Mid Week Motivator-Taking A 30 DAY CHALLENGE!

I am in the middle of a 30 day challenge called Cross Fit at Home. Something a friend send to me via Pinterest. You can find the workouts at Www.alexajeanbrown.com 30-Day CrossFit Challenge Round 2.

Here are five reasons that I find I am enjoying it:


1- It is challenging– I hate burpees and pushups are a close second and in this challenge I am forced to do them numerous times.


2- The workouts are short but intense– When I started out exercising my workouts were at least an hour long, seven days a week. Not to mention I was also doing a second workout later that evening. This was also during my weight loss phase of my journey. Since then I have had to readjust my perception of what a quality workout is and that does not always mean an hour long.


3- It is flexible– I have had to readjust my rest days or a workout due to my busy life. I have found it is easy to move around a workout from one day to another.


4- It has me excited about exercising again– I have been in workout rut lately and doing this challenge has given me the chance to shake that off.


5- It reminds me that one does not need a lot of equipment – Something that I have known but it often bears reminding. All you need is the right mindset and determination and the rest will follow.


What different kinds of exercises or challenges have you tried?


The Cat Who Nearly Was Not Mine

My previous posts have been rather heavy lately. I mean talking about mental illness and grief are not the easiest of subjects. Today I am going to tell you about my cat. Yes, my cat. His name is Hershey ( or

Hershilious, Hershey-Boy, Old Man, and from time to time Momma Cat.) He is an all black american short hair and before I adopted him never thought of myself as a cat person.


He came into my life through one of my best friends, someone I consider my sister. It was a sudden request, as I had come up to see her before we headed up to see her parents. Hershey came along for the ride as it was evident that the cat would have to go from her house. We were hopeful that the cat could stay with her parents. Upon arriving there, we discovered the answer was no. In a painful episode the poor cat ended up in a local animal shelter and we were able to get him out again. I found myself on my drive back to Miami with a mewling, confused cat in my backseat.


It had been years since I had a pet. I also had no clue what to do with a cat. I was not sure how this would work. Hershey had been rather stand offish in the past. It took time for him to warm up to me and his new surroundings. We just did not know what to make of one another.


Now it is almost seven years later and two of us are quite a pair. We both have gotten older. Hershey now has some grey sprinkled throughout his fur coat. His gait is slower and his playfulness is limited to short spurts. He is my constant companion, friend and comforter. He seeks me out and it is not always because the food dish is empty. There is nothing better than waking up to the sound of loud purring or feeling him cuddle up against me.


Hershey has played a huge part in my journey in health. When I was in the losing weight phase, he was my cheerleader ( even if he did not understand what it was I was doing) during my late night workouts. He has taught me about love. He has been witness to some really ugly moments. Times when he himself ran off to hide. In these moments I have have seen first hand how my outbursts can be harmful. Seeing this reflection in my cat helped to change me from being a person who lived in anger to a more loving person.


Hershey taught me about grace. ( Yes, I went there) as he would seek me out later on after an outburst and want to be petted or simply cuddle. It was his way of showing me love. I believe that our pets can teach us so much about love and forgiveness. He has helped me to grow in trusting myself around people. So much of my journey has been learning to love. First to love myself enough to get healthy. Second to not only love those in my community but to also love them well. Being a cat mom to Hershey has helped to open my heart.


Hershey is up there in age, around 20 years old in human years which makes him in his nineties in cat years. At times he looks around confused. He has a slight limp due to arthritis in left back leg. Recently, when I rearranged my furniture and moved his bed, he did not sleep in it for weeks. Choosing instead the comfort of my closet, where he often seeks refuge during a storm.


He can be rather onery too. Mewowing at me if that food dish is just a bit too low or when I come home after being gone for a long time. I love my cat and I am not ashamed to admit it. Even if I am fulfilling the cliché of a single women and the cat she loves too much. But it is alas the truth. What can I say but that I love my cat and he loves me.



Mid Week Motivator- Telling Fear to Go Home

I always knew I wanted to tell stories. I loved books from the moment I learned to read. The attraction of television and movies was always the story. Deep down I knew I found what I was meant to do with my life. But I allowed Fear to hold me back.


Recently I have taken steps towards my dream of writing for a living. It has been exciting and scary. This means I have put myself out there. There is so much I do not know or yet understand. I am sure to make a few mistakes along way. I would like to think that if I waited until I was sure of every detail and knew every aspect of the business that everything would go perfect. If I did that then I would never get started. I could allow fear to hold me back as it has in the past.


All I know, truly know is that writing is what I was made to do. Everything else that I need to learn I will. Hopefully I am at a place in my life where I am not as stubborn and hardheaded enough to learn. To take those mistakes I will make ( and I am sure I will make plenty!) into positives. I am setting myself up for rejection. Yep. I went there. I know it will hurt and there will be times when I am discouraged but as long as I keep getting back up and send out my work that is all that matters.


Now I have my business cards in hand, and a list of to do’s that seem to keep growing by the minute! I also have support from friends and family who believe in me. Who may be concerned about my ability to support myself doing this but also know me enough that writing is the only thing for me. I’m staring fear in the face and telling it go home. This is my time and whether this endeavor blows up in my face or leads to a life long career I can say I tried. The dream of seeing my name on the cover of a book or on a byline is that much closer to becoming a reality.




Are you ready to tell fear to go home? What is your dream?


Growing in Grief

Grief is something I have dealt with throughout my life. Not always well or at times even at all. Let’s face it, grief is rather ungraceful isn’t it? Last week I wrote a post in honor of my mommy who passed away twenty-two years ago. After losing her, my grandfather Pops, passed away after a battle with an ephesigial tumor two years later. Then when I was sixteen my birth father succumbed to lung cancer. It was a lot of loss in a short period of time. My relationships with all three people were so different and therefore was too my grief.


I also was a teenager trying to figure out who I was in the midst of it. Not to mention being part of a family who dealt with grieving so differently from each other. I went into myself. Eating and cutting myself off from allowing people getting too close to me. In my grief I became an angry, overweight, unhappy mess. My aunt found a therapist whom I did not like. I do not think it was her so much but more so I was not ready for therapy. At this time in my life I did not know Jesus. In fact I blamed him and had walked away from anything to do with God. I wanted no part of it. Shortly after my mommy passed away we stopped attending church.


I can only speak of my own grief journey. One that I am still on all these years later. It was once I understood that I could not carry the weight of this grief alone. I needed Jesus. As my relationship with Christ grew, the ache that my heart carried became less. The discovery that in the midst of pain and grief, Jesus is right there with me. In the anger aimed at Him. He is there. In the sadness, He is there.

He is also there in moments of love and laughter. He is there in the midst of joy.


Yes, Joy. There is still joy even in the journey of grief. Grief is indeed a journey. It is not a straight line to it. Not everyone checks off all the stages of grief one after another. There can be moments of laughter shortly after death. There can be bouts of sadness and reflection years after someone is gone.


Grief is an unpredictable animal. Rearing its head in my life in the most inopportune times. When I am feeling good and happy. Suddenly, I will look at the calendar and realize that it is once again the anniversary of mommy’s death. Or going through my paperwork and coming across my copies of their death certificates. Documents that clearly spell out how it came to be that they are no longer around. It is a rather cold summation of the end of a life. Boxes neatly filled out or checked off. Doctor’s signature at the bottom. Now it sits in my file cabinet. Taken out from time to time in middle of a cleaning session or needing some kind of information.


It brings up all sorts of questions, what if they had not died and were still around? Who would I have been if they had not died? How different would my life had been? Would I be the person who God intended for me to become if they had not died?


These are all fair questions. Ones that are not to meant to be answered. The truth is there are so many scenarios and all of them hypothetical. They are gone. I pray that they knew the Lord and hope to see them again. I cannot live my life in the land of what ifs. I have to live in the here and now. Sometimes that means leaning into the pain. Other times it is remembering a small, sweet moment and smiling.


Part of grieving is telling their stories. Family gatherings often retread the old family stories. Stories that we have heard throughout our lifetimes. That with each retelling change ever so slightly. Telling these stories is part of the joy, the remembering, even feeling the loss a bit more than usual. This is healing.


In this time in my life, grief is more bittersweet. There is so much that was missed. My sisters and I grew up. My niece only knows Grandma Joyce from old photos and stories. My sister Michelle got married with out our mother being there to fuss over her. In grieving I acknowledge that they are missed. That they are still part of my heart. The one’s we lose are no longer with us to hug and kiss. To talk with and laugh with. They are however part of the story of who I am today. Both in their lives and in their deaths. It has all shaped me.


Through it all Jesus carries me, strengthens me and above all loves in in the messiness of grieving. Lean into Jesus, lean into the grief, allow it to wash over you. There is no shortcut through this, no pill that will make it all better. It is simply there. It is messy, hard and painful but you can get through the darkest days to those not so dark days. Followed by even lighter days until one day it just does not hurt as much. There will always be an ache for those who have been lost but there will also be joy. There is is so much joy! I have so much joy in my own life while remembering the ones no longer with me. It is possible.






Mid Week Motivator- Bathing Suit Season

It is that time of year when magazines promise to give you tips to have an amazing body in time for swimsuit season. These magazines sell because we have an insatiable desire for that “perfect” body. We want those flat abs and curved behinds just like our favorite celebrities and those models plastered on those pages.

What if instead of wanting to emulate someone else, we strived to embrace our own bodies?

I will begin with myself, my body is beautiful. It is beautiful because it is mine. I will never look like those celebrities or models and that is fine. I work out so I can be healthy. So I can be the best version of myself. Not some pale version of a stranger’s image on the cover of a magazine. One that has been airbrushed and edited. Something that is not real.

Nor will I wait to deem my body as “perfect” to wear a bathing suit. It will never be perfect, there will always be some aspect of my body I think needs improvement. Something that only myself is aware of in the first place. I will not allow this to keep me from enjoying going to the beach or jumping into the pool. I will not allow those images to lie to me that I’m not good enough unless I look a certain way.

The key is finding a suit that you love. Wear the style and color you feel most comfortable for you. Bring along your best friend and have fun finding the best one. It will most likely be less of a chore to shop for it if you have yourself in mind instead of someone else. This also means meeting yourself and your body right where you at right now. Say hello to that image staring back at you. Tell her how fabulous she looks in that suit.

I will wear my bathing suit all summer, I mean how else will I smooth out my crazy farmers tan?

My mother Was Not Her Disease

May is National Mental Awareness Month. May also celebrates Mother’s Day. May also marks the  anniversary of my mother’s death. In this post I would like to celebrate and honor my her. Her name was Joyce (which was rather fitting as she was often joyful!), but to me she was mommy. For most of her life she battled the disease of schizophrenia ( my aunt, her sister suggested I not capitalize it as to not give the disease any more power and I agreed). In the Merriam- Webster dictionary it is defined as : (N) A psychotic mental illness that is characterized by a twisted view of the real world by a greatly reduced ability to carry out one’s daily tasks and by abnormal ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. In her early twenties this was her diagnosis, just as it had been for her mother, my grandmother.

Her life did not stop though. She did not disappear from the world. Mommy met and fell in love with my dad, Richard. The two of them married and began a family ( by the time I was four the marriage had fallen apart and my dad was out of our lives until just before his death when I was sixteen.) Mommy was in and out of hospitals through the years, taking a toll on all of us. Sometimes her medications and therapy worked ( when the combinations of meds did work). Sometimes they did not. Just as with any other disease, my mother was not only one affected by it.

I don’t know what dreams she had for her life. Did she fear her daughters sub combing to the same disease? That we too would be lost to the whims of our brains? Her life was interrupted by it but not stopped. Not in the least.

She was the kindest, sweetest person you could ever meet. Silly too, she could be so silly! One of my fondest memories is sitting with her in the car as she cranked up the radio, grasped the steering wheel and “car danced”. If you have never done this, I would highly suggest it. It’s great way to to relieve stress. Sleepovers at the apartment she shared with my grandfather were a special treat. Time for just the two of us. She allowed me to stay up way past my bedtime and eat hostess cupcakes for breakfast. Often we went to evening mass on Saturday and I remember her praying with her hands covering her face. I have wondered over the years if she prayed for her disease to go away. She continued to attend mass and pray until the end of her life.

She loved her children fiercely. Fighting back against the tides of schizophrenia she did her best to mother us. There would be a calm to our lives for years. Mommy doing well and things settled into a routine. She lived not even a mile away from her sister, my aunt who had taken guardianship of us when I was five. A role switch that had to be difficult, to bravely give over the mothering of her children to her younger sister. I am so grateful to her for doing that for my sister’s and I were provided a loving home in which to be raised in.

Often she walked over to have dinner or visited for the afternoon. She picked me up from school, taking me for a snack before I headed to my weekly CCD class at the church. These were the good periods.

Then there were the not so good ones. Such as when she was hospitalized. I hate to say it but I hated visiting her in the hospital. It smelled like urine and bleach. Even today when I go to a hospital all I can smell is that combination. She was not my mother at this time, she was someone else, lost to us. She was far away from us. I was angry with her. As a child I could not understand that she had no choice. This was the ravages of the disease. It stole her away from us. When I grew up, I understood this better and began to see that she was not her disease.

Just as a cancer patient is not defined only by their cancer, so too was my mother. Society though does not allow this for those afflicted with mental illness. It is easier to label and cast them aside, defective. People to fear as they are capable of anything. Yes, they are capable of anything. Just as you or I who are not afflicted are capable of anything. The answer is to not warehouse them in prisons or government hospitals where they will not receive treatment and support.

My mother was blessed and did so well for long periods because of the support system of a loving family. She had access to doctors and medicine. The quality of her treatment was not always so great however. There are others with no access to care at all. Whether due to their own choice or lack of funds and resources. I do not know what can be done or how to go about fixing this. Treatment is not one size fits all and that must be remembered. Strides have been made since my mothers diagnosis in the sixties but there is still a way to to go in fully understanding how the brain works. Most especially in how schizophrenia itself operates.

First and foremost we must not demonize the mentally ill. The stigma must end so the healing can begin.

I ask that when you know someone who is battling mental illness to see beyond the diagnosis. To see the person in front of you. To love them. My mother was not her disease. It was part of her story, but not the entire story.

We lost her when a blood clot traveled to her brain causing an aneurism. This was wholly unexpected and shocking for both our family and her doctor. At this time mommy was in the hospital again after another breakdown and her health was improving. 

Side note: My sister tells me that its possible that our mother may have been misdiagnosed and was most likely manic-depressive. My aunt however disagrees.

I am grateful to John and Linda Doherty for continuing the legacy of adoption in our family. To my sister Christine Connelly for being the mother I needed as a young child when mommy could not. Even as you too were still a child. To Michelle Amigo for being an wonderful sister. I have been blessed with many mothers.

my sister’s and I do not battle schizophrenia, it is however something we know can be a possibility for future generations.

Thank you for reading.