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Finding Myself

Updated: Oct 26, 2022



I looked in the mirror and didn't recognize the person staring back at me


I remember being in my twenties and life being simple. It had its challenges of course but I had my life ahead of me. I was working the job of my dreams at the time and dreaming of the days that I would be a happily married woman. I moved to Traverse City, Michigan to continue with the job of my dreams, working with teenage girls in a residential setting. I had been doing this dream job of mine for 3 years at a place in Kansas City and I was offered a position at a bigger facility in Traverse City. So five weeks later, I moved.


The next summer my life changed. I met Christopher Teasdale. He would make the dream to be a wife come true. Since we both knew what we wanted and we were what each other had wanted, we were quickly married after knowing each other for only 11 months.

Christopher was a man of adventure, crazy stories, and a unique accent. We spent the first four months of our marriage in South Africa meeting his family, seeing the places he grew up in, and experiencing the culture that helped build who he was. It’s a beautiful country, with beautiful people, and more culture in one place than I've ever seen. The 4-month honeymoon ended and we returned home.


Home, we didn't have one, we didn't have a car, and spent just about every penny we collectively had galavanting around South Africa. So, we had nothing but each other. And you know how people say “All you need is love.” Love is not enough. I loved this man and he loved me very much but our struggle was real, we had no money.


I'd imagine my life up into this point of being married. I had somehow forgotten to dream past that. Here I was, I had reached my dream. Now what?


From here life moved very quickly and brought lots of changes. One of those big changes was babies. Not even sure if I wanted to have kids, we had two babies in two years getting pregnant only 6 months after getting married. We both managed to find new jobs, buy a home, and buy a car. Now we had two little girls, and they were the best thing ever (and also the hardest).


I had two C-section babies so my body went through a lot. My breasts fed both of them which takes a lot of work and yet is the most beautiful thing you can do. There were late nights, early mornings, little sleep, baby weight, clothes that would not fit you, and an expectation to go back to work.


Nobody wants to spend time away from their babies, but the bills had to be paid! So I headed back to work. I started a new job working in a kitchen as a cook. I love cooking. It was a great job for me. What I didn't love was being away from my babies.


As you can imagine, the baby weight didn't come off working in a kitchen. It got worse. Truth be told, it wasn't baby weight at this point, it was a food baby.


I was so tired. I did not care how I looked. I'd roll out of bed in the morning with just enough time to throw on some clothes, make a cup of coffee, and run out the door. I didn't spend time on my hair, put on my makeup, or even put in contacts. I did the bare basics and headed to work to put in my 10-hour shift in a hot sticky kitchen. This was my life. I was exhausted, taking care of two babies that I love dearly, and the rest of the hours cooking for other people.


I had no dreams to pursue, only hope for a good night's sleep. I didn't feel pretty. I didn't feel sexy. I was just trying to survive the day, today, of life. Keeping babies alive and keeping food on the table; That's what I lived for. On the days I was home with the girls, my husband would get home from work and I would be in my pajamas, with my hair unbrushed, and dinner ready on the table. I was embarrassed that he would come home to me looking like that. He never complained of it, however, I didn't like how it made me feel.

That is when I looked in the mirror and didn't recognize myself. I was unkept, overweight, my clothes didn't fit, and I was exhausted. I didn't want to look this way, and I didn't want to feel this way anymore. There came a day when enough was enough. I had reached that point.


One small step to change


One day while I was at work, hair pulled back in a messy bun, no makeup, still wearing my glasses, one of my coworkers walked by. I didn't work with this girl often, but I had worked with her enough to know that she was always put together. Her hair was done, her nails done, and her outfits were on point. Of course, she was young and with no responsibilities, so of course, she had the time for self-care. Or so I thought.


Then, I saw her head into the office with her two children. She had a boy and a girl just a few years older than mine and she was waiting for the babysitter to come to pick them up so she could work. My mind was blown! How does a single mother of two look so put together? (Let’s clarify, looking put together and being put together can be two totally different things.) However, for this point, she looked put together. I wanted to look put together too! I wanted to feel pretty again. That was the moment everything changed (okay, not everything). That was the moment I took one small step in the direction of changing my life.


Do you know what that one small step was? I decided I would wake up on my days off and get dressed. That’s it. I would no longer spend the whole day in my pajamas. I would brush my hair and make myself look presentable before my husband got home from work. Nothing fancy, just take a few minutes to put myself together.


The most powerful part of this step was that when I decided to do it, I did it. I got dressed and I made myself feel presentable. I actually took the step. I took control of a small piece of my life, and it snowballed from there. I started wearing makeup to work and trying to look cute when I left the house. That led to the next step: I wanted to lose the baby weight from giving birth to my two precious girls.


This next step started in my kitchen. Even though I spent 10 hours a day in the kitchen surrounded by food, I chose not to eat everything around me. I started intermittent fasting. I started a keto diet. I began to lose weight for the first time in a long time. It felt good, and it was empowering. With the weight loss, I got to buy new clothes. Clothes that actually fit, looked trendy, and made me feel sexy. Then I had a friend reach out to me and told me she started CrossFit and absolutely loved it. She thought I would love it too. After a few times of her encouraging me to give it a try, I did. She was right! I loved it. I continued to lose a few more pounds, but more importantly, I started to build muscle and reshape my body. I started to have a shape I was proud of.


This transition from the girl who looked in the mirror and did not recognize herself turned into a girl who could love the girl looking back at her. This transformation began at a moment where enough was enough and a decision to take one step in the direction of how I wanted my life to go. I found the motivation when I saw that somebody else could do it. If she can do it, I can do it. I took that first step of getting my life back.


It just takes one small step. It takes one small commitment to do the work to move toward what you want. One step or one small transformation leads to the next. You lose weight, then you buy new clothes. One thing affects the other. You cannot tackle the whole goal and the whole dream in a moment. It's a process. So many people feel overwhelmed because their goal is so far away or so big. We all get to a goal the same way, one step at a time. Start by committing to the first step. One step leads to the next. When we look at it one small step at a time our dreams become achievable. The fear of tackling them dwindles. With each step, we build more confidence that we are going to make it to the dream.


I found me -but what does Me want


Speaking of chasing my dreams, what was the dream? I just found myself again in the mirror but what did I want? What was I living for? What did I want to accomplish or experience in life? I had no idea. Remember when I said the farthest thing I had dreamed was being a wife. I had accomplished that and much more. And I was a mom and a cook. But now what. Was that enough? Is that all I wanted out of life?


I was married to a man who was a dreamer. He could dream all day long. Crazy dreams, big dreams, business dreams, financial dreams. He could dream of anything. But not me. I think somehow I missed that lesson growing up. Over lots of conversations over the years with my husband I slowly learned to dream. For me, it was always the how that I would get hung upon. If I couldn't figure out how I wouldn't have the dream. But I let go of that and dared to dream. I dared to hope for something more.


There's this cute elderly man who was a resident in the assisted living facility where I worked. He had come back from the doctor with some specific dietary requests. As a cook, I looked over the requests to figure out a way to implement them in his diet. These requests bothered me. Based on what I understood about how the body worked and basic nutrition this did not seem like the best way to accomplish his goals. Of course, we implemented exactly what the doctor wanted. However, I had a few ideas of my own that could also be helpful. I got permission for a nurse to discuss these ideas with Ed. He was very open to my ideas and so we implemented them. Just days later we started to see the results. For the next few months, he followed these dietary recommendations. He lost the weight that the doctor required him to lose to be able to get off one of his medications. He was so excited to finally be off this medication and to be in the weight bracket that his doctor felt was healthy. I was also excited to see his health improve. That was the moment. That was the moment that I knew that I had a lot to offer when it came to my understanding of food and the body. This showed me that I knew enough to help people make some changes that could improve their health or help them reach their goals. All the research I had done for myself over the years. All the changes I had made to my diet to reach my health goals could also help other people.

I had found my passion. I wanted to work with people and teach nutrition. I was so excited to find something that excited me. I shared this newfound passion with my husband, and he got excited with me. I started researching where I could get an education so that I could learn even more. I found a school called SWIHA. I looked at the classes in their nutrition program and every one of them excited me. Every one of them offered information I wanted to know. Before I know it, I was enrolled to go back to school - A dream I had never considered. I would hear people talking about wanting to go back to school. That was never me. I didn't even want to go to school the first time around. Here I was with a passion, a dream, and back in school.


I'm a working mother of two children and I enrolled to go to school full time. I felt very supported by my husband in this dream. I knew that as a nutritionist I could also financially contribute to the family in a way that would help me reach some of my other life dreams. So, I took a big step and got enrolled in school.

It felt so good to have a dream again.


I am in control?


Things were looking so good for the first time in a really long time. I had a dream and a passion to pursue. My husband got a better job, and our financial struggles were a lot less. The girls were getting older, so we started going out more and doing more fun things as a family. The girls were finally sleeping through the night, praise God! Things looked and felt good.


Then total tragedy hit. My husband took a 4-day business trip to Austin Texas for some training. He had a great time on his trip. We were totally that couple that hated being apart, but we survived. He was really exhausted when he got back. He had been fighting a cough even before the trip and was still struggling to get a good night's sleep while coughing.

I had signed the girls up for gymnastics. They were so excited. It was our first day and they were having a blast. I got a call from my husband tell me that he felt a bit off, and decided to go lie down for a little bit. He asked that we come straight home after gymnastics. Gymnastics ended and the girls and I headed home despite being a little hungry and wanting some lunch.


At home, I went in to attend to my husband. He was very out of sorts and was really struggling to put together a complete thought. I was very puzzled by this. This sounded to me like evidence of a stroke. My husband was 41 years old, and had been healthy our entire marriage. He's never been any sicker than the common cold and this weird cough thing that he hasn't been able to shake. He's not overweight. If anything, slightly under. He eats all the healthy foods that I choose to make. So there is no way my 41-year-old husband is having a stroke.


I’m in the waiting room waiting to see my husband since watching him leave in an ambulance. It was the moment they drove off with him that I knew for sure something was very wrong.

The nurse comes to deliver the news, “Your husband has had a stroke caused by the leukemia.”

“Say what? Leukemia?”

“Yes,” she answered very puzzledly. “You do know he has leukemia, right?”

“No, no I don't know he has leukemia.”

“Well, nevertheless, he does and the bleeding on his brain is very bad. The surgeon will be in in a few minutes to explain more.”

It's an understatement to say that I was in total shock. But the brain surgeon comes in and the simplest way to paraphrase what he told me is this, "because of the leukemia it is way too dangerous to operate on your husband because he will bleed out if anything goes wrong. The degree to which he has bled already is so severe he's as good as gone. If this was my son I would just let him go."

Talk about the most heartless words anybody could ever utter out of their mouth. I went from thinking my husband didn't feel well to basically being told he is dead.

Despite his words, we did everything we could do to save him. But four days later after it was confirmed that he was brain dead we turned off the machines and said our goodbyes.

After my husband went into that hospital, he never spoke another word to me again. In a moment he was gone. Gone forever. The love of my life. The father of my children. The man who taught me to dream and believe in myself.


I was devastated and in shock for at least 6 months before I could even begin the grieving process. I had no control over the situation that took my husband from me. But I did have control over where my life would go from here.


I pushed back the dream to go back to school, but I did not take it off the table. I extended my start date twice. 8 months later after his death, as a widow, as a single mother of two, as a sole provider of my family, I started school full time. Because I'm still responsible for how my life goes. It's hard to feel in control when things out of your control happen. But some things are out of our control and some things are in our control. We have to take responsibility for the things that we can and let go of the things that we can't. As hard as I tried to wrap my brain around why my husband died I couldn't make sense of it. I've had to let go of the fact that I cannot make sense of it, and I could not have changed it. I had to let go of the what-ifs, and instead, I took control of what I had control over. I have control of my future. I have control of my life. I had dreams that only I could make happen. I chose to make them happen despite the tragedy, despite the struggle.


Hard is an understatement


What I was left to do in picking up the pieces and moving forward was so hard. It's still hard. I'm exhausted from the hard, but I have chosen to keep living. I've chosen to give myself a life and I've chosen to make a life for my daughters. This choice is a daily one. It wasn’t just a choice I made once, it is a choice I have to make day in and day out. When it gets hard I have to make the choice again to do it despite the hard. It took time to navigate a schedule as a single mom. Who's going to take care of my kids when I work? Who's going to take care of my kids while I'm in school? Who's going to take care of my kids so I can take care of myself? Honestly, the biggest struggle was having help with my children. There were two of us taking care of two of them. Now there's me taking care of two of them and barely taking care of me. I want to shout out to all the single moms out there. Being a parent with two parents is challenging enough. So many of you do it on your own. Becoming a single mom was hard. It the hardest thing I've ever done. But somehow with the people around me, it worked. I had to learn to ask for help. I had to be vulnerable. I had to ask people to help me with my kids. I had to make peace with the fact that I couldn't do it all.


Eventually, with help, I was able to get a schedule going. I even made it back to the gym. I was able to do things to take care of me. I needed the outlet of the gym. I needed the hard work to let out the frustration and the stress. Exercise does so much for your brain and mental health. I know it played a huge role in my life working through grief. But the physical discipline was good too. Continuing to get my body in good shape was good for me too. I had to choose to start cooking again, to start preparing healthy food again for me and my girls. To start caring about our health again. And I did. Being in school and studying healthy food definitely helped me get motivated to eat healthy again. It was good for all of us. Hard can either make us or break us. I chose to let the hard make me. I chose to work through the hard to get the life I wanted. I recognized the things I had control of and took control of them. I let go of the things I did not have control of and rested in that.






Living after loss is scary. It shows you there are things you don't have control over. You know now more than ever, things can happen that change the entire course of your life and there is not a thing you can do about it. Being woken up to that reality is scary. It's scary to let yourself live again. It's scary to reach for happiness again. But what's the alternative? At least if you try for it, you have a chance of having it. I chose to continue living. It was with a very different lens this time; it was with lots of questions, and it was very hard. However, thus far, it has been worth it and I’m glad I did.


I had found myself. I had a dream. I was passionate again. Even though my heart had been broken I continued to live my life and follow my dreams.


Who are you? What are you living for? Dont let the business of life take you for a ride. Find your dream and live for it.

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