Audrey & Bethany NEED your help meeting a need!

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Every year at Christmas, one of the company I work for (my parent’s company) has a “Food for Friends” drive that pivots around our company open house. Suppliers, trades, customers, friends and even, at times strangers make donations to our local food bank and each year blow our minds with their generosity. It’s overwhelming to stand, at the back of my Mom’s Honda Pilot, looking at the mass amounts of food, diapers and supplies given out of the goodness of people’s hearts.

For Bethany & Audrey, it’s one of their favourite parts of the Christmas season. They love having the privilege of helping us deliver the food to the local Salvation Army and eagerly help load food hampers with us for families in need in out community.

When we had kids, Corey and I set out to raise women who have “Jesus’ heart”, who are kind, generous and loving. Little did we know that HE gave us girls with so much more than we could ever teach them. Their love for helping – whether it’s me in the kitchen or kid who’s sad is such a beautiful thing. They were born with the desire to serve and we try, as often as we can to give them avenues in which they can do it.

Recently, a need in our community came to our attention and its direct connection to our lives & our hearts resulted in all of us feeling like we HAD to do something…and so we are! (secret: We’re inviting YOU to help too!)
Most of you know that a year and a half ago Audrey was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. The means that for the safety of her body she can’t eat anything that contains gluten! It will harm her, both in immediate physical symptoms and long term permanent damage to her little body. It was a hard diagnosis to swallow, but one we have grown to appreciate and embrace. It changed her life and it has made us so much more aware of a different kind of need.

Someone with Celiac disease needs to eat “Gluten Free” foods (certified) for their body to function properly and be safe. That means it can’t contain wheat, rye, barley or triticale (among other things), nothing that contains gluten. In general, we have found this to be not so difficult. Fresh fruits, vegetables & meats are all naturally gluten free, as are non-gluten grains (rice, millet, sorghum) etc. Where you run into the cost, and potential problem in this diet is when it comes to bread, dairy products, pasta, cured meats, crackers and canned goods. Many things, MANY of them that you would think are gluten free – like a can of mushroom soup, are not. They are filled with gluten – and there for seriously dangerous to a Celiac.

The items that are gluten free are significantly more expensive than their wheat counterparts and this diagnosis can take a real toll on your grocery bill. For those living on meager means, or needing assistance, this can feel or even be nearly impossible.

See where I’m going with this?

Last week we learned that our local food bank and food banks around Canada have very little in regards to gluten free foods. In fact, the lady I spoke to said there are times they have almost no gluten free foods to offer to a family in need who are facing Celiac disease, or wheat allergy. She said there are times they come and look through the canned foods available and can’t find almost anything safe for them. Unfortunately, the majority of what gets donated to a food bank, the things they are able to keep in stock for families in need are things that are packaged & canned. These are the very things that people like our Audrey can’t have.

When we learned this our hearts broke and the girls were filled with questions – “How did we not know this was happening?”, “WHY is it happening?” and more importantly “How can we fix it?”

The answers are simple – we didn’t know it was happening because we didn’t think to ask. The reason it’s happening is because NOBODY else knows there’s a need either, and what we can do about it why I’m writing this blog post!

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From August 15 – 18 2016 Audrey and Bethany are holding their first ever GLUTEN FREE FOOD DRIVE! And as an added bonus they’re raffling off 2 Chilliwack Chiefs Kids Jerseys (you earn an entry when you donate)
We will be collecting Gluten Free donations for our local food bank, doing our best to not only fill their shelves with foods safe for everyone but also to create awareness in our community, and communities around Canada about a need that needs meeting! This is a problem we CAN fix – if you’re willing to help us.
Here’s how you can help:

  1. If you live in the Chilliwack/Fraser Valley area purchase some gluten free food and contact me. We will have a collection location for you to drop off your food
  2. Tell your friends about Audrey & Bethany’s Gluten Free Food Drive and invite them to participate
  3. If you live ANYWHERE else in Canada purchase a few gluten free items & donate them to your local food bank.
  4. Consider running your own Gluten Free Food drive and help your local food banks
  5. Share this blog post/Facebook event and help spread awareness to a growing need
  6. Leave a comment and share with us how YOU would like to help

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Helping someone else isn’t a chore friends, it’s a choice. Today we care daring you to make a choice to acknowledge a need and do what you can to meet it!

When it all comes Crashing In

-So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.-Isaiah 41-10
This past month has been one of the hardest months I have faced in my life. Not because of my family, or my friends or my job but because of me. The water I’ve been treading has felt dark & deep, and I’ve barely been keeping my head above water.
 
June was an intense month for us. 3 trips to Children’s hospital for Audrey, end of school & some other emotionally heavy pieces weighed life down. I kept going, smiling, telling myself I was good, we were good – it was FINE because I felt I had no choice. If I wasn’t fine, then someone else might see the hard or my girls might feel it.
 
Then July 2nd came, the final appointment had passed, school was over and all of a sudden it all came CRASH in on me. My body literally had a complete spaz attack and I began to feel pain and discomfort like I’ve never felt. I couldn’t exercise how I’m used to, I couldn’t move how I like to and it was a chore getting through each day.
 
But it wasn’t just the pain, it was the flood of emotions, uncontrollable emotions that took me over. I cried, sobbed for days. My parents were gone on holidays, I hid from my friends terrified if they saw me they’d see through my smile. I wasn’t even sure I could smile, and I was afraid they’d see me crumbling, they’d think I was weak – they’d know I was failing.
 
I couldn’t breathe, I could barely move and for the first time in my adult life I actually thought maybe I was dying. That this was the end.
 
Never in my life have I been so afraid, so desperate for the love and comfort of the Holy Spirit, so completely and utterly helpless.
 
The good news is that some of that has passed. Some of the emotions that overwhelmed are being worked through. Though I’m pretty sure a hormone imbalance is adding to the problem.
 
The physical pain has lessened too. It’s not nearly as bad as it was, but there have been ultrasounds, there are specialists appointments and plans for some IV therapy treatments.
 
I even saw a Chiropractor with plans to also see physio & massage. You guys – I was SO at the point of desperation that I actually let someone TOUCH ME. I HATE to be touched so this step blew the minds of my family.
 
And slowly I am working on talking to and seeing the women I love so very much.
 
When I climbed that mountain the other day – I stared into the eyes of all that hurt, all the fear, and all that I believed would destroy me. We didn’t plan to finish, I wasn’t sure my body would let me, but my beautiful friends were patient. They stopped, they waited, we laughed and around each (steep) switch back, I’d look up and think “It still so far” then I’d turn around and look back and think “But look how far I’ve come, I can go a little more”.
 
And then all of a sudden we were there. Looking out at God’s great creation, the overwhelm hit my soul – I did it. I made it through the hard and now, NOW I had my reward.
 
I wish I could say it’s over and I’m 100% fine but I’m not. I’m far from “normal” again, but at least I see that light. I have hope, I have a plan and the tears have dried.
 
The part of this story I love the most?  It’s that in the moments when I thought all was lost.  When I was scared, hiding, alone – Jesus met me.  Verses from Sunday school days past poured over my heart, worship songs soothe my soul and His gentle whisper of love lifted me up and has carried me through.
 
My struggles haven’t made me weak, they made me humble and inside that humility I found the thing I long for in this life the most – a closer relationship with my heavenly father and for that I can’t possibly be anything but thankful.  

He likes Big Butts and He Should have Lied…

Corey and Ashley Sept 2005This is us, with in a day or two of the story below.

We’d been together about 2 months, when Corey looked at me with love in his eyes, sighed and said “This song reminds me of you…”  his face full of dopey, dreamy new love.

 I couldn’t see my face at that moment, but I could feel it and based on the fire beginning to burn inside of me I’m going to hazard a guess in saying it wasn’t exactly pretty.

Before you start thinking I’m a calloused, cold hearted woman who didn’t appreciate the fact that her fiance was being so romantic, let’s just discuss the song that reminded Corey of me…

Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” (the link takes you to the video.  I really don’t want it embedded here)

Now, let’s just talk about the lyrics to that song:

“They only talk to her, because, she looks like a total prostitute, ‘kay?
I mean, her butt, is just so big.
I can’t believe it’s just so round, it’s like, out there, I mean— gross. Look!
She’s just so… black!

[Sir Mix-a-Lot]
I like big butts and I can not lie
You other brothers can’t deny
That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung, wanna pull out your tough
‘Cause you notice that butt was stuffed
Deep in the jeans she’s wearing
I’m hooked and I can’t stop staring
Oh baby, I wanna get with you
And take your picture
My homeboys tried to warn me
But that butt you got makes me so…”

Let’s just stop right there.  This IS a family site after all.

I stood there in disbelief, my brain spinning a mile a minute, as the song played and the lyrics painted a picture in my head of what I looked like to my future husband – 

a prostitute who has to stuff her “round thing” into her jeans, that all his friends warned him about.  Oh and did I forget to mention her BUTT IS BIG?! 

Horrified doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling.  Mortified might be a better word, devastated that the bum I knew wasn’t small (hello I had to find jeans to house it dontcha know) was actually considered BIG!  All my insecurities poured themselves right into that moment and I stood there feeling defeated, wondering why he wanted to marry me?  I mean, why on earth would he want someone with a butt capable of knocking over an entire china display or taking out a small village with one grand sway of the hips?!

Corey on the other hand stood there bewildered and confused.  Had he said something wrong?  Was I not completely impressed by his romantic abilities?  Why wasn’t I falling all over him with desire?

I’ll tell you why – I was afraid of causing him physical harm that’s why.  I mean, one wrong move and I might give him a black eye with that BIG BUTT of mine.

And then I spoke.  It’s one of the shortest sentences I’ve ever uttered and its simplicity told of the dangerous waters he was in:

“Really? This song?”

Still slightly confused but feeling the pressure & temperature of the room begin to rise he began to speak, in rapid fire.

“Yes this song.  It makes me think of you.  I love you.  This song is one of my favourites and when I used to think about who I wanted to marry it was this girl and now I found her.  And, well, so, umm….you’re pretty?”

That’s not a typo friends – that last part was said as a question.  As though, the questionable complement would maybe, sort of fix the look of hurt and fury on my face.

“So, you think my butt is big?”

“Well, ya.  I mean, you know it’s not BIG, big, but it’s not small.  And that’s a good thing because….”

Honestly I can’t tell you what words came after that because I was focusing on “it’s not small” and wondering how much pain I could inflict with the running shoe sitting on the shelf beside me.

Needless to say, that evening didn’t turn out to be one of our better evenings.  Though we did talk it out, I did a lot of crying, he did a lot of ice cream eating, tea drinking and head nodding (when I’m upset I talk.  A lot.  When Corey is, well, when Corey is breathing he eats ice cream).  

We discussed my insecurities for the first and certainly not the last time.  We discussed his ability to use tact and to think ahead of my reaction, again not for the last time.  We discussed and we discussed and we discussed (because “beating a dead horse” is my strong suit).

Ultimately we came to 2 conclusions: I shouldn’t take everything Corey says literally and when a song reminds Corey of me, he should probably keep that information to himself.  

(ps. Corey knows I shared this story tonight.  It’s something we both laugh about – now)

The Other Side of Abuse

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I remember that night with a clarity I wish would fade.  It was 12:30 AM and I was locked behind the safety of the bathroom door, in an old, cigarette smoke filled house.  The door had light blue paint that was peeling off in one corner, and the bath mat on the floor was tattered in one corner.  The ceiling was nicotine stained and the faucet dripped.  It always dripped, no matter what you did, it dripped.

I wasn’t in there to use the toilet.  I wasn’t even there to fix my hair.  Though I flushed the toilet, just for effect, it really wasn’t why I was there.  I was in there to hide.

I could hear him on the other side of the door.  The sound of his voice slurred by the multiple bottles and cans of beer he’d consumed in the past few hours.  The rage in his tone, the reason I’d said I had to pee in the first place. 

He was angry, and nobody could miss who he was angry at…me.

We’d been out that night at a local pub.  There was live music and it had been packed.  We’d gone out for dinner with a group of his construction friends and then to the pub for the show. 

I’d driven.  I always drove.  That’s what you do when you’re the girl who never drank, you drove.  So I drove.

It had started out to be a fun night.  Most of his friends were good guys.  A few even had some pretty great girlfriends, the others didn’t have girlfriends but they were friendly enough, I didn’t mind hanging out with them.  They didn’t mind hanging out with me either, I was just his girl, and I knew how to talk hockey and the difference between a skill saw and a reciprocating saw.  I was also a good “girl gauge” giving the “go for it” or the “get out of it” signal as they checked out the women in the room.

That’s what I was doing when it all began to unravel.  His one buddy, a guy who’d become my friend.  A guy who’d warned me that was the one who needed help many times, leaned over and asked about a girl.  It was loud that night, so he couldn’t hear me say go for it.  I tried to say it louder but still he couldn’t hear, so I stood up on my tip toes, leaned in and said, “Go for it!  She seems great”.

He saw me and his blood began to boil.  

Not more than 5 minutes later it was announced we HAD to go.  It was time to go and that was that. I knew better than to argue, so I grabbed my purse, said goodbye and we headed for the car.  

The minute the doors were shut and the engine running, the shouting began. 

I was a “whore”, a “nasty, dirty b***”, “fat, ugly”, worthless”, a “cheater”, a “useless piece of…*, the ranting went on as I drove, silent, knowing better than to try to defend myself.

We reached his home (his mother’s home actually he just rented a room in the tiny old house) and it continued.  We walked through the door and still he raged.  Drunk beyond words, he stumbled in and slammed things around.  His shouts got louder that night, more aggressive, more cutting and with each word I got smaller, less confident and ready to admit defeat.

Needing a break from the sound, and a place to feel safe, if even only for a moment I went to the washroom.  That’s where the nightmares always start, from that moment in the bathroom.

I knew I couldn’t take too long or he’d try to come in.  I knew he was listening so after a few minutes I flushed the toilet and turned the knob on that drippy faucet.  And then, I wasn’t sure what I would do.  

I wasn’t sure where I would go, how I’d have the courage to open that door.  I never knew what would happen when he was like that, and I wasn’t sure I had the strength that night to face it yet again.

Then I heard a different voice.  Not the voice of his mother mind you, she was home.  She was always home but she just left me when he was like this.  I don’t know why she did, but she did and I knew I was on my own.

No, the voice I heard was another male.  His brother, and it was close, really close to where I was. 

Cautiously, I opened the door and I saw the back of a short, stalky man standing in my way.  

He’d happened to need something (in the middle of the night) from his Mom’s house and he’d come home.  He’d heard the raging from outside, and when he came, realized I was locked in the bathroom.  He put himself between us that night, standing his ground telling his big brother that he was drunk and to sleep it off.  Refusing to move until his brother, my boyfriend had moved to his room and slammed his door.

Then he turned to me.  Looked at my tear filled eyes (I didn’t cry there.  I couldn’t cry there.  If I did, he’d know.  He’d know he’d won and while I was broken, damaged & defeated, I refused to let him see he’d won.  I was too stubborn for that.) and asked quietly, “Are you Ok?”

All I could do was nod.  I didn’t have words and to this day I can’t remember if I thanked him.  But in those quiet moments, he grabbed my backpack, and my purse, walked me to the door and asked if I had the strength to drive the 25 minutes back to my own home.

I did.  I got in my car, opened the windows and then as I drove, I cried.  Hot, broken, pain filled tears poured down my face as I drove.

Even though I knew he was wrong.  I knew I had done nothing wrong, his words stung and somewhere, deep inside I’d gotten so used to hearing them, I was starting to believe them.  

That was 11 years ago about now.  That girl was broken, damaged and convinced she deserved all that she got.  Certain that she wasn’t worth anything more and nobody else would want her, could ever love her. 

When life gets tense like it is right now, that nightmare starts to creep back to haunt me.  Though I no longer try to physically run away in my sleep like I did the first few years we were married. I still wake up in a cold sweat, desperate to get away, barricaded in that bathroom, terrified of the pain that would come when the door opened.  Shaking, overwhelmed and panicked.

Then I see him.  Corey, my husband, the man who is the polar opposite of that boyfriend and my heart rate begins to slow.  The shaking begins to subside and as I take a few deep breaths, and curl myself into his warm back the fear begins to ease.

There aren’t words for how grateful I am for the husband I have.  How safe I feel in his arms.  How secure I am in his love.  How I cherish his quiet voice, tender ways and peace making heart.  Even now, all these years later, not a day goes by where I take for granted the man who rescued this broken girl and for the love he pours over me.

That girl back then had nothing, her insides felt dead and she truly believed she wasn’t worth anything.  Her self-esteem didn’t exist, and confident wasn’t a word anyone would have used to describe her.

That girl has changed so much over the last 11 years.  I have changed in the last 11 years and that change has come at the great mercy of a God who loves me and a man He gave me, who’s love has healed my hurt.

I believe with my whole heart that God allowed (not caused) that to happen to me for a greater purpose.  He allowed me to live in abuse for 2 years, to face pain, to choose to stay when I should have left – to bring me to this place, to where I am now.

Here, where I am now is a place of gratitude.  Abundant, unending gratitude for the man I am married to.  If I hadn’t lived the other life, I’d have taken him for granted, I know I would of because I wouldn’t have know how bad it could be.

When those dreams come though, I remember deeply how bad it can be.  It takes me a minute to remember, I’m not there any more.

 I am here, now.  On the other side of abuse and I am eternally grateful for the light & love that has come after dark nights of pain.

 

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3 Things That Aren’t Helping in the Wake of a Mass Shooting

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1. Throwing Racial Slurs/blaming actions on race (actually, this NEVER helps anyone. With anything).  From what I can tell the only choice the color of one’s skin effects is their lipstick choices, everything else comes from the condition of their heart.
 
2. Starting a debate about gun laws, it’s not going to help anyone!  I’m not looking for one here, we all have our opinions – arguing about them won’t change anything.
(For example: there’s a law for legal drinking age & another about drunk driving – yet we still have drunk minors driving on our roads…apparently laws don’t always stop people)
 
3. Pointing the finger at ANYONE other than the person holding the gun.
 
The only person responsible for our actions is us. The end. It is not the fault of the parents, the teacher, the sister, the gun manufacturer, the guy at Starbucks or the person dancing in the club that one very sick and disgusting individual decided to act in such a horrific way. It is HIS fault, and his alone.
 
Today my heart hurts for the people who’ve lost someone they love and for the hearts of the ones who’s loved one did such a horrible thing.  It’s not their fault either (even if they were a sucky parent) but today their lives are forever tainted – first with loss & then with the judgment, shame and pain of knowing that someone they love did something so hateful.
Love people my friends.  Just how they are, without judgement and with all that you have.  You never know when the love you choose to show the unlovable is the difference between a destroyed heart and one that’s saved.  None of us know what the next moment will hold.  

Confessions: Buyers Remorse (and why nudists have the right idea)

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Confession: I, am a TERRIBLE shopper.  Well, let me re-phrase that, I’m a terrible shopper when it comes to purchasing things for me.  I’m so bad at it in fact, I basically don’t do it.  Which is why, at the moment I have a problem.

In general, I like to think of myself as a good shopper.  I’m frugal, check flyers, use coupons, purchase things on sale and can make a dollar stretch pretty well.  I work hard to be careful with how we spend our money, and I try not to take for granted the fact that we are unbelievably blessed compared to the majority of the rest of the world.  

I love shopping for our girls.  They are in a fun stage right now of trying clothes on and really deciding what their “style” is.  I love and loath it.  I love seeing WHO they are and I loath waiting while they check themselves out at every. single. angle – twice.  (We have conversations of vanity and modesty often, because those things have a fine line). 

Anyways, when it comes to life’s general necessities I’ve got it covered.  I can get it done and I’m find doing it.

However, when it comes to me (deodorant aside) I have a massive issue making a purchase.  And often times when I do, I return it less than 24 hours later.  I think it boils down to a few deep seeded insecurities…

First, I really don’t know what looks good.  I’m terrified of looking inappropriate, like I’m squished into clothes that are too small or that my body shouldn’t wear.  I don’t want to embarrass my children or my husband, I don’t want to look frumpy but I also don’t want to look flashy (no metallic shirts for this girl).  I don’t know how to dress my body and in general I’m just worried I’ll do it wrong.

Second, I always, ALWAYS feel like there are better things I could put the money towards.  I can’t necessarily list them off, but I feel like there MUST be better things.  This has nothing to do with our budget either, I have 1.5 years worth of birthday and Christmas money sitting put aside that I’m struggling to spend.  It’s just that in my brain, I wonder – what if I need it for something else?

Third, who the frickety, frack has time to go shopping?!!  Between taking care of my home, feeding the people who sleep here, school, gymnastics, work, groceries, laundry and the necessary sleep, I’m not sure how one is to fit it in?

Just to be clear none of these issues involve Corey!  Well, they do involve him because he’s often heard telling me I NEED to purchase clothes and I SHOULD make time for me – and “Those pants look good, WHY ARE YOU TAKING THEM BACK?!”  But he’s never, not ever said or done anything to make me feel any of these things.

Here’s what happens – I’ll carve out a little bit (read 15 minutes) of time on one of my 2 days off (which are NOT days off they are the 2 days I have to get everything else done that I can’t do when I’m working) to try on a few clothes.  I’ll find something I think is OK, put it on 8 times in the change room.  If it’s pants I’ll bend over and check for underwear (nobody want’s a peek-a-boo-panties moment), do my best to quiet my own negative self talk and decide to buy them.

I pay the cashier, get in the car and already decide nobody’s really going to like them, I should probably take them back.  But my pride won’t let me do that and neither will my time schedule so I keep them.  I get home, I “model” them for my family, they like (or if you’re short and disapprove of everything your Mama buys that you don’t have one that matches dislike) them, say keep them.  I look in the mirror 15 more times, think about the price and then return them because “I really don’t like them anyways”.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So, where did it come from?  What’s the problem?

I think it came from years of feeling ugly.  Of hating my body.  Of wishing I could hide and not be seen.  Of the words I heard from girls in high school, boyfriends later and the joy of being a female in a a “you’re not good enough” world.  

I work hard to ignore those voices, to fight them, to turn them off.  Most times I can do pretty good at it.  I’m proud of who I am and where I’ve been, and when I do finally buy and KEEP clothing, I generally feel good in it.  It’s just getting to the buying and keeping part that’s hard.

I need clothes now.  Badly I need clothes, predominantly I need more workout gear (that I LOVE, it’s my favourite.  Though I still suck at buying it) and stuff I can wear this summer.  Oh and bras that don’t come undone mid conversations resulting in armpit boobs.  

The other thing I need – a personal shopper or at the very least, someone(s) to take me shopping, be my eyes and help me make keeper purchases!

Anyone else struggle with shopping?  Anybody loath the process?  Anyone willing to shop for me?  Or better yet, dress me daily?  Sometimes I wonder, if maybe those nudists have it all figured out…

 

Posted in Me

I was Selfish & I’m sorry

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Over the past month, since sharing my weight loss & fitness story with everyone I’ve realized something.  I was completely blown away to realize it and I’ve spent the last week or so trying to think about what I can do to fix it.

I need to apologize: to my family, my friends and to a lot of you.  I was being completely selfish and I am truly sorry.

As I have talked to a great many of you (THANK YOU for all the support!), heard your own stories, goals, struggles and plans, I’ve discovered something.  Keeping my journey, the things that changed my life, the way I manage my days, the health & fitness world that I adore a secret was completely, 100% selfish on my part.

I didn’t want to be annoying.  I didn’t want to be that person who overshares and everyone is like “SHUT UP”.  I didn’t want to sound like a “know it all” or make someone else feel less than because they weren’t working out, or eating clean too.  I was (and let’s be honest, I still am) terrified of pushing away people I love, people I respect, people I’ve yet to know by putting the real me out there.

Instead, I’d mention it from time to time but otherwise I kept it close lipped.  Truly believing I was making a good choice, the best choice for everyone.

Man, was I wrong!!!!!

There have been so many people, 4 very special ones in particular who have said to me, “Man, we all were watching what was happening.  We saw you changing, we wish we had known SOONER what you were doing so we could do it too

The first time I heard that my stomach dropped to the floor.  Had I really been that evasive and secretive about how I was taking care of myself, and what I was doing to change my body?

Ya.  I was.

Many people assumed I’d lost the weight because of my corn allergy.  Which definitely plays a part in the foods I choose to put into my body, but let’s be clear.  There are plenty of things I could bake and eat, chocolate bars that are “safe” for me and excuses I could make to not workout that have nothing to do with my allergy.

Others, who didn’t know me when I was younger.  Those who weren’t around for my heavier days, assumed I’d always been fit like I am and when I’d mention that I hadn’t been, they’d scoff.  More than once, when I would offer empathy to a friend struggling to lose weight, I’d hear “Ya. as if you know what it’s like.  I can’t imagine you like that, it was probably never that hard for you”  It would sting, but I’d move on.

The thing is, it WAS that hard.  I lost 78lbs through a lot of hard work, careful choices and sweat.  Seriously you guys, a lot, A LOT of sweat!  

What I thought was being private was actually me selfishly hiding what I was doing, so that I wouldn’t be judged.

Never in a million years did I think that instead of facing judgement, I’d have been given support, shown grace and most importantly had the opportunity to help other people find their way to a healthier body too!!

If you were someone who wished I’d have shared sooner, I’m sorry I didn’t ever mean to hurt you.  Being secretive ends today.

So what does that mean?

It means from today forward I’m going to be sharing what I’m doing.  The workouts I’m loving, the ones that are kicking my butt, the meals I’m eating, my struggles, my successes, my discoveries and most of all, I’m going to be inviting you to join me. 

The thing about being successful at things, really truly successful in life is that it really doesn’t mean a whole lot if you don’t share it with someone.  I’m learning that and I want to change it.

I’ll be sharing here what’s happening in our lives, because I’m not the only Stone making life changes.  Corey has joined the workout train and is killing his program right now.  And my girls, are my forever cheerleaders, Audrey is a “JR. Coach in training” and Bethany is excitedly getting ready to launch their “Fit Kids Challenge Group” at the end of the month (stay tuned for more info!).

It won’t all be health & fitness, but a lot of it will be.  You can still count on me for recipes, for rants (because I HAVE to let the words out), reviews and for updates on how we are, on Audrey’s health journey (side note: We have appointments at cardiology, hematology & rheumatology all within 3 weeks at Children’s in June.  We’d love the prayers and hopefully will have answers by the end of them).  I just also want you to know that you can also count on me for support, for encouragement and for authenticity. 

So, here it is.  Me taking a REALLY big leap, putting myself out there, and extending to you the first real invitation from my heart and our lives to YOU.

If you’re interested in learning more about how I’ve managed to lose the weight and get fit.  Or if you need someone to just support you on your own journey to health & fitness PLEASE LET ME KNOW!  There is little else that would make me happier than being able to come along side of you and see you succeed!

 Leave a comment here, or on Facebook or send an email to ashleystonefitness@gmail.com and I would sincerely love to be able to hear your story too!

Telling My Weight Loss Story & Sharing My Future Helping Others!

Losing 78lbs

When you look at that picture, what do you see?  78lbs, confidence, strength, mountains, dumbbells, and joy.  That’s what I see.   I see a woman who has walked a long road, worked hard and discovered things inside herself she’d never imagined were there.

I remember the day that photo on the left was taken.  It was a few months after Bethany was born, we were at a co-ed bridal shower and we were taking pictures with out of town family.

That morning, I’d tried to put my pre-pregnancy jeans back on and I couldn’t even get them past my knees.  It had been nearly 6 months since Bethany was born, and while I’d lost maybe a few pounds, the weight that everyone had promised would melt off, hadn’t.  I had sailed past the 200lb mark during my pregnancy & 6 months later, I still hadn’t dropped below it.

For as long as I can remember I’ve felt like the “bigger girl”.  Standing at 5’8″ I was taller than many of my classmates, and a little “thicker” too.  Faced with numerous health struggles throughout my childhood I was often sitting on the side lines unable to participate in the activities.  I was in general inactive, and overall unfit.  

If I’m being honest, I leaned into those struggles too.  They were real challenges, painful at times but also, really good “reasons” to not push myself.  Somewhere along the way, probably about the time I got my driver’s license I became an “Excuse Girl” who soothed her poor self-esteem with slurpees & McDonald’s.

Those poor habits were only magnified as I moved away from home.  Now, being alone I could survive on perogies, sour candies and drive thrus without anyone being any the wiser.

Until I met Sonia.  She was a radiant mother of 3 who ate well, hiked, hit the gym, ran and rode her bike to work.  She’d often pester me to join her for a hike and most times, I’d find an excuse not to go, until one day I couldn’t.

We weren’t more than 15 minutes into our “hike” (ok, walk) when I pulled out the inhaler I’d been prescribed for my “exercise induced asthma”.  She waited while I used it, surveying the situation and we carried on.  A few minutes later she turned to me and said, “Ashley, you don’t have asthma, your lungs are unconditioned and you are unhealthy.  What are YOU going to do about it?”

I was floored.  NOBODY had ever said that to me before, but when the inital shock & indignation wore off I realized – she was right.  She encouraged me to join a gym and take start taking better care of myself and I did.

Sort of.

did go to the gym sometimes and I was changing my eating habits kind of but it wasn’t enough.  You see, I was in a very abusive relationship with a man (10 years my senior) who did everything in his power to keep me under his thumb.  My confidence was at an all time low and though I had lost a little bit of weight, I’d truly never felt worse. 

Fast forward through the intense drama of that relationship (one day, maybe I’ll have the courage to tell that story) to the day of the bridal shower.  I had a husband who did (and does) adore me, a beautiful little girl and family who loved me.  I had every reason to be happy, yet I wasn’t. 

I was still an “excuse girl”, pouring all of my time and energy into taking care of everyone else, so that I wouldn’t have to face taking care of me.  Focusing on them meant I didn’t have to face the parts of me that were broken.  Not just the physical weight  but the emotional weight destroying myself esteem.

We left the party that day and I decided I needed to start making changes.  Not just for me but for my daughter(s) as well.  I wanted to become someone my children could be proud of. 

The changes were small at first, kicking out the junk food and addressing my consumption of Coke but the weight started to come off.  Then I started walking, putting my girl in her stroller and getting outside, more came off.  

Just after Bethany’s 1st birthday I was back at my (still overweight) pre-pregnancy weight and I was pumped.  2 months later I was pregnant with Audrey and thus it began again.

I didn’t gain as much weight that time, but still at the end of it all I was overweight and needing a change.  I’d worked through a lot of my emotional baggage by that time and when we hit Audrey’s 6 month mark I began what has become my greatest transformation to date.

Not only did I changed my eating habits but I discovered exercise made my weight lose easier, AND it made me HAPPIER!

I started in baby steps, working out 15 minutes at a time a few days a week but before long I began increasing my time, pushing my limits and challenging myself in new ways.  I used free programs, streaming websites, DVD’s to start but as the time went on, I progress to more comprehensive programs & challenging workouts. 

That was just over 6 years ago and MAN has life CHANGED!

The “excuse girl” who once hid from exercise and considered chocolate bars & chips a quality lunch has disappeared.  She’s been replaced with a woman who happily gets up at 5am because she loves her mornings & she needs her workouts.

Now, I sweat it out with the likes of Chalene Johnson (TurboFire, PiYo & ChaLEAN Extreme), Shaun T (um, HELLO… Insanity Max 30, T25 & CIZE!!) and of course, my girl Autumn Calebrese (21 Day Fix!).  I have NEVER seen my body change like it has since I started with some of these programs.  I’m getting muscle definition, increased strength and my “life exercise” stamina has gone through the roof.   Hikes are easier and chasing my girls around the yard isn’t painful, it’s fun!

I can’t say that losing 78lbs doesn’t make me happy, it does!  I’m proud of how hard I worked to lose that weight, the changes I’ve made and the effort it still takes every day to maintain it.  My body is stronger than it’s ever been and I love pushing my limits every day to see what I can do.

But that weight isn’t the best part for me.  The emotional change is the part that I’m most thankful for.  Though I still have moments of struggling with my self esteem, gone are the days of feeling worthless.  I no longer feel guilty when I squeeze in my “me time” exercise or feel unworthy of even making eye contact with people. 

Instead I relish that time.  I’m pumped when my girls come join in with my routines and even have to laugh as they correct my form or push me to “get your knees UP on the next tuck jump, Mama!”.  

I am in love with health & fitness and I am passionate beyond measure to share it with others.  Learning to eat healthier, exercise and take time for me changed my life.  It changed the lives of my family and more than anything I want to help other people change their lives too!

And so my friends, I am SOOOO excited to share with you that, that is exactly what I’m doing! I am officially a health & fitness coach working with Beachbody (the company behind the programs that truly transformed my body) and have the wheels in motion to also be getting a certification in Holistic nutrition and my personal training certification!  I’ll be creating meal plans, designing personalized fitness routines and who knows, maybe one day you’ll even find me teaching a class at your local gym.

 

Discovering the freedom in eating well & being active has given me a life I never knew I could have.  I believe whole heartedly that God gave me the gift of that life change, so that I could take the true joy I find inside being Fit & healthy and share it with others – with you!

I don’t know where you are in your life’s journey.  What your struggles are.  Your dreams, your values, your fitness level or your health, but I’d like to.  

Please leave me a comment, send me a FB message, an email or text to tell me YOUR story!  I would love to hear it and I’m confident that together we can find a way to help you achieve your goals!

So I’ll ask you about your life, what Sonia asked me about mine – “What are YOU going to do about it?”

Healthier Gluten Free “Doritos” Recipe – 21 Day Fix Approved!

Healthier Gluten Free-Doritos- Recipe
Corey and the kids love them some Doritos.  Heck, when I was able to eat them, before my corn allergy got so bad, I loved me some Doritos.  They’re cheesy, and crunchy and yummy.

The problem is, they are also chemical filled, deep fried, death in a bag.

Ok, so maybe they aren’t actually death in a bag, but they offer absolutely ZERO benefit to your daily life.  As a once in a while treat, I will let my family have them but we are talking once maybe twice a year because I truly hate what’s in them.  Some of those ingredients are linked to some horrible life side effects/diseases**.

Now, I’m always trying to create new recipes to provide my family with their favourite treats & snacks in a healthier way.  I love to play around, experiment and then find something that works.  It’s pure victory when I finally achieve the desired result & my family is happily chowing down on their healthier favourites, straight from my kitchen!
Gluten Free Healthier Doritos Recipe 2

Paired with the fact that I’ve officially begun my Health & Fitness Coaching Business (Fit, Healthy Life Coaching!) and I have customers who are beginning the 21 Day Fix Program, needing some treats and Ashley’s test kitchen is back up an running.

First on the recipe test list…make “Doritos” seasoning that can be used on chips, popcorn, roasted chickpeas or toasted nuts.  Help remove the chemical laiden garbage & replace it with a snack I’m happy to see EVERYONE eating!

It took some trials, but I’m happy to say, we did it.  Ok, I’m not just happy to say it, I’d like to announce I WIN!  I’m not trying to be arrogant, it’s just, that well…I am floored by big business and their need to kill us with crap.  When I find a way to remove that crap & still have the taste, it leaves me feeling like I’ve won yet another battle.  And let’s be honest – this girl likes to win!

So, you need this in your life.  I need you to trust me, to try it and then to come back and let me know what you think!  

What do you like to put your “Healthier Doritos Seasoning” on? 

Gluten Free Healthier Doritos - Nutritional Yeast

In the recipe, I use Nutritional Yeast.  This is KEY for achieving the Doritos taste.  We tried it without, it wasn’t quite right.  We tried it with Parmesan, it still wasn’t right.  We went and bought the nutritional yeast and BAM we had a winner!

Nutritional yeast can be found at most health food stores (if you live in Chilliwack the best place is Sardis Health Foods) and I highly recommend the Engevita Yeast over the other nutritional yeast options because it’s in powder form.  It tastes more cheesy, like Parmesan (warning: it smells really funky but it tastes yummy!), is great in homemade cheese sauces or on pasta and packs a nutrient dense punch.  Among other things each serving contains Vitamin B and Protein!

One bag will last you a very, very long time and I guarantee, if you trust me and try this recipe you won’t be sorry!

21 Day Fix Container Counts:
     – Added to 3 cups of air popped popcorn = 1 Yellow + 1 tsp
     – 2 Small Corn Tortillas (16 chips) = 1 Yellow + 1 tsp
     – Roasted Chickpeas = 1 Yellow + 1 tsp

Gluten Free, Healthier "Doritos" Recipe - 21 Day Fix Approved
This spice blend & recipe is delicious! A healthy, homemade version of a popular favourite snack. It can easily be used on popcorn, tortillas, chickpeas or toasted nuts. It also easily fits within the 21 Day Fix meal plan! DOUBLES REALLY WELL!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Spice Blend
  1. 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  2. 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  3. 1/2 tsp Paprika
  4. 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
  5. 1/4 tsp Cumin, ground
  6. 1 tsp Nutritional Yeast (I HIGHLY recommend the powder version, Engevita Yeast)
To make Chips
  1. 4 Small Corn Tortillas
  2. 1 tsp of Coconut Oil Melted
To Make Popcorn
  1. 3 Cups of Air Popped Popcorn
  2. 1 tsp of Coconut Oil
To Make Toasted Nuts
  1. 1/4 Cup of Raw Cashews, Almonds or nut of your choice
Spice Blend
  1. 1. Add all spices to an airtight container and stir/shake to combine
Tortillas
  1. 1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F
  2. 2. Cut each corn tortilla into 8 pieces
  3. 3. Melt coconut oil in microwave for 30 seconds
  4. 4. LIGHTLY (really lightly!) brush each chip on both sides with oil and place in a bowl
  5. 5. Once all the chips are LIGHTLY covered in oil, sprinkle 2 tsp of spice blend over and toss until all are coated (you can adjust the amount of spice you add based on your preference)
  6. 6. Place in a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet
  7. 7. Bake for 12 - 17 minutes, turn over once half way through. They're done when they are crispy and slightly browned
Popcorn
  1. 1. Melt coconut oil in the microwave for 30 seconds
  2. 2. Pour oil over 3 cups of air popped popcorn and toss to lightly coat
  3. 3. Sprinkle 1 - 2 tsp of spice blend over popcorn and again toss to coat
Chickpeas
  1. 1. Pre-Heat oven to 400°F
  2. 2. Drain & rinse chickpeas & dry thoroughly (easiest way to do this is lay them on a clean kitchen towel and rub them dry
  3. 3. Melt coconut oil in microwave for 30 seconds
  4. 4. Put chickpeas in a bowl and pour over coconut oil. Toss to combine
  5. 5. Sprinkle on 2 tsps of spice blend and stir to coat
  6. 6. Spread in a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet
  7. 7. Bake for 30- 40 minutes or until golden brown, stirring periodically
Toasted Nuts
  1. 1. Pre-Heat a skillet on medium heat
  2. 2. Add raw nuts to pan and stir until warmed, toasted (they'll become really fragrant as their natural oils release)
  3. 3. Once they're slightly browned and warm, remove from heat and sprinkle with 1 tsp of spice blend, toss to coat.
21 Day Fix Container
Tortilla Chips
  1. 16 Chips = 1 YELLOW & 1/2 TSP
Popcorn
  1. 3 Cups = 1 YELLOW & 1 TSP
Chickpeas
  1. Fill 1 Yellow container = 1 YELLOW & 1/4 TSP
Nuts
  1. Serve nuts according to 21 Day Fix serving size = 1 BLUE
Our Family Stone http://www.ourfamilystone.org/
If you’re interested in finding out more about the 21 Day Fix or how I can help you achieve your health & fitness goals, please feel free to contact me.  You can visit my Beachbody website here or feel free to Email me!

 

Your Children Are Only Young Once: Your Dishes Can’t Wait & Your Clothes Are Starting To Smell

Dishes can't wait

“The dishes will wait, your children are only young once”, “Leave the housework until later & play with your kids, they grow up so fast”, “There will always be work, your kids won’t always be at home”.

Whether you’re having tea with a mother who’s children are all grown, or scrolling through Facebook – these platitudes are everywhere.  They’re based in good intentions, said by those who miss the “yesteryear” and shared by those who’s children are asleep after a day of terrorizing their home (you know, when they look so sweet & peaceful that you feel like your heart is going to explode with love.  It’s the opposite feeling to when your brain is going to explode from hearing “But MOOOOOM, SHE….” and “You are the WORST mother EVVVVER!”).

Regardless of who shares it, I believe they all have the best of intentions – to encourage parents in busy, fast paced world to prioritize their children.  In an effort to make them feel special, loved & important & to avoid regrets later in life. 

I get it, we DO need to pour into our kids.  We need to put down the devices, close the laptops & look into their eyes when they’re speaking.  We need to soak up the snuggles, read stories, have “yes kids” days (we plan those days where they throw out suggestions and I do my best to say yes to all of them) and be present with them.  

There are times it’s OK to do a puzzle instead of the dishes & dress Barbies rather than fold yesterday’s laundry.  We all want to LOVE them and doing those things sometimes will absolutely make them feel just that, valued & loved.

Which is great, but we also have a job to do.  Those platitudes & the behaviour they promote are threatening the successful product of that task.  

Our #1 job as parents is to raise upstanding, responsible, compassionate, confident people, who not only have the wings but the skills to take flight when the adult years come.  No matter how much we love them, no matter how much we’ll miss them, they won’t stay at home forever and when the time comes for them to leave – WE need to be confident that they’re prepared to succeed.

And that, my friends is where I call BS on the whole “it will wait” movement.

Now, more than ever we are living in a destructive, self centered, selfish world.  The statistics coming in show that children & the young adults coming up through the ranks are the most narcissistic, entitled generations we’ve ever seen – and that scares me.

These brilliant young people lack social skills, struggle to maintain a job because they don’t have good work ethic, & they seem sad, missing the self worth that comes from a job well done. They also feel very strongly that the world owes them something.  

Um, HELLOOOOO – NOBODY OWES YOU ANYTHING.  If you want it, WORK for it!

I can’t help but think that our desperate need to full fill our kids, paired with the fact that we’re so bloody worried about not hurting their feeling is one of the major contributing factors to why we’re looking at such a social mess. 

Maybe if our kids had to wait a little more, maybe if they had to self entertain (without the aid of technology), maybe if they had to pitch in a help & even have to re-do a job 3 times over until it’s done right – they wouldn’t grow up feeling like victims.  Maybe they’d grow up feeling like warriors, capable of doing anything, being anything & achieving it all through hard work.

Dishes done

As the mother of a 9 and 7 year old, I certainly can’t claim to be an expert on parenting, then again I don’t really think anyone can.  I am however, the product of parents who invested in us while still managing to do the laundry & provide home cooked meals served on clean dishes.  I’m walking proof that this theory doesn’t damage the heart of your children, I always did & still do feel overwhelmingly loved & important to my parents.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t EVER put aside your chores and focus on your kids.  I’m just saying you shouldn’t ALWAYS make your kids the most important thing in the room.

I believe whole heartedly, that it’s OK to make them wait until you’ve finished a conversation to speak to you.  Just like it’s OK to do the dishes and ask them to help, do laundry instead of playing Lego and pass out consequences when there is attitude dripping off their words (even in public).

I Want my Children to Know I Believe in Them!

Desperately I want our children to know I believe in them.  By giving them jobs, I’m teaching them I believe they can do it.   By making them wait, I’m showing them I believe they have good manners.  By doing the dishes instead of playing with them, I show them I believe they are capable of creating their own fun.

No matter how much time we give to our kids, I think those regrets will still come.  Not because we didn’t do enough, but because we will miss them.  Sadly, no matter how many hours we do or do not invest, nothing will stop that growing up from happening.  It’s the inevitable part of life, like grey hair & acne (at the same FREAKIN’ time over here?!!).  

I don’t know about you but if I can’t slow down the growing up process, I’d rather spend my years building into our girls in a well rounded way.  I’m going to guess, since you’re here and you’ve made it this far, that you feel the same way too.

So, I want to encourage you today!  Go ahead, wash those clothes so you don’t stink and grab your kids to help put away those dishes.  

Then when the jobs are all done, gather them up, curl up on the couch (with leftover Easter chocolate) and “fill their buckets”.  You can tell them what a great job they did, how proud you are of them and you’ll all feel accomplished loved.