road ahead of me will not be easy. However, I am a fighter, and I am one tough bitch. Losing my dad may have caused me to stumble and fall, but I will get up again, and I will be stronger than I have ever been. My parents raised me to be a strong woman, and that is exactly what I shall be.

I wanted to leave you with a moment of my life that will forever be one of my favorite moments: the dance I was able to share with my dad at my wedding two months ago.

I’m so proud to be this man’s little girl.

We all could learn a thing or two from Don Draper

Earlier this year I finally committed to doing something I had consistently put on the back burner: I decided I would finally watch Mad Men. 

What first world problems, right?

I only like to watch one series at a time…mostly because I become obsessed with it and don’t want anything else to interrupt my viewing flow. Knowing this show had season after season had me skeptical about adding it to my rotation because I just wasn’t positive I wanted to invest that kind of a time commitment.I also questioned if it was the kind of show I would like. Luckily Kyle was also interested in watching it, so we decided we would watch it together and hoped we would like it.

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Photo courtesy of http://www.rte.ie

Like it? I freaking loved it!

Beyond the fact that I am obsessed with clothing from that era, the show was actually really good. I have very few complaints about it other than the casting of a few characters who really annoyed me (Hello, you could’ve cast someone way better than who you chose for Megan).

Besides walking away from the season finale with a severe case of the sads (it happens whenever a series ends for me), I actually walked away with some lessons that are very applicable to my own life and yours, too.

Here are a few things I learned from Don Draper and the cast of Mad Men.

1. Dress for the job you want and how you want to be addressed.
The wardrobe for this show was absolutely impeccable. I can honestly say I have not seen a wardrobe this on point since Sex and the City ended years ago. Every last detail was thought of and took this show to another level.

It didn’t matter who we are referring to on the show….they knew that how they dressed would play into how they were viewed within the advertising agency. Even on casual days Don Draper was decked out and looked more professional that most, but 95% of the time he was wearing a suit that was very well put together. If you are working somewhere where you sincerely believe you could do more and be more, dress like it. No one will take you seriously if you are dressed in clothing that you could also wear on the weekend or around the house. Understand that how you are dressed is a reflection of who you are.

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2. Sometimes the quiet riot is a better way to go. 
A lot of people (guys and gals) think that being the loud and obnoxious type will draw people and attention to you. Don Draper was a perfect example of how quiet confidence can help you, not only in your career, but in the dating world, too. Clearly it worked for him if you noticed how many chicks it landed him throughout the series. His demeanor combined charisma and refinement with a quiet, mild tone of voice that usually gave him the upper hand.

3. Everyone is fighting a battle.
It is so important to understand this statement, especially this time of year. On the outside people may seem to really have it all together, but on the inside they may be battling demons or dealing with sadness or turmoil. Don’t assume you are the only one with problems. Don Draper was a great example of this…..on the outside he looked like a classy, successful man who didn’t have a problem in the world. On the inside he was dealing with identity issues, family issues, and sadness. Looks are deceiving. Be kind to everyone, as you may not know what they are going through.

4. Ask yourself, “What would Don Draper do?”
Despite the fact that he was an alcoholic cheater in his personal life, I loved how he presented himself career wise. When a stressful situation arose, he kept his composure and (most of the time) did not let his emotions get in the way of finding a viable solution. He spent a great amount of his time researching his clients and knowing things about them so he could have a strong and lasting relationship with them. Above all, he was direct with those he dealt with and didn’t beat around the bush. I like that in a person.

5. Money does not equate happiness. Don Draper was extremely wealthy and was able to buy his way out of pretty much anything. However, as we know, through most of the series he was unhappy. He had failed relationships and marriages, issues with his children, and the inability to find true happiness for a long time. He masked his problems by working, working, and working to make more money, causing him to miss out on moments that could bring him true happiness in life. Don never was content with what he had; he always wanted more.

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Photo courtesy of a1genius.com

6. An RBF never goes out of style.
Don’s wife Betty had an incredible RBF (Resting Bitch Face) and had the power to throw a side eye that spoke volumes. Sometimes a strong facial expression is more powerful than hurtful words, as she demonstrated consistently throughout the series.

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Cartermatt.com

7. Be the Joan.
Joan was, by far, my favorite character for a bazillion reasons. In my opinion, she demonstrates the perfect hybrid of a classy woman and complete badass, especially when you take into consideration the time frame this show took place in. Joan possessed intelligence, grace, quick wit, and a sharp tongue.

However, the thing that I like best about Joan is that she went through a great transformation during the series. In the beginning I saw her as a judgmental individual who didn’t want success for others. By the end of the series we had watched her transform into an independent girl boss who spoke her mind freely and made tough decisions that, at the time, were often frowned upon by society. I’m not saying she was perfect…we all know she did make some unsavory choices, but her work ethic and ability to be who she is regardless of what others said is something to be admired.

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Photo courtesy of Pinterest

8. Appreciate the Rogers in your life. 
Roger was a close second to Joan when it came to my favorites. I was fortunate enough to meet John Slattery on the streets of Tribeca several years ago when he was walking his dog and was pleased to know that he was just as kind and funny in real life as the media had made him out to be. When I was able to watch him in the role of Roger Sterling, I instantly fell in love with the zingers and one liners that I came to expect from him. We all have someone in our lives who fills the role of Roger. Appreciate their zany sense of humor and the one liners that always seem to surface at the perfect time.

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Just a couple of chicks hanging with John.

9. You CAN break stereotypes and do whatever you want in life. Peggy Olsen is a great example of this. She went from being a secretary to one of the most creative advertising execs out there. It took hard work and a thick skin, but she loved being creative and had a dream. She wasn’t going to let a society who thought women belonged as secretaries and nothing else to hold her back.

10. Don’t Sh*t where you sleep. If there is one thing this show should tell you it is to NEVER get involved in a romantic relationship with someone at work. Every single person on this show did it at some point or another (some more than once), and it always ended in disaster. If you are going to engage in an interoffice romance, think about the consequences and how it could impact you and your livelihood should it not work out.

If you have Netflix and are looking to binge on a show, add this to your queue. I honestly didn’t think I could ever like a show about an advertising agency. Now it is one of my all time favorites. Watch it!

And when it comes to life and lessons and all that jazz, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the series….one that I think of daily.

In the words of Don Draper, “Make it Simple, but significant.”

I’ll leave you with some funny Rogerisms.

Let’s talk dirty.

Dirty hair that is, ya creeps!

Hair is one of those topics that I feel always come up during a conversations with girls. I guess it’s a good one….I could talk about hair and makeup all day, especially my weird hair routines (we all have them, c’mon).

One thing that I think drives Kyle nuts is the number of hair products I accumulate. It’s just not my fault!!!!

The thing is…..I don’t go through them very quickly, so they do tend to multiply faster than a hamster in heat. I really don’t have a big secret regarding prolonging the life span of a hair product. I just do one thing.

I let my hair get super dirty.

First of all, let me just say it gets dirty in a good way. I’m not walking around with an oil slick on my head or smelly hair or anything. I have just learned after years and years and years of hair abuse a better way to care for my hair and style it.

And that, my friends, is thanks to my little friend……dry shampoo.

Back in the day I would really pull a number on my hair every single day. Wash it, condition it, dry it, curl it (or straighten it), tease it, hairspray it, fluff it later. Oh yeah, and I used to color it constantly, too. Not a good routine when it comes to having healthier hair. On a trip where I didn’t have much time to be focused on hair, a friend asked me why I wasn’t using dry shampoo. I lacked a reason, so she let me try it and <<<<BOOM>>>> Mind Blown.

Let’s talk about what this dry shampoo does for me, and why you should give it a chance.

-I now wash my hair 1 or 2 times a week maximum! This means that I am not going through as much shampoo/conditioner and saving money there.

-Washing hair 1-2 times a week means I am now only blowdrying my hair 1-2 times a week. To you that may be nothing, but to me that saves me a lot of time. It takes me about 35-40 minutes to blow dry my hair…that’s time that could be spent doing other things! It also means I am not damaging my hair like I used to do.

-My hair actually has more texture and holds hairstyles better. If you have ever been to a wedding and needed a great hairstyle, chances are your hairstylist told you to come with dirty hair. There’s a reason! Freshly washed hair cause hairstyles/curls to fall. Dirtier hair makes the hair stay and look great!

Back to dry shampoo….how do I use it?

When I get up and my hair is a mess I follow a very simple process. Here are my easy steps:

  1. Brush hair and remove anything that may be in it (bobby pins, hair ties, etc).
  2. Take the dry shampoo of your choosing and spray it on the oily parts of your hair…..usually for me I spray it right at the scalp, my part line, and sometimes on the tips of my hair if they need some freshening up.
  3. Wait a few minutes (usually I wait about 5 or so). This is a great time to start putting on your makeup, flossing, etc
  4. Using a blow dryer, dry the spots where you have applied the dry shampoo. I usually just blast the rest of my hair for a few seconds. Sometimes I use a brush while drying, other times I use my fingers to finger comb it. This takes about a minute.
  5. Complete styling, whether it be curling your hair, straightening, whatever.

Since I met and fell in love with the benefits of dry shampoo I have tried a number of products. Has anyone else ever noticed how many options we have when we walk down the hair care aisle at the store? Eek! Products for dayyyyssssss. In true Katie fashion I have tried about a thousand of them and have two favorites that I wanted to share with you today, and both are brands that I use presently.

My little saviors.

My little saviors. Batiste and Big Sexy save my life day after day after day after day after day.

Batiste Dry Shampoo : I love this brand because it is inexpensive and comes in a variety of flavors, plus the bottle looks really cute. The kind that I use most is the cherry scent (as you can tell by the cherry adorning the can), but I can say that I honestly have tried them all, and they are all great. You can purchase this at drug stores, Tj Maxx (if it is in stock), or my favorite place, Ulta. Right now it is buy one get one half off PLUS you can use Ulta coupons on it, so be shoppertunistic. It usually runs about $7.99 a pop.

Big Sexy Volumizing Dry Shampoo: This whole product line is amazing, but it is a little pricey. Some drugstores carry the brand, I’ve seen it at Walmart and of course Ulta, and some salons carry it. A small can is about $18. You don’t use a ton of this at a time, so a can will last you for awhile.

Why do I use two brands? Let me share with you.

Batiste is amazing, but when you spray it on your hair it makes your hair white (hello, baby powder). This goes away when I blow dry, and I love it because it is giving me a no brainer where I need to blast with my hair dryer….you know, for those days where Im not quite caffeinated or awake.

Big Sexy does not have any visible markings, so I use this when I need dry shampoo in a pinch and don’t have the option to blow dry.

Both smell great. Both work. Both make my hair happy.

I encourage you to get dirty and see how you feel about dry shampoo. It may just become your new best friend!

Squash the stereotype….Italians can survive without pasta!

Little Pop Quiz for Ya….

Q: What is the one food item that is the most difficult to give up when you are trying to eat healthy AND have Italian in your blood?

A: Pasta, Pasta, Pasta

Don’t get me wrong….pasta isn’t entirely bad……especially when you eat the proper portions. However, what Italian do you know that actually eats the proper portion of lasagna, spaghetti, etc? I know I struggle with it.

Until Now!!!!

I found a way to disguise vegetables as lasagna!

It was a squash kind of week!

This week I made the most amazing lasagna that allowed me to have a pretty substantial portion. Since I am now obsessed with this recipe (I think I will be making it weekly), I had to share.

                                                      Katie’s Bombdiggity Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

         (I know what you are thinking….spaghetti squash, yeah right. Be openminded. Veggies are good for you!)

What you need:

-1 cup ricotta cheese
-2 1/2 cups of Italian turkey or chicken sausage ( I use the Fit and Active brand at Aldi’s)
-1 spaghetti squash (cooked)
-2/3 cup mozzarella cheese
-1 1/2 cups homemade tomato sauce (I use a family recipe or the one in the Fixate cookbook)

To cook the squash:

-I place mine on a cookie sheet and bake for about 55 minutes at 400 degrees. I literally do nothing to the squash other than plop it on the cookie sheet.

***Sidenote….Aldi’s presently has squash on sale for about $1.29 each! Stock up!

While squash is cooking:

-Brown the sausage (make sure to remove the casing….what a fun, slimy, gross job) and spray a casserole dish.

Once you remove the squash from the oven, set it to 375 (the temp for baking the lasagna). Cut the squash in half, remove those blasted seeds, and use a fork to remove the “spaghetti”.

Then break out your inner Italian and assemble the lasagna in the casserole dish as follows:

– Spoon about 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish
-Place spaghetti squash on top of sauce
-Add the sausage (make sure it is drained…no one likes that extra grease)
-Add 1/4 cup sauce, then 1/3 cup of mozzarella cheese
-Spread ricotta
-Top with remaining sauce and mozzarella

Bake for about 15 minutes at 375.

So freaking good!

That’s it! Super easy, and it is absolutely delicious! You can change this up if you want…maybe you don’t want the meat; you can go without. Pair it with a nice salad, and your Italian heart can be happy.

21 Day Fixers, one portion of this is equivalent to ONE GREEN, ONE AND A HALF RED, HALF A BLUE, and ONE THIRD OF A PURPLE.

Don’t be a squash snob…..spaghetti squash is so versatile. And with this recipe the Italian in you doesn’t have to feel guilty about lasagna!

Enjoy, my fellow health conscientious Italians!

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More than a #hashtag

Hashtags can be sooooooo annoying!

Am I right, or am I right?

As annoying as they can be, I can tell you that I am 100% guilty of using and abusing them. After all, when you run a business through social media, they just kind of……..#happen (couldn’t resist).

Unless you have been under a rock or are new to the blog, you know that I am getting married October 3rd (eeeekkkkkk, so close) and, like most weddings these days, Kyle and I have a custom hashtag for the event, #kramereverafter. However, this hashtag is extremely important to me for more than the obvious reason that it symbolizes the day I marry the love of my life.

One thing that I talk about a lot is my incredible family. I am very lucky to have a tight knit bunch who have supported me my entire life and have always had a presence in whatever I did. High school sporting events, graduations, college basketball tournaments, marathons, birthday parties…..my family has always been a part of absolutely everything, and for that I am so grateful. I couldn’t imagine celebrating the milestones in my life without them all with me.

Except now that I have to.

The one part of growing up that I never considered was what I would do without one or more of them at a life event. I think as little kids….even teenagers…we look at our loved ones and relatives as invincible people who will always be there. I can’t help but selfishly wish this was the case.

I have written about my Grandma Bubu on numerous occasions. Over the past 15 years I have slowly watched as Alzheimer’s has taken over her life, and it has been extremely difficult for me to handle. I am convinced that it is one of the worst things that can happen to a person and their family, and while my family and I remain crusaders in the fight to end this disease, we also are heartbroken that this wonderful person is no longer who she once was. In my case, I’ve known for a long time that she would not be able to attend my wedding when the time came, and I somehow managed to accept that idea. I think when it comes to dealing with Alzheimer’s you kind of have to. Some aspects of wedding planning, such as working with a florist, have been more difficult than others because I think about how much Bubu would’ve been involved in the process.

In March of 2014, my family suddenly lost my Aunt Jean after an unexpected heart attack. It was a loss that deeply impacted me and is a loss that I have not fully coped with since it happened. As the only niece on my father’s side, my aunt and I were very close growing up and even though we had some rough patches, I know how much she would love Kyle and enjoy helping in the wedding planning. People laughed at me last month when I mentioned wanting to see The Long Island Medium, Theresa Caputo, when she comes to Youngstown in November, but the truth is my reason for wanting to see her is the hope that I can make peace with some unanswered questions. I don’t care how ridiculous that sounds.

While I had grasped the fact that both of these important family members would be absent on my big day, I had never considered the fact that my Grandma Rosie, who I am very close to, would not be able to attend. In fact early in the planning process, Kyle and I decided against a small destination wedding because it was extremely important to me that she be able to attend. Several months ago my Gram broke the devastating news to me that due to her health she would be unable to attend my wedding, something that had never crossed my mind. Being almost 93 years of age, I understood the health and travel concerns even though the venue was just an hour away from her residence, but deep down my heart shattered, as I know hers did, too. As someone who likes to find creative solutions and solve problems, I tried to think of a million ways to get her to my big day, but I came up empty.

I love this woman!

Which led me to the hashtag that will allow me to share the greatest day of my life with one of the most important people in it.

Kyle and I have incredibly talented photographers on hand to capture the important moments of the day, but it’s the little candid moments that I want to make sure Gram can see. For all of you who are attending the big day, I’d love for you to snap pictures and take videos like crazy, posting with the hashtag #Kramereverafter. My hope is that I have some incredible memories captured by our guests that will make my Gram feel like she was there as I said “I do”. As much as I sometimes get annoyed by social media and hashtags, this one will mean a lot to not only me, but to my grandmother, as well.

Both of my grandmothers and aunt may not physically be there as I walk down the aisle, but I will have a small piece of them with me as I do. For my “something blue” I have collected a blue shirt from Bubu, an apron from my Aunt Jean, and a handkerchief from my Grandma Rosie that my mom has cut into hearts. These three hearts will be sewn inside my dress and be a part of everything I do October 3rd. All three will be deeply missed but I know they will be in my heart the whole time and be there in spirit.

 My Gram may be hip for being 92…..after all she can text. When I told her I would have a hashtag with lots of pictures for her to see after the big day, I am positive she had no clue what I was talking about…..and that’s okay. She will learn soon enough.

Thank you in advance for everyone who helps me share my special day with such a special lady. It truly means the world to me.

My Bride Tribe!

Im really really really really really really really REALLY excited for tomorrow!

I’d like to emphasize the “really” part.

Just so freakin' excited! Thanks pop sugar for this pic!

It’s my bridal shower and bachelorette party day! It is so hard to fathom that Kyle and I are getting married in 50 days…..it seemed so far away, then suddenly BAM! Things are creeping up! We are both super excited and can’t wait to celebrate like crazy on October 3rd!

I’m just as excited for tomorrow and can proudly say Kyle and I haven’t peeked at the registry once (I swear) and somehow I have been left in the dark with the events of tomorrow. Those that know me know I don’t like secrets and am very investigative, so this is really a rare occurrence!

Knowing I will spend the day tomorrow surrounded by family and friends makes my heart so happy….I don’t think I ever have had all of these amazing people in one room, so that will be a really wonderful feeling getting to see them all meet each other and finally talk to people who they have heard me talk about or seen pictures of on Facebook.

There are many elements of my wedding day that I have kept private mostly so our guests will be blown away on the actual day and not know what’s going on in advance. I don’t like secrets, but I sure enjoy keeping them!  Kyle and I have worked really hard to ensure our wedding will be a fun experience for our guests and one that is truly reflective of our personalities. It will be neat to see the enjoyment of our guests!

One element that is by no means a secret would be our wedding party. I am extremely lucky to have an incredible group of friends, and while I have added many great friends in my adult life, my bridal party is made up of individuals who I have had in my life pretty much for all time….or at least it seems that way. I know many of my readers follow me on social media, so these faces are all people who you have seen countless times, but I wanted to introduce you to the ladies of my bride tribe!

Matron of Honor: Kelly

Kelly and I literally have been best friends our entire lives. We met in preschool, lived right down the road from each other, and have more memories together than I could ever even count. It is such a cool thing having someone in your life who has been present for EVERY stage of your life and EVERY big moment. Having someone in your life for 30+ years means they know the best and worst of you, and the fact that our friendship has lasted means one very simple thing: she is just my soulmate, and we will be the old ladies causing a ruckus together in a nursing home someday.

Matron of Honor: Whitney

There’s a saying I once read that stated that every female needed to have a blonde and brunette best friend. I am lucky to have both. Whitney and I became immediate friends about ten years ago after her husband started working with me, and I’m not 100% sure why it was facilitated, but Ryan, her husband, hooked us up on a  friend date at Wal-mart (random, I know). The rest has been history. Our birthdays are a week apart, we have the same sense of humor and love of coffee, and both quote Mean Girls more often that it should. It was a match made in heaven. I’m positive that Whit will be in the nursing home with Kel and I, and I am also positive she will still be able to show a spreadsheet what’s up even then.

Bridesmaid: Erin

Erin and I met through Kelly back in junior high when we all decided to play in a summer basketball league together. While Kelly and I were Leetonia Bears, Erin played for one of our rivals, the Crestview Rebels. Once school resumed we started a friendly rivalry in volleyball, basketball, and track. Our friendship continued to grow once we graduated college and Erin chose to move to Pittsburgh. We got an apartment near the city and lived together until I made the decision to relocate back to Ohio. It was Erin’s encouragement that got me to sign up for an online dating profile, and without her support,I most definitely would not have met Kyle and this blog would definitely not be happening.

Bridesmaid: Krista

Krista and I met through Erin (funny how this all works, out, eh?) in the same summer league I mentioned earlier. She was also a Rebel and I immediately loved her sarcastic and witty sense of humor. Since our circle was very intertwined, we were able to see each other and hang out often once we hit the adult world. Once I moved back to Ohio, I moved nearby Krista, and we started having regular American Idol and chinese takeout dates…which led to Super Mario Brothers dates…and then puppy playdates, as my pug Simon and her puggle Harley were close friends. It is such a cool thing seeing her now as a mom to one of the cutest little guys I know, Wesley, yet still having the same spirit and zest for life that she had when I first met her.

Bridesmaid: Jodi

Jodi and I met through Erin and clicked absolutely immediately. I’m not sure if it was our love for running, the weird and random inside jokes we seemed to have right away, or our love for shopping, but our instant connection led to us signing up for the Pittsburgh Marathon together on a whim. This led to us running it together with no training, then taking on countless races and marathons together since. We even have shirts that are like the old school best friends necklace where my shirt says “Running” and hers says “partner”. Beyond our love for running, her house has always been my getaway spot and there have been many times I have felt like her couch was a therapist’s chair. I can always count on Jod to tell it to me straight, make me laugh, then hook me up with my favorite crab artichoke dip to feel better, and I can always count on both her and Krista to warn me about puddles.

Bridesmaid: Laura

Laura….well, Laura had no choice when it came to her involvement in my life. As my cousin, she has been there since I was a brat in diapers. Lucky for me, she decided I was okay and decided not to torture me as a little girl. Since our family is small, we have many fun memories at our Great Grandparents’ house (pretty sure most involve some kind of amazing Italian food), and since she is only a year older than me, we were able to be active in many sports and events in high school together. Some of my favorite memories during high school involve hanging out in the hot tub at her house and just chillin out. I’m so happy to have her as a partner in crime, especially in events that involve mud and obstacles.

Bridesmaid: Julie

Julie (aka AF)and I became friends when I decided to join a sorority in college. We ended up in the same pledge class and quickly realized we had the same ridiculous  personality and sense of humor, thus, an obnoxious and everlasting friendship was born. My days were always instantly better when we got to have lunch and the Thiel cappuccinos together, because I always knew I would leave with a side stitch from laughing so hard. Besides being one of the best pool players I know, I can always count on this chick for the best food recommendations, incredible musical suggestions, and really down to earth advice. She has stuck by my side through some pretty rough times, and I could not imagine my life without her.

Bridesmaid: Em

Emily (aka Em) is my sister from another mister. Somehow she ended up in my big family in our sorority, and I honestly believe that was on purpose so we could meet and have the bond we do.  Our first meeting involved a visit to Thiel with my pug, Simon, which led us to realize we both were obsessed with pugs. Now, as adults, we are still obsessed with pugs, only now we can have playdates with ours, and we both have our own cars so we don’t have to “borrow” them without permission. I’m so happy our friendship and shenanigans have not fizzled over time.

I’m so so so thankful to have such a Ride or Die group of friends in my life. When I think about all of the good and bad times of my life, these ladies have all been there to cheer me up, laugh with me, and support me. I truly would not be the person I am today without each and every one of them, and it is an honor to have them stand next to me on the most important day of my life! But can someone promise to make sure I cross my legs in pictures???? I don’t want a repeat of my preschool picture when Kelly is seated politely next to me, and I’m…..well…..you can see what I’m doing.

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Here’s some more fun memories I just had to share!

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Brooks Was Here; So Was Katie

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” -Andy Dufresne Isn’t that an amazing quote? I cannot think of a single human being that cannot connect to that quote in some way. Ahhhhh, The Shawshank Redemption. One of my absolute all time favorite movies. I literally will watch it every single chance I get like it’s the first time, and if you have cable and TNT, you know that’s pretty often. I’m okay with it, though. It is a classic with an amazing message, and it just makes me feel great when I watch it.

Take this as your instruction to watch it if you haven’t. 

Speaking of favorites, I have blogged many times about my love of running, so when I learned about an event several months back that combined running with Shawshank, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. That event, my friends, was The Shawshank Hustle, which took place last weekend in Mansfield, Ohio.

This building is just amazingly cool to look at it.

This building is just amazingly cool to look at it.

I am fortunate to live not far from the Mansfield Reformatory (it’s only about an hour from our house), and I frequently pass Mansfield as I go back and forth to Columbus….yet after all this time I have never visited. To be 100% honest, part of me has refrained from visiting because I have heard countless ghost stories about the prison, and I think we all know I am a little bit of a wuss with that stuff. My family has continually brought up doing the overnight ghost tour throughout the years, and while part of me is intrigued….the other part is terrified. I figured if I can handle the prison during the daytime, maybe I could consider the overnight thing.

Back to the Shawshank Hustle, the run itself began in front of the Reformatory and ended in front of the Reformatory with a lovely hilly 5 mile run through Mansfield in between (lies I was told….I thought it was only a 4 miler). This was the first year for the event, and being a seasoned racer, I had some trepidation knowing that often first time races are a hot mess, as there is typically a lack of organization and mass chaos. For those of you who love running, creepy places, and Shawshank, here is my review of the race.

-Running Course: I found the course to be really great. There were some crazy hills, but the run itself allowed me to see what a cute town Mansfield was. I found it challenging (the heat had a big part of it), but it was a good kind of challenge, and I loved seeing the Reformatory displayed in front of me as I ran the final half mile, known as Redemption Road (those of you on Periscope who tuned in saw me live broadcast as I ran into the finish).

Gary, Sharon, and I getting ready to start the race!

Gary, Sharon, and I getting ready to start the race!

-Water Stops: One area that could be improved next year. There were two within the same mile (mile 2), and for a hot July morning, I definitely feel like there should’ve been another and they should’ve been spaced out some.

-Race Swag: The swag was pretty cool. All runners received a Shawshank Hustle tech shirt that glows in the dark, a custom medal upon completion, and free entrance into the Carousel and the Reformatory.

We just love medals!

We just love medals!

-Post Race Food: There was a good selection of your typical race food for all runners (Nans, mixed nuts, corn thins, chips, apples, and water). The post race food also included vendors with a variety of fair like foods if you were interested in gyros or funnel cakes.

-Pre/Post Race Party: The atmosphere was awesome….the individuals pumping up the crowd did a great job, fun music, plenty of Port-a-johns, and some great vendors around with merchandise and giveaways, like Saucony, hooking people up with cool headbands and other items.

Got to run another race with one of my BFFS, Jodi!

Got to run another race with one of my BFFS, Jodi!

-Transportation to and from race: This was my biggest complaint. Nearly 3000 runners participated in the Hustle, however the Reformatory was only able to accommodate 300 cars in its parking lot. Due to this fact, all runners who did not arrive in time to park at the Reformatory had to park at the Speedway about a mile away. There were shuttles to take runners back and forth, however, there were only three school buses that were actually transporting. When Gary, Sharon, and I arrived, the line to get onto the buses was over a mile long (this is not an exaggeration), and by the time we got to the front of the line, it was definitely closer to 2 miles. The delay in transportation actually caused the race directors to push the start of the race back a half hour.

Selfie as we wait? Sure!

Selfie as we wait? Sure!

-Post race tour of the Reformatory: Due to the amount of runners, we all did self guided tours. I was a little concerned at first because I was interested in hearing some of the stories, but I figured if I enjoyed the tour I could always come back and take advantage of a guided tour in the future. We were able to check things out at our own pace, including the Warden’s office, the tunnel Andy Dufresne climbed to freedom using, the room where Red met with the parole board, and several other sites from the movie. In addition, we got to actually walk through the jail cell area, which was super creepy to me. Some may know that I have a little thing with heights, so the small catwalk I had to scale across past the cells was extremely uncomfortable for me. Not only did it feel like it took forever (the corridor is extremely long and narrow), but it gave me a chance to see the cells up close and personal. I must say, that is how a jail cell should be……very small and confined, gross, and uncomfortable.

This place is def not the Hilton.

This place is def not the Hilton.

Because you should take a selfie with Brooks......

Because you should take a selfie with Brooks……

-Creepiness Factor: Somehow I missed some of the creepiest locations in the reformatory, including the tuberculosis room, however, I still felt really strange in most parts of the building. Sharon and I experienced a weird feeling of extreme pressure on our chests as we passed by one of the strange closets, but it was gone once we were past the doorway. Honestly, some of the creepiest locations were allegedly after we got out of the jail cell area, but since I was still in half panic mode because of the heights, I missed them. Maybe that’s a good thing….

After I got home, I did some research on the Reformatory, which I wish I had done before. Even though it is creepy and I was uncomfortable, my level of intrigue greatly heightened after reading some of the tales and talking to some of my friends who have completed the overnight tour. I won’t say Im sold on doing it yet, but I am way more on board with the idea than I was a month ago. We’ll see.

Bottom line: If you are a runner, this race was absolutely worth the entry fee. The minor hiccups of the shuttle system will most likely be addressed next year, and the rest of the experience was so fantastic I would highly recommend it to others. If you aren’t a runner, but you like cool places, absolutely check it out. And if you are into ghosts and have experienced something crazy there, I would love to hear about it.

Learn more about the Reformatory by visiting http://www.mrps.org.

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Birchbox Vs Ipsy: The Great Debate

I am obsessed with makeup and beauty products…..pretty sure everyone knows this by now. I’m also pretty into samples. Getting to try something gives me the opportunity to try things out before I choose to invest in them….i like saving myself money.

Insert into this discussion a concept that I embraced several years back: a sampler box being delivered to my door every month. At first I was apprehensive….do I really want to spend money on samples and products I have never heard of….is it worth it? Finally I bit the bullet and decided that I would give Birchbox a chance.

So what is Birchbox? It’s a company that launched back in 2010 by two individuals, one a self proclaimed makeup connoisseur and the other a makeup novice. Their objective was to provide beauty product lovers of the world the opportunity to try some quality products in an inexpensive way. Their idea ended up being a monthly beauty box that arrives monthly…… all for the lovely price of $10. Each box comes with 5 total items, 4 of which were sample size and one full sized.

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Then there is Ipsy. Ipsy was created by Michelle Phan, an individual who was known for her Youtube beauty tutorials. Much like Birchbox, Michelle wanted to get great products she loved out for others to try. Ipsy’s monthly Glam Bag is $10 a month and delivers five samples including full sized products.

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The two sound similar, right?

On the surface, they seem like they are the same fabulous deal. To be honest, they are both great. If you are a beauty lover like me, getting new products to try is a great thing…..especially when one is full sized, so it’s hard to not love samples. I can honestly say that some of my favorite new beauty products were discovered after I gave a sample a shot. With both companies you create a profile based on what kind of beauty products you like so they customize the samples they send you, which makes it even better.

I have declared a winner in the Birchbox/Ipsy debate. If you are trying to determine the best of the two and where your $10 should go, let me share with you my thoughts. After all, this month I officially canceled my subscription to one of these companies and now only subscribe to the company I think it better. Who would that be?

My winner!

Ipsy is my winner! Let me share my reasoning:

1. The packaging. Birchbox does come in a different box each month that has a fun design….and don’t get me wrong….I love the boxes, but I don’t really have much use for them after I take the items out of it. Ipsy not only comes in a cute metallic pink envelope (screams Katie), but each month your samples come in a different bag. The bags are great for traveling, plus they are very modern and chic….nothing lame like some of the bags you get from department store makeup counters (Clinique comes to mind).

2. The Quality. I have gotten many great products from Birchbox, but I don’t think they hold a candle to the products I get from Ipsy. The past couple of months my Birchbox items included fun products, no doubt, but the only brand I really knew about prior to the box arriving was Benefit. In addition, sometimes I got items that I didn’t want….like shampoo and conditioners when I had specifically asked not to have any of these items sent. With Ipsy, I have received Too Faced Melted lipstick (one of my all time favorites), Smashbox, OGX, and Not your Mother’s (if you read my article on hair you know how much I love this brand). I’d much rather receive the items I love…..great for having on hand for trips and to meet airport regulation size, and I have yet to receive something outside of the profile I created when I set up my account.

3. The Benefits. If I wanted to purchase anything from my Birchbox, I didn’t feel like I saved much, sometimes 10% was the max. With Ipsy, I save 40%. That’s called being shoppertunistic.

You may agree with me, you may not. Regardless, I truly support anyone who gives either a try. $10 is a great deal for the items you add to your makeup vanity and can help you save money in the long run. You won’t be sorry….especially if you are new to the beauty game and want to determine what you like.

In the meantime, I’m leading Team Ipsy.

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Home Sweet Home No More.

I’ve been riding a roller coaster of emotion for the past month. Seriously. Front row of the roller coaster, no seat belt, hands in the air. No friends joining me.

This weekend I finally stepped off the roller coaster that has clearly been tugging at my heartstrings. That, my friends, was done by saying goodbye to a member of our family that has been with us for 25 years.

Our house.

Yes, you heard right. My house.

25 years of some of the best memories of my life.

25 years of some of the best memories of my life.

Several months ago my parents shared with me that they had made the decision to sell the home where I had spent a great portion of my life living. I understood their reasoning. After all, there was a substantial amount of yard work, and they didn’t want to have to manage that anymore.

I had never considered them leaving that home, so when my mother first told me I wasn’t sure how to react. At first I felt a little silly that my heart was so torn with their decision. I wanted them to be somewhere they loved and could be happy, and I knew moving to a condo  would definitely help them with that. I was heartbroken to leave behind so many memories and the comfort of a place I could always go to for peace and happiness…..and also leave behind my beloved little Simon, who I had buried after his death near a tree by my bedroom window. At the same time, his death and the reasons behind it had a part of me wishing my parents would move since it happened.

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One of many wonderful moments in our living room.

 

I have always had an attachment to places, and moving has always been hard for me. To those who know me best, you know that I, myself, have had my fair share of moving. Since I graduated from college I have moved 16 times. SIXTEEN. I don’t like doing it….life has happened, jobs have relocated me….I’ve just become best friends with Two Men and a Truck. In fact, as most of you know, 90% of my stuff is presently in a storage unit as Kyle and I prepare to move again, which will happen as soon as we find a house that meets our needs (we need a pump room, no negotiating that fact). Yet, this move is different.

How do you go about sorting through the emotions involved with a move like this? I had no clue with this one. I helped my mother go through items that I forgot existed as they started to pack everything up….clothes I wore as a baby…my favorite books and toys as a child…old trophies and awards….my entire Barbie collection (it was extensive). It was fun to cruise down memory lane while also being so emotionally draining.

Here's an old school pic of my brother and I at our (now) old house.

Here’s an old school pic of my brother and I at our (now) old house.

Yesterday I was able to visit my parents’ new condo, and I absolutely loved it. I am so happy they found a place that was perfect for them. Yes, it was a hot mess because boxes were everywhere and they were just starting the “put things away” game, but I could see the possibilities in it. As my mother said, a home is more than just the building….it’s the memories and people that were in it.

Mama is always right.

As I sit here today and think about the fact that I will never be in my old house again, I also think about what a great house it was.  Im thankful for 25 years in such a beautiful place. I’m thankful for 25 years worth of family dinners together and shooting hoops outside with my dad. I’m thankful for the Sunday morning runs in the cemetery that was across the street and for living in the country so I could appreciate its beauty. I’m thankful for the parties, holiday events, and people who have graced our residence over 25 years. Mostly, I’m thankful for the family I have and thankful that regardless of where we live, we will always be at home when we are together.

Congrats on a new chapter of your lives, Mom and Dad!

The number of pictures we took in this spot cannot be counted. First day of school pics....special events...just because pics.....this one was before my uncle's wedding.

The number of pictures we took in this spot cannot be counted. First day of school pics….special events…just because pics…..this one was before my uncle’s wedding.

 

 

 

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Adios, 2014!

Happy 2015, everyone!

So…….2014 absolutely flew by. I’m not just saying this because I am shamefully realizing how LITTLE I blogged over the past year, but I seriously feel like I was just celebrating New Year’s last year. I guess everyone who told me time flies the older you get wasn’t lying! To be fair, this past year has been so incredibly busy, so that doesn’t help the cause either. Regardless, I promised my friend Michael I would blog more this year, so…..Hi, blog! Here I am!

2014 was an absolutely incredible year for me for so many reasons. A blog post could never, ever do it justice. This was the year that the stars aligned in my life and somehow every aspect of my life changed dramatically in a positive way. Many things contributed to that….some larger in the scheme of things, and some very small, simple changes. I honestly believe the reason why I loved 2014 so much was because I, for once, appreciated the little things in life in a much greater sense than I ever have. After all, the little things end up being the big things, right????? Since I am all about reflection and re-evaluation, I wanted to share some of the highlights of the past year and why they impacted me so much. I know everyone is busy creating those Facebook Year In Review movies, but mine never seem to focus on the important things, so here is my version of the year in review.

In 2014, I…….

GOT ENGAGED!  No surprise here that this is the top of the list! When Kyle proposed during our Atlantic City trip in May, it was seriously the greatest day of my life. Everything about it was perfect, and I can’t wait for our one of a kind wedding in October. It’s going to be simply amazing.

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Ah….snap!

WELCOMED A NEW BABY TO THE WORLD! No, this baby was not my own, but the baby of one of my BFF’s, Whit. I cannot begin to tell you how I happy I was for J’s birth……or how handsome he is…..or how loved he is. He also doesn’t object to me getting into his playpen thing with him, and that’s pretty cool in my book!

The little prince himself!

The little prince himself!

-CELEBRATED THE WEDDING OF MY BFF! While one of my BFF’s was busy with a new baby, my other BFF got married! Kelly and I have been friends since we were 5 years old, so I was elated to be in her wedding and celebrate such an awesome day with her!

Love this gal like a sister!

Love this gal like a sister!

-HELPED RAISE THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR ALZHEIMER’S! This charity….I love love love raising money for a cause so dear to my heart. This year I served as captain of Team Brunette in the annual Blondes Vs. Brunettes game, which was an absolute honor. Collectively, we were able to raise over $10,000 for the Association. And, as always, I participated on Team Bubu’s Bunch at the annual Memory Walk, my family’s team for my Grandma Bubu, who is suffering from the disease.

– CONFRONTED FEAR AND CONQUERED THE WARRIOR DASH! Last year my cousin Laura and I successfully completed the Warrior Dash. This year, with the addition of Kyle, we decided to give it another go. I was terrified of the newest obstacle, The Goliath, and honestly did not think I would be able to finish the course. Thankfully, Kyle helped get me over this mammoth obstacle high off the ground, and I enjoyed a major muddy plunge right before the finish (special thanks to my mom for catching this on tape).

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

BECAME A MEMBER OF THE SUMMIT ATHLETIC BOARD OF DIRECTORS! This was a great honor for me. I have been an active member of the Summit Athletic Running Club (aka SARC) for two years, and my membership in the group has been such a blessing. This club has over 700 members and growing and is composed of some of the coolest people I know. We run together. We motivate each other. We are awesome together. When I was asked to be a member of the Board of Directors, I, naturally, was ecstatic. I love being a leader, and this club means the world to me, so to be a leader within it….just super cool in my book.

Volunteering with some SARC Board Members and club volunteers

Volunteering with some SARC Board Members and club volunteers

-HAD TWO AMAZING PHOTOSHOOTS WITH ONE OF THE GREATEST PHOTOGRAPHERS AROUND! One of the things I love about being a leader in the Beachbody Community is that I have access to an amazing photographer, Mrs. Virginia herself, Danette Anderson. This year I was fortunate enough to have not one, but TWO shoots with D, and they were both incredible. Here are a few shots that I absolutely love:

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-ATTENDED DYNASTY UNITED’S FIRST EVER DIAMOND RETREAT! This was such a fun weekend! In October, I joined about 25 other leaders within the Beachbody Community for a leadership retreat and mastermind weekend. It was amazing getting to meet these women and share different ideas with them, as well as celebrate the success we have had over the year. I can’t wait for the next one, and am already looking forward to our trips to Cancun and Nashville in 2015!

Dynasty United Leaders!

-RAN AGAINST MY DAD AT THE STAR TRAX RACE! One of my favorite things every year is this annual race where my dad and I run against each other. Every year he says he is going to beat me, every year I say I will beat him, and every year I lose. I can’t even be upset about it anymore….my dad is extremely fast, and I love the challenge. I am so proud of him, even if he beats me!

After the race!

After the race!

-GOT TO ACTUALLY BE WONDER WOMAN FOR A DAY! I’m not going to say a whole lot about this photoshoot because some elements of it are a surprise (for now), but if you know me, you know I love Wonder Woman, so this was such a blast.

A little sneak peek!

A little sneak peek!

-ACHIEVED HUGE BUSINESS MILESTONES WITH MY TEAM! I’m really, really, really proud of what The Sparkle Squad was able to accomplish this year. Collectively, we helped over 500 individuals confront their health and weight issues positively and led them to a healthier lifestyle. As I was working on our year in review video, I got pretty emotional about it. What we do is such a life changing opportunity. To know my team and I had a small part in helping them achieve healthier goals makes my heart very, very happy.

-RAN WITH A DONUT ON MY HEAD……AGAIN! As always, Running for Donuts made its appearance at the Akron Marathon and kicked some serious butt! This year my friend Holly aka Cream Stick joined the team, and she was a great addition! We also changed up our shirts and went with a bright green instead of the pink shirts we have worn in years past. Since it was such a hit last year, I ran with a donut on my head yet again. It’s the little things that I love…..

Running for Donuts 2014

Running for Donuts 2014

-WENT TO THE FROG EXHIBIT AT THE ZOO! One of my goals this year was to successfully walk through the frog exhibit at The Cleveland Zoo without having a panic attack and passing out. The thought of this terrified me. If you didn’t know, my biggest fear in life includes frogs and toads…ugh, I hate typing those words! Anyway, when I ran the Wigs for Kids 5k at the zoo earlier in the summer, I decided that was the perfect time to go through the exhibit. Kyle was with me, so I knew I had protection. I made it through the exhibit without any issues, and even was able to sit on this statue (something I haven’t been able to do in the past).

Feeling froggy.....kind of

Feeling froggy…..kind of.

-TOOK ON THE PITTSBURGH MARATHON! Originally I was scheduled to run to full Pittsburgh Marathon in May with my pals, which was another goal of mine this past year. Unfortunately, in February I got really sick and was in and out of the hospital and doctor’s offices for about 5 weeks. This majorly impacted my ability to run, and I wasn’t officially cleared to even go out for a leisurely jog until mid April. Because of this, I made the decision to drop from the full to the half, as I knew it would be dangerous to run my first full with minimal training. I was lucky enough to run with some of my favorite SARC friends and one of my BFFs, Jodi, and had the support of my mother and friend Julie on the streets cheering me on. This race was a great personal victory for me….mostly because my headphones shorted out right after the start, and I was forced to run the whole 13.1 course without music, something I had never done. It was a challenge, but absolutely changed how I experienced the marathon, and I am so glad it happened as it did.

After the race!

After the race!

-WORE CLOTHES 3 TIMES SMALLER THAN LAST YEAR! I love that my job allows me to help others lose weight, gain self esteem, believe in themselves, and create a healthier life for them and their families. What I also love is how much it has helped me do all of those same things. This year I was ecstatic to buy a dress THREE TIMES smaller than what I have been wearing! Beyond that, I feel better and am stronger than I ever ever.

I don't even know who that person on the left is anymore!

I don’t even know who that person on the left is anymore!

 

-I SUFFERED THREE MAJOR HEARTACHES. While this year was very, very good to me, it was also extremely difficult. I lost my Aunt Jean unexpectedly in March, which absolutely broke my heart into a million pieces. In August, my dear friend Andy, who I have written about several times on this blog, lost the battle he had been fighting over the past two years. I also had to say goodbye to our family beagle, Wrigley. These losses were all so difficult (still difficult, to be honest) to process, but if anything, they made me realize how fragile life is and how we should never ever hold a grudge, go to bed angry, or leave loved ones without loving words.

Miss this guy every day.

Miss this guy every day.

I could go on and on and on, but I think that list covers the biggies. 2014, thank you for being a banner year in my life. I am thankful for the love, lessons, and laughter I experienced this past year, but I welcome 2015 with open arms and can’t wait to see what it has in store for us. Here’s hoping you have a fantastic 2015 as well!