Welcome to the exciting world of me trying to make a new start and become a better me!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How do you pick up the threads of an old life?

"How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on... when in your heart you begin to understand... there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend... some hurts that go too deep... that have taken hold" - Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Greetings friends,

So maybe my introduction is a bit dramatic. But as I looked back on the blog posts I wrote 3 or 4 years ago, it may well have been a lifetime ago.

Like my friends in the Hobbit stories, I feel like I've been "there and back again." Last time I blogged, which was 3 years ago, I had recently started a new job at a woman's college in Cleveland. One year ago, the opportunity arose to go back to the university I was working at in 2012, but full time. I went for it, and it was a good decision. I rekindled friendships, started new ones and I am really glad for the support I have found here.

I also started working on one of my "Life List" items - I am working on my Ed.D. as we speak! I am 2 years into my program, which means I'm halfway done! In May, 2018, I'll be Dr. Brittiani McNeil, which is pretty bad-ass. It's been hard and I can't tell you the number of times where I was like, the hell with it. But I think it will be worth it in the end. The doctorate will (hopefully!) open up new opportunities and doors for me.

I moved from the Youngstown area about a year ago. A bittersweet decision, as I had found a wonderful group of friends and support structure there. It was time to move on, though. And commuting from Youngstown to Cleveland, which is 64 miles one way, was killing me.

The divorce was finalized in October, 2013. It wasn't particularly messy or hostile. It ended quietly, with the sound of a gavel and the signing of some papers. There wasn't much to fight about, and in the end, he assured me that he would forget about being married once upon a time. So, forget-able me walked away a little older, a little colder, and much smarter, stronger, and realistic. As Frodo noted, "There are... some hurts that go too deep." Well, this scar hangs out. It's a little dead part of my heart. A bit of innocence and romance that will never return.

It's been nearly 3 years since we finalized. Four years since we split (hell, almost as long as we were married!). 95% of the time, I am awesome. Every so often, a memory is kicked up and it stings for a minute, or I run into his doppleganger at Target and nearly puke on his shoes (that actually happened!).

I have a wonderful man in my life. He was a theatre friend who became much more. My Tom has a larger than life, bombastic, weird-ass public persona, but inside is this big teddy bear. He has been supportive through everything, my biggest cheerleader as I work on my doctorate, and I really feel like I can be myself with him. I am grateful.

But I'm still a big girl in a small world. I am officially at my heaviest weight. My blood tests and all that medical stuff still comes back normal, but it won't forever. I'm 34. I don't have children. I don't know that I will. I know in the past, having a healthy pregnancy was a huge motivator for me, and when that idea kind of evaporated, so did my drive to be healthy. The divorce and other major life changes didn't help. Some people stop eating. I ate ALL the things. My life is super sedentary. I have an office job, I come home, eat dinner, do homework, go to bed.

Recently, I decided I was over what I was seeing in the mirror. I am tired of not having energy. So quietly, without any big announcement of fanfare, I just decided to say enough. I am eating better. I bought a little bike. I am starting out slow. I don't think I even told Tom. I just make the conscious decision to do a little better. For no other reason other than it's exactly what I need to do. And I think that will make all the difference.

So, my little Hobbit friend Frodo, "How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on... when in your heart you begin to understand... there is no going back?" The answer is, you don't. You take your tattered, worn threads, begin re-weaving them, and start over.

I'm going on an adventure! Will you join me?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bless me Father, for I have sinned...

... it has been 18 months since my last confession. And in 18 months, my life is completely different. I scrolled through my old posts of journaling my weight loss and feel a sting of disappointment.

Do I begin w/ the excuses? The reasons? The justifications in my head? Does it matter? When things happen to you, the measure of one's character is how one deals with challenges and adversity. So I've done what I needed to do and worked through what I needed to work through, but sometimes you need someting to help you get through. And you turn to that which you know. What is familiar. What gives you instant gratification.

People are going to read this who may know or not know and may perhaps be shocked and confused. But this is the first time I'm saying this out loud in this kind of a digital medium where I am putting it out for the world to know...

Last September, my husband asked me for a divorce. Things weren't working out. Neither of us had been happy for a long time (and that's all I'm saying about that). Regardless, I was heartbroken. I moved out in October and moved in with a very dear friend who was kind enough to put me up while I go through this transition period. In November, I received news that my contract at my job was not going to be renewed due to budget cuts. And just before Christmas, I was separated from my husband and lost my job.

I'm not much for wallowing. I find it counter-productive. This time, it was harder to just pick myself up by the bootstraps and trudge along. I didn't have much of a reason to. There were days I barely got out of bed. You may recall one of my major motivations for losing weight a few years ago was so that I could have a healthy pregnancy. Well, that motivation was shot to hell. The idea of dating anyone was revolting. And while I tried to smile and tell people I was ok, I wasn't. My housemate strongly recommended I see a counselor, so I did. That helped. And every day, I made smaller and smaller steps to become a functioning human being again.

I started to have more good days than bad days. I started to see opportunities ahead of me as opposed to failures behind me. After 5 months of unemployment, I got a job at a small woman's college in Cleveland in May. Full-time. Benefits. Own office!!! Not great money, but better than unemployment by a long shot. Just having a job did a lot for my sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Felt productive again.

I am recovering. I still have bad days... but not as often. I have days where I don't want to get out of bed, but that's only b/c I'm sleepy and comfy, not full of despair. I also can now look in the mirror at myself and say, you're gonna be ok. Better than ok. Just fine. Now work on yourself.

And this brings us to the right now. I have gained about 30 lbs back. Hugely disappointed. That puts me too close to my highest weight, and I don't want to go there again. Clothes aren't fitting me. I'm not happy w/ how I look and I don't like the way I feel. So I need to start from square one, and begin again. I work at a college and have free access to a gym.... I need to use it! I live very close to a beautiful metropark w/ lovely trails and stuff and I've never been there! That should change. It's time to set new goals, reward small victories, find new support, and really try to be the best version of me I can be. I think it's time to start really "defying gravity."

I will be the phoenix.

And now for something entirely different...

Last year, a colleague suggested that while I have a bit of time off from theatre and with work being a bit slow, this would be a good time to figure out what I really want to get out of life and come up with a life list. So, I thought about it. Life is short, and there is a lot I want to do. So, I compiled a life list, and for the past year or so, it's been sitting in my purse... it's a folded up piece of paper with notes on it that I've added to and crossed things out several times. Now, it's time to publish it publically, in case I ever lose that piece of paper, this exists somewhere out there as a reminder to me of what I want to do.

 A few trends that stood out were that I really want to travel. A lot. And there is a lot that I want to do simply for myself. Entirely selfish, maybe even vain, but things that would fulfill a goal or dream. Besides, it's my life, being selfish is extremely difficult for me, and well, why the hell not?!? Some of the items will also have a bit of a description under them. Call it an explanation, a justification, or some clarification... whatever. Just a few notes.

So without further ado, Brittiani's Life List:

1. Drink wine in Napa Valley, California

2. Walk inside of a castle

3. See a play I wrote being performed

4. Write a book/novel

5. Pay off my student loans and throw a big-ass party
        The way I see it, my student loans are ridiculous, and perhaps will never be paid off, or I will be somewhere in my mid to late 50s when they are paid off. And since that will yield a lot of extra $$ in my pocket a month, I think that money would be better spent by hosting a fairly epic party... even if I'm old!

6. Meet a legit celebrity

7. Be a lead actress in a play that depends on me not sucking

8. Run a 5k

9. Wear a bikini and feel ok in it
          I added that last little bit b/c I could put on a bikini now, but believe me, no one wants to see that! I don't ever expect myself to be skinny enough to buy a bikini and strut my hot self around in it. But to put one on and at least feel confident enough to walk into public with it on, would be nice.

10. Be a mommy

11. Be an educator

12. Swim with a dolphin

13. Learn archery

14. Fly first class

15. Order room service

16. Get a tattoo
           This is one of those things that I know what I want, where (for the most part) I want it. I just haven't quite worked up the nerve to do it. Was going to do it for my 30th birthday, but was talked into buying a piece of jewelry instead. I'm a big wimp!

17. Travel to:
       Vatican City
       New Zealand
       Nova Scotia
       San Francisco

18. Do a photo shoot for fun
              The first thing I can cross off my list! Was able to do a pinup shoot w/ a girl friend last summer. Had a blast! Would love to do that again!

19. Read more

20. Impact someone's life in a way that they are changed forever, preferably in a good way...

21. Go parasailing

22. Stand up for a cause
            It's not that I don't support causes or groups or organizations. I do. Wholeheartedly. However, I've never been to a protest, never held a sign supporting or against anything, or never took direct action. Case in point, when Westboro Baptist Church was planning on coming to Chardon to the funeral of the kid who died in the school shooting there in February, I really wanted to be part of the group that blocked them from the church. But I didn't go. I felt that being at work was more important. And I wish I did. I wanted to go to Occupy Youngstown. Never did. So, one day, I want to do something more than wish people luck. I want to give money, participate, write letters, be obnoxious. Be strong! Be a part of something bigger than myself!

23. Go to NASA

24. Be in a movie... again!
            In February, I got offered a part in a movie being shot in Youngstown. A decent part, nonetheless. Definitely a supporting role. Click here for the preview (but if you don't do horror movies or goriness, or if kids are around, this is not for you). It was a really interesting experience. Very different from live stage. Filmed the whole thing in 24 hours, and for the 18+ hours I was on-set, it was cold, exhausting, and very surreal. Like, we couldn't go out in public dressed as we were, so you had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world. So, WWIII could have started and I would have had no idea. It was a really cool experience I would like to do again.

25. Take a cruise

26. Go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans

27. Ride in a hot air balloon

28. Have a spa day complete with a massage, facial, manicure, and pedicure
             I got my first massage as a birthday gift and it was the best thing I could have done for myself. I have a gift certificate I got for Christmas for a pedicure but I haven't used it yet (I have no good reason why...). But I would like to spend a day being a pampered lady. That would be nice.

29. See the aurora borealis

30. Go to Alcatraz

31. Go to the redwood forest in California

32. See the pyramids of Giza, Egypt

33. Watch a sunrise and a sunset on the same day, and not through the windshield of my car during my daily commute

34. Go to a non-work-related conference or convention

35. Sing a solo on stage and not suck

36. Learn American Sign Language better than I do now
             At this point, I know most of the letters. I know some words. But I'd like to actually be able to sign in conversation.

37. Tell Mrs. Milford how much she meant to me
             Mrs. Milford was my choir teacher for 4 years of high school. I don't think we got along well in the beginning. I was irresponsible and she would expect a lot out of you and I just didn't feel like giving it. However, as I got into the middle of my junior year and through my senior year, she grew to like me, and me her. I would do extra-curricular things with her and for her. I learned a lot from her, like how to sight read music, sing with my diaphragm, harmonize, and be flexible as a singer. However, it wasn't until I was in college for a while did I realize that she was not just teaching you how to be a better singer, but was prepping you for life. Learning responsibility, respect, flexibility, patience, and that first impressions are not entirely accurate are lessons that have filtered throughout my life as an adult. I appreciate her.

38. Speak publically in front of 100 people
              I figure start small here. It's not that I'm afraid to speak in public, but to do so to large groups would be such an adrenaline rush... so I'm starting w/ 100 and going up! :)

39. Keep dancing

40. Have dinner in a restaraunt that overlooks a city or other site

41. Dance on a beach

42. Do the food and wine celebration event at EPCOT

43. "Drink around the world" at EPCOT
             Essentially, have an alcoholic beverage at every country represented at EPCOT, which is my favorite place on earth!

44. Meet a celebrity on my "get out of marriage free" list
              I have a few celebrities that my husband will let me "get out of marriage free" for.

45. Get my Ph.D. or Ed.D.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

One Year Later...

Hello Everyone,

I can't believe I haven't posted a blog since August. Eek! Bad me! :( I went back through and read my posts from the past year, and I am so amazingly proud of how far I've come in a year.

The lowest I got down to was down 38 lbs. Not quite the 50 lbs. I was hoping to lose in 2011, but still, that's nothing to sneeze at! I feel a lot better than I did at the beginning of last year. Even looking at pictures of myself from that time last year to now, I still don't think I'm any great beauty or anything, but I'm definitely better to look at then I was! Currently, given the holidays and everything, I am down 30 lbs. from last year. Holidays were terrible on me, as they always are.

A lot of things have changed in my life over the past year as well. I got very involved in the theatre community here in Youngstown, which is a vibrant, busy community filled with wonderful and talented people, many of whom I am privileged to now call friends. I've been in 5 shows since June, stage managed 1, and assistant directed 1. So I've been hella busy! My first lead roles were in a Christmas show last month, and I am currently in my first lead actress role currently in a show that is male dominated (only woman in the cast... thank God for our female stage manager!)! I am super-psyched about this role. The show is called Shining City. It takes place in Dublin (yes, I have to rock an Irish accent... it's coming along...). I play "the baby-mama drama" to the lead male. It's a lot of fun, and an entirely different role than anything I'm used to doing or playing, but it's challenging and I'm loving it and the cast and crew are beyond fantastic! It's going to be a great show, and I cannot wait!!

I also am looking at the prospect of a new job! I was offered a part-time position at John Carroll University in Cleveland working for their school of education. I am very excited for the opportunity, if not a bit nervous about leaving the stability of my full time, full benefits position to now work 2 part time jobs. But it's a chance I can't not take. I start in a few weeks, so I am looking forward to that.

I also can say that 2011 brought to me 2 very important things: friends and confidence. I turned 30 this year. I said goodbye to toxic friendships. I gained some wonderful new friends. Acting has really helped my confidence level increase, even though it has hindered my ability to exercise as much as I want. But I think that gaining what I did this year is also worthwhile.

I am, however, more desirous, to start a family. My younger sister got pregnant this year. My little nephew will be coming around in February. Every time I read my FB newsfeed, someone else is pregnant, or having babies, or posting pictures of babies. It makes me really happy for my friends and family, but at the same time, a bit depressed. I keep wondering when it will be my time.... Believe me, I am happy with my life, and there is plenty to keep me preoccupied. But once that switch is flipped that your ready to have a baby, there's nothing you can do to turn it off. I wish I could. I'm sure it would make things a lot easier on my husband....

Looking ahead at 2012, I am re-focusing on losing weight and feeling good. Besides, I'd like to lose this holiday weight... really want to look good for the show opening in Febraury. ;) So I'm back to eating right and exercising. Got the new Your Shape 2012 for the Kinect, and I LOVE it! I love running through NYC. I love the dance classes. It's great. I highly recommend it! I played it yesterday. Today, I am sore, so I'm taking a break. Will probably run tomorrow before I go out on the town tomorrow night. :)

So dear friends, I guess at the completion of a year, I am proud to say, I am a slightly less big girl living in a small world. :)

Below is the progression. This was me when I made the decision that I needed to no longer be a fat ass! December, 2010

This was in June, 2011. No, I do not normally dress like this. Was in my first play in 10 years, Camille.

This was November, 2011 on my birthday w/ the hubby.

Oooh... did I mention I can now buy clothes at The Limited?!?!?? Definite highlight of the year! :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weigh-In: Weeks 27, 28, and 29: Cookie Weight and Ex-Boyfriends

Greetings Blog Readers,

Another 3 weeks have come and gone. The dieting has gone better over the past few weeks. Even got back into working out, which feels great when you have a lot on your mind. I tend to forget that when I'm working out, I forget everything else and am solely concentrating on not dying. LOL.

Anyways, the past 3 weeks have gone a little something like this:

Week 27 - Gained 4 lbs. Yeah. 4 lbs. Damn near had a heart attack! But it was that time, so I kind of figured it would be up, but not THAT up. I also blamed it on what I affectionately called "cookie weight" after indulging on that delicious cookie tray I mentioned in my last post. So, I knew I'd have to wait a week and see what was "cookie weight" vs. monthly visitor weight...

Week 28 - Lost 4.4 lbs. Yeah. Screw you cookies! Take that!

Week 29 - Lost 2 lbs. Happy dance! This puts me at a total of 37 lbs. since the start of the year! It is oh-so nice to see the numbers going down for a change... I was getting real sick of flirting w/ 35 lbs.... it's like an old boyfriend or something... like, that was nice, time to move on.

Due to the fact that it's late on a Saturday night and I'm getting tired, I really don't have a whole lot more to say. But I do. I'm just tired and don't feel like doing a hearty blog at the moment. Will write more later, when I'm more awake.

Later. :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Weigh-In: Weeks 24, 25, 26: In Search of Zen

Hello Friends,

Long time, no see. I wish I had something to blame it on... not that I haven't been busy... but not enough that I should have ignored my blog for 3 weeks. Such is life, I suppose. Seems like I've been having the same feeling about the lifestyle change...

So, over the past 3 weeks, I gained .2lbs, lost 1.6 lbs., and then lost 0 lbs. I am still flirting with down 35 lbs. since the beginning of the year. I shouldn't be irritated... I'm still 10 lbs. over my goal for this time of the year. I was doing so well in the beginning - super-motivated, ambitious. Now, other things have my attention. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's something I absolutely have to figure out how to balance my life.

I can tell you right now, this week has been particularly abysmal. I hosted a cast party for the show I was in earlier this summer at the house, and had a metric ton of leftovers that finally got out of the house today. One of my achilles' heels, though, was a cookie tray I bought at Sam's Club that was hardly touched. That tray of cookies was like having drugs around someone who was out of rehab. I know that's a pretty harsh comparison, but seriously, that's how it felt. I couldn't keep my hands off of the cookies. Even if I didn't want one. Even if I wasn't hungry. I would be walking through the kitchen and be like "ooh, cookie." And truthfully, I feel like shit. I've ate like shit, and I feel it. It's the re-introduction of large amounts of sugar to the body. I remember it from the last time I did this diet. I am lethargic, moody, and have a chronic tummyache. It's a terrible feeling, until your body adjusts to digesting or metabolizing sugar again. However, that's not really an option I'm considering going back to. So begins the official re-detox. And it will probably be equally sucky. I sit here writing the blog and want to do nothing except sit on my ass, which is totally counter-productive. *sigh*

I have about 15 more lbs. to go. I've done it at least twice over thus far. This should not be so hard. But it is. I have plateaued, and really, I think it's about finding some balance in my life.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weigh-in: Week #23


I am officially sick of the whole once-a-month visitor/weight gain correlation. I don't really think I helped it much this week, though. Evidently, my post-show hangover also included generally poor eating habits this week. I ended up gaining 2 lbs. this week. :(

I'm not bummed, though. I'm learning that I go through this and to be patient. It's just a pain in the ass. And that perhaps I need to help myself through these wonderful times by actually not eating like shit, like I did this week. I had wings TWICE this week! I really need to get back into the mindset of self control. That's half the battle. CHOOSING what I SHOULD eat as opposed to what sounds good. But I'm going to do better. I am going to go back to working out. B/c the alternative is not something I am ever going back to. Period.

I will say this, though... was going through my summer clothes that I bought last year to go to Myrtle Beach. I had to give away a lot of the shorts and capris. They were ridiculously big. That was a good feeling. I'm down 2 whole pant sizes since I bought them, and it really does feel nice to put on jeans from college and not feel entirely self-concious in them (or the fact I can squeeze into them is nice, too!).

So that's where I'm at this week. Taking it all in stride, but beating myself up enough to stay motivated...

Tune in next time.... ;)