One Year Later

One year ago, I published this post:

What I didn’t know then, was that that post would be the wake up call I needed for change and authenticity to start a new year. I started 2011 with a weight on my shoulders that I immediately felt melt away after I dropped the mask I was wearing for much of the previous year. I felt free to be myself, there is no greater feeling than to just let it all go.

And now one year later, I look back on the past year with a smile and a grateful heart. Our family went through a lot in 2011, but we grew closer because of it. My love and respect for my Dad grew like I didn’t know possible.

With a new year, there is always that feeling of starting fresh. I want to take a moment before moving on to 2012 to revisit some of the things I learned in 2011.

~We are all struggling with some area in our lives to some degree…whether it’s personal or it’s professional…some just hide it a little better. Life has it’s share of failure and defeat. The important part is learning from it, and picking yourself up a little smarter and a little stronger.

~It makes a difference if you start your day off with gratitude.

~An act of kindness towards a stranger, a friend, or a family member can change the course of their day…and as an added bonus it will change the course of your day as well.

~There is beauty in the break down.

~Laughter cures a lot! So do exactly what it is that brings the laughter out. Laugh everyday. Every single day.

~Tell the people you love that you love them. Don’t wait. Tell them now and often.

~Be honest with your friendships, and cherish them. They are valuable. If you find there is a toxic friendship in your life, it’s OK to take a step back. Friendships aren’t supposed to be filled with guilt. If you are kind, loyal, and accepting…you deserve the same respect in return. Not every friendship has to be a close friendship, there are all levels of friendships in life, and they are all important to find balance.

~Enjoy the simple joys in life. A great meal out with someone you love, a phone call with a friend you miss, an afternoon with family, a night playing cards, an afternoon tobogganing with kids.  You will smile more. You will laugh more. Life is meant to be fun. If it’s not fun, make some fun.

Note: now that you’ve seen some cute kid’s tobogganing, may I draw your attention to how adults look when they toboggan….

Where was I…

~If you work from home, get ready in the morning just as if you were heading into work away from home. You will feel better. I spent one year working from home in my PJ’s. I think you could hear the dishevelled in my voice had you called me.

~Eat healthy, drink lots of water, go for a walk/a run/a bike ride. It’s unbelievable how much that improves your health and your over-all well-being. Your body was designed to work that way! Be good to yourself.

~If you hear a song you love and you feel like dancing. Then dance. It’s fun.

~Be exactly who you are, because you will attract like-minded friends. Life is just better when you surround yourself with a whole lot of love (and it’s lots of fun too).

~If you don’t like something about your life, guess what…you can change it. Or you can at least change how you react to the negative circumstances surrounding your life. A cup half-full is half-full.

~Balance is key: in all you do, strive for balance.

~You can’t change anyone else…you can only change yourself, continuing to evolve and grow as life does. Work on you. Don’t worry about anyone else.

“Let the refining and improving of your own life keep you so busy that you have little time to criticize others.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

~Life is FILLED with people who can teach you something. Listen. Resist the urge to talk…simply listen and your life will change as those lessons (they are gifts) from others sink in.

~We all have different belief systems. Respect other’s beliefs and values. They are as sacred to them as yours are to you.

~It’s rude to text when someone is talking to you. It just is. I’ve been guilty of this! I’ve realized when I’m on the other end of it that it’s just not polite, it sends a message that you are not important enough to look in the eye.  Drop the phone, make eye contact and engage in conversation. 🙂

~The things you fear most in life are the very challenges you should face. I’m not outgoing, and I have to force myself to meet new people and forget the fact I’m socially awkward. If I wouldn’t have taken the steps to meet new people, or if they wouldn’t have taken the steps…I would have missed out on some incredible friendships and experiences.  (Hope: I’m so glad that I forced myself to go to your workshops…the hours leading up to the workshop, my stomach was in knots because I didn’t believe in myself as a photographer…even though I was going to learn. I was so close to not going because of my own insecurities. And look what I would have missed out on!)

~Give your best to your guests.

~Say thank you.

That’s about all I can think of! I know I rambled! Thank you for reading my thoughts, and I am so thankful for each and every person that visits my blog and takes the time to comment.  May 2012 be filled with a ridiculous amount of love and laughter within your life!

From my heart to yours,

I welcome 2012 with open arms and a thankful heart


Challenging Old Beliefs

It’s true in life there are some things that are out of our control, but there are also many things that are absolutely in our control. The key is to discern between the two.

There were so many things in my life that I thought I couldn’t do.  For example, I convinced myself I couldn’t run a 10K. I woke up one day and actually said aloud “Why can’t I? Who says I can’t?”  Well, I said I couldn’t.  I thought I wasn’t athletic or a runner. Why did I think that?  Because I was living in an old belief. I believed that I would always be uncomfortable in my own skin. I believed that I was too big to run.  When I was growing up, I was raised on a farm which was 20 minutes from town.  My mom worked full-time opening a business, and so I wasn’t into organized sports. Having said that, I also didn’t want to be either. I believed that I wasn’t athletic. It just wasn’t my reality.

Bull shit!!!

Recently I was attempting to do two sets of tricep push ups….well I could only get through one set. I find tricep push ups so tough to do. I was immediately discouraged. How was I going to be able to do two sets when I had a hard time getting  through one set?  You know how?  I just have to keep at it!  I have to continue to challenge my muscles, and guess what…I will get stronger!  It’s a fact.

It’s the same with one’s mind-set.  If you are replaying the same old beliefs in your mind, and it’s not serving you in any way, the way to overcome it is to challenge that belief.  Keep challenging it.  When your mind says “I can’t”, then you need to challenge it.  Why can’t you?  Who says you can’t?  WHY do you believe you can’t…get the heart of the tired belief. Most often than not, it’s our own mind that says we can’t do something and it’s based on a past belief that no longer holds truth for us (and did it ever hold any truth in the first place?!).

I have many old beliefs. I have started leaving sticky notes on the mirror at the gym.   They say something different each time.

“You are more powerful than you even realize”.

“You are enough.”

“You are beautiful. Be good to you.”

I have no idea who notices them or if it affects anyone, but I do know that if I was looking at those notes before starting my work out, it would lift me up and start things off on a positive. They challenge inner-beliefs that I struggle with.  I do realize this is a bit odd. But, I keep writing those pick me up notes in the off-chance someone else struggles and needs to hear it.

Also, most recently I have decided to embrace my odd, geeky side! Hey, it’s part of who I am. Authenticity builds relationships of trust, value, & respect. So just be you. We are all flawed. It’s OK, because it’s honest & refreshing in all actuality 🙂  Maybe it’s weird to write strangers sticky notes who I never actually see reading them (unless I hide behind the garbage can which is a weird stretch even for me).  Whatever, I’m weird. I write pick-me-up sticky notes because my heart tells me to.  ha ha

The other day as I was getting ready in front of my mirror I thought to myself “I hate my legs.” I had to snap myself out of it, as much as I have challenged those old beliefs, they still crop up from time to time.  My next thought was, if I truly believed I hate my legs, then I should have no problem approaching someone who’s in a wheel chair and say “hey, how are ya? Do you know that I hate my legs.”  Humbling moment. I’m thankful that I have healthy legs. I’m so excited to ride my new bike.  Bring on the sun and cleared biking paths! 🙂

Be good to you. You are worthy. You are enough.  Challenge those tired old beliefs. Forget about status quo.  Give yourself permission to really look within your own heart and follow the path that is right for you. Trust yourself to make the healthy choices that lift you up.

And then when you are in a place of strength, you spread the love.  Love, strength, and positivity are contagious.  🙂

From my heart to yours,



I have always wanted to learn how to meditate, however my mind is always going…thinking, thinking, thinking.  The days are so busy, how am I going to etch out some time to be silent in the middle of hectic?  Take today for example (and as I write this it’s not quite 2 p.m.)

I woke up this morning to my hubby whispering good-bye in my ear. The room was still dark, must have been really early.  The night before we had joked that I never say anything back to him when he says his daily good-byes. In my morning slumber, I believe I do so this morning I make sure I repeat everything he said to me…attempting to say it at the exact same time. We laughed and I went back to sleep. I was awoken thirty minutes later to the sounds of my dog Teddy frantically barking as my son was playing with him in the living room. My daughter soon joined in, and within a few minutes there was the familiar song of sibling rivalry going on. Wiping sleep from my eyes, I dragged my weary legs to the kitchen to make breakfast for all three kids.  They know not to talk to me first thing in the morning, they know to give me at least 10 minutes before any demands are made. Robotically, I spread peanut butter and jam on their toast. I make coffee. I need coffee.

The pace turned hectic as we rushed to get out the door for school.  Homework to be found, socks to be matched, clothes and hair to be fixed.  “Mom I can only find one mitt, oh and sign this sheet, also I need 2 cups of chocolate covered raisins by tomorrow for a cooking project.” my son yells to me.  I think to myself:  “Who cooks with chocolate covered raisins and Why don’t I get my act together and have everything organized the night before?”.  One would think that would make life easier.

I opened the garage door; the chill of winter slapped us across the face as I realized that the deep freeze is still upon us. I told the kids to jump in my car. We are running late. I’m not above driving the two blocks to school just so we don’t have frozen hair and eyelashes today.  There’s a lot of school traffic on cold days. There was a lady waiting to turn left at the school, meaning she had to cross the traffic.  The same traffic that wasn’t moving only because she needed to make a left hand turn. Suburb deadlock.  “Why must you turn left and hold up traffic lady! For the love of chocolate, just turn right and circle the block” I whispered under annoyed breath.  We ran into the school, my finger tips were numb. Kisses, “I love you’s” and “you’re awesome’s” were exchanged.

I returned home to clean up from the morning rush.  I feel tired and the day has just begun. E-mails to answer, phone calls to return, laundry piled up, the house in shambles, my accounting records for 2010 lay open waiting for me to finish them.  “Stop taunting me accounting records. Why must the government need these?” I say out loud. I’m weird like that, I’m a talk-to-yourself-er. I want to go back to bed.  I look up at the clock after the morning errands, and It’s already time to pick up my daughter from Kindergarten. In fact, I have exactly one minute to get back to the school.  I can’t find my keys, why am I so absent-minded?  Rush out the door.

When I get home from picking up my daughter, I have the overwhelming urge to work out.  I don’t like to plan when I’m going to work out, the inner exerciser be-yatch eventually calls out.  I quickly put on my workout gear, lace up my runners, grab my iPhone for music, and head to my unfinished basement to my make-shift gym (complete with non-drywalled walls).  My son plays his Xbox downstairs, and there is evidence of a lounging Teenager everywhere. I clean up, muttering under my breath.

Time to run.

I find my power list on my iPod filled with music that is the perfect pace for running. Green Day, Clutch, ACDC, BEP, The Offspring, Rihanna, Muse, The Black Keys.  I take a big gulp of water and turn the treadmill on for a 5 minute warmup walk.  I’m stiff at first, and after my warm up I tell myself I will just run for 10 minutes. I always tell myself that, so I don’t complain. I up the pace to 6.3 and I focus on the same spot on the wall that I’ve stared at for years while I run.

I have no time to  stress about my responsibilities  All I can do is focus on this run, on my breathing, and on the uncomfortable feeling that is creeping into my muscles…travelling up my legs and into my lungs. I want to stop after 10 minutes, but I push that feeling out and convince myself I will run another 10 minutes. I get to 20 minutes, my legs have found their pace. I want to keep going. I want to beat my previous 5K time of under 30 minutes. Time to pick up the pace. I turn it up to 7.0 for 5 minutes (uttering a couple MF’s along the way), and back down to 6.5 for the remainder of the 5K.

The music is timed perfectly to each running step. I feel powerful, like I could do anything I set my mind to.  I feel strong, proud, and in control.  The more uncomfortable I feel, the more I say yes…I can do this. This is just the feeling of being alive.  I can’t explain the feeling that washes over me. It is not comfortable; however I realize, this feeling is PEACE.  Uncomfortable yet peaceful. Because that’s where peace lies for me…in pushing out of my comfort zone, in challenging myself, and in moving on.

While I run, I think about a friend whom I admire. She has found an amazing bright patch of happiness that she’s carved out of darkness. Does she know how amazing she is? There’s no point in keeping the good feelings within. I will tell her how amazing she is, but first I must finish this run in under 30 minutes. 🙂

When I’m done my run, I sit on my weight bench and catch my breath. I reached my daily goal. I’m smiling. I’m happy.

No stress, just strength and peace.

I’m thankful.

Life is actually a lot simpler than I think it is.

I want to continue on my day with this feeling.

Love, love, love.

Peace, peace, peace.

Maybe THIS is my form of meditation.

From my heart to yours,


Mind, Body, Spirit

I was reminded this past month, that the quest for a balanced happy life full of purpose needs to involve not only the body, but the mind and spirit too.  It can’t just be about weighing X amount of pounds, or fitting into a certain size, it has to be more than that.  I’m not defined by what I weigh, my happiness doesn’t revolve around what the scale reads in the morning.

These three elements need to work together because when one area is lacking, the other two also shift as well and the balance just isn’t there.  The trick is to find what it is that feeds your mind and spirit too!  That special something that fills you with purpose, happiness, and thankfulness within.  It can be difficult because the demands of daily life often get in the way of taking time for yourself…which you need to do.  It’s not selfish to put value on yourself.  It’s essential.  When you are fulfilled within, you have so much more to give to others.

There are moments when I feel like a failure, when I let people down, when I feel completely overwhelmed, when I feel sorry for myself, when I lose track of what’s important in life.  Then there is a life changing event that occurs that snaps me back to reality and forces me to re-evaluate what life is all about.  That’s just life…you take the good with the bad. The hard times remind you how important it is to cherish the good times.

Life is all about perception.  We can choose to dwell on the things we wish we could change, the things that annoy us, the things that are hard to deal with.  It’s a part of everyone’s life!  Or we can choose to focus on all the amazing things in life to be valued and treasured; most importantly the relationships that are built on acceptance and love.  Surround yourself with people who bring you up and make you want to be a better person, and in exchange give that back in return to those you love.

At times I get caught up in the complaining game about the little things that put me out.  How selfish is that!  I am healthy. I have three healthy children. I have a warm home to live in. I have a big, funny, loving, supportive family. I have amazing friends.  I have a career where I get to document love and connection.  I have the freedom to choose to follow whatever path in life I like. What do I have to complain about?  Absolutely nothing!

Life is good and I want to live it! I want to truly experience the best of life.  I have found the most freedom in taking control of my health and changing my perceptions.  Life is a gift and it’s my responsibility to choose to live it with a heart full of gratitude.

When I go for a run, and my mind starts doubting that I can keep going or that it would be better just to park my butt on the couch, I just have to remind myself of my sister who can physically no longer run but would absolutely love to.  I CAN run. It’s a gift I take for granted. It’s all about perception.  It’s humbling when I actually stop and take stock of all the blessings in life that I take for granted.

So today I am going to take some time out of my day and go for a walk, and I’m going to use that time to count my blessings which are too numerous to count.  I am thankful for your support and the time you take to encourage me.  I want to encourage you as well to enjoy the amazing life you have been given, and to remember that you are loved, valued, and cherished.

And at the top of my iPod playlist today will be this song…

From my heart to yours,


Love, Peace, and a Little Understanding

As I was running yesterday, this phrase popped into my head.

Love, Peace, and a Little Understanding goes a long way!

I’m not really sure why it popped into my head, but lately I have realized how good it is for the soul to drop the judgments and replace it with a little understanding.  There will be times in life when those around you will not agree with your choices/thoughts/perceptions and you may not agree with theirs as well.  I have realized that their choices and opinions are theirs alone and have nothing to do with my own choices.   I can only control my thoughts, vision, plans, behaviour…etc so I’m wasting time and energy trying to change something I have no power over!

I have the power to change my perceptions, to accept others just as they are, to show love/peace/understanding because I haven’t walked in their shoes and they haven’t walked in mine!  We are all just people. 🙂

It takes very little to turn a bad attitude into a good one and I know that’s why the running bug has bit me.  Now don’t be fooled into thinking that I’m a graceful runner nor am I a fast runner…I was passed by a toddler followed up by a gentleman toting a wheeled oxygen tank on the running track yesterday.

I know I talk A LOT about how amazing exercise is for the body, mind, and soul but when you find something that brings you so much joy, it’s hard to keep it in!  If I’m having a bad day and my heart hurts, I can’t wait to push myself at the gym to the point that the physical pain takes over the heart ache.  I know that sounds odd, but for me exercise turns heart ache, into physical pain (if I push myself), into pride and joy…all in the course of an hour.  I may go in defeated, but I always leave uplifted.  I actually wish there was a camera that captured the expressions of people walking into a gym and then the expressions walking out.  There would be great proof in the healing power of exercise and the pride that accompanies it!

Exercise heightens a good day as well.  It turns a good day into a great day.  I often have to repeat in my head:  “Don’t break out into spontaneous dance in the middle of the running track, someone could trip over you.” and “Don’t start singing loud while on the treadmill.”

Here’s the song that made me want to dance it out yesterday during my run.  Instead I opted for a slow jog/fast walk…heavy on the hip sway accompanied with a head bob and a finger snap.  Yes, I am a dork.

Anywhoooo….just thought I would sing the praises of exercise once again!  It brings moments of clarity to my heart.   If you believe exercise is not something you could enjoy, I encourage you to try it out consistently (even a couple times a week) for a month, and see what it does for you!

Here’s to Love, Peace, and a Little Understanding to all we encounter in life. 🙂



Recently, I’ve managed to tap into an area where I want to push myself harder than I ever have before.  I was wondering where the change has come from, and then I realized it was because I am inspired by many people around me.  I am reminded once again how important it is to surround yourself with people who motivate and inspire you!  Inspire you to move forward, to push yourself beyond your limits, and just make you want to be a better person.

I’m inspired by a woman who I met at a gym. She is taking control of her life, and has spent the last couple years battling breast cancer (now in remission!)  She works out so hard, and does so with a smile on her face, and a heart that radiates such strength.

I’m inspired by women who have suffered such loss in life, but who still manage to move forward in life with the spirit of resilience and unyielding determination.  They fight for their children and keep the spirit of their loved one alive daily.

I’m inspired by my workout friends who push themselves a little farther each day and make working out fun.  They share a zest for life that is infectious and it just makes my heart happy to be in their company.

I’m inspired by all the people who have the courage to share their struggles, insecurities, and challenges with others.  There are so many times in my life I have lost my way, but it is comforting to know that there are others that struggle too!  We are not alone in our life struggles.

I’m inspired by women that help other women.

I also believe that you draw into your life exactly what you put out there.  If you are searching for inspiration, start with you…be inspiring! Always give more than you take.  With every life experience remember there is much to learn even if it’s painful or difficult.  What you are learning from each painful life experience will help someone else who crosses your path later in life.  There is no better joy in your heart than when you can give back something that was once taken from you.

I’ll leave you with a quote!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ” Nelson Mandela

I hope you find something that inspires you everyday, but what would be even better is to inspire others every beautiful day.  Now that is something to be inspired about!

From my heart to yours,


The Secret to Happiness!

The secret to happiness is…..

….to LIVE life with purpose and gratitude.

When I think back to life a few years ago, I never really understood how to live life with gratitude or with purpose.  I took for granted that I had my health and forgot how to have joy in the little things.

I remember this moment.  I wanted to disappear into the crowd and I definitely did NOT want my picture taken. You can see it in my face.  PUT THE CAMERA DOWN…

This probably sounds corny or cliche, but we owe it to our kids, our partners, to our loved ones, and most importantly to ourselves to take care of our bodies.  By taking care of our bodies, in turn we are taking care of our mind too!  There is nothing better for your mind, body, and soul than to exercise and be proud of yourself for your accomplishments.  I was once a hater of all things active, so it’s definitely a learned behaviour.

What happens when I say the word “DIET”.  What do you think of?  The word “Diet” has horrible connotations attached to it.  To me diets are about will power, restriction, self-control, deprivation, etc.

Living a HEALTHY lifestyle is NOT a diet.   It’s a way of life that celebrates living the best life possible.

It’s about balance, being proud of your accomplishments, pushing yourself forward, celebrating your healthy body and all it can do, enjoying whole food packed with vitamins and nutrients and feeling the boundless amounts of energy that comes from eating that type of food.  It’s about feeling in control (this one is HUGE for me) and most importantly, feeling gratitude for your life.   LIFE IS GOOD.

When people ask me how I lost the weight, I often get the same reaction after I tell them it was through healthy eating and exercise.  Groans and eye-rolls…because we are trained to believe that it can’t be done or sustained because it’s a diet.  We are so used to hopping on the diet bandwagon and giving it all we got for a bit, only to realize that we can’t sustain it and then feel like a failure when the weight comes back on.  It’s a terrible cycle and it leaves a person feeling defeated.  I’ve been there, and it sucks!

I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way.  It really doesn’t!  If you think you can’t do it…you are absolutely wrong.   There is such freedom when you find a lifestyle that works for you and it can be sustained.

So where does one start?!

Start with little manageable changes and keep going!  Cut out processed, high-fat, high-sodium foods.  Eat the way nature intended…foods as close to their natural state as possible: whole grains, lean protein, veggies & fruits. ALWAYS eat breakfast.  Pack small healthy snacks (around 100 calories) so you never go hungry.  Eat smaller meals.  Plan your meals ahead. Walk instead of ride.  Take the stairs.  Dance, move, run, swim, cycle, jump, LIVE!

Read this: Dr. Phil’s “The Ultimate Weight Solution

Even if you’re not a Dr. Phil fan, this book is great because it touches on all the elements that go hand in hand with losing the weight and keeping it off.  It’s not about the food.  It really isn’t.  There are many reasons for obesity, but for me it was so much more than just the food.

Find support!  I found a great group of women all going through the same trials I was (thank you “Living FIT/JTTH” girls! I love you & I’m so thankful for you)

I’ll support you! Leave me a comment or e-mail me at hopaluk (at) shaw (dot) ca

I remember this wonderful moment too:  I received my goal weight key-chain from my weight loss support group!

By living a healthy lifestyle, you will tap into a side of you that you may not have known existed.  I can’t begin to tell you the freedom and zest for life I found when I realized that I didn’t have to be “the big girl” for the rest of my life; however, it’s not about the size you are or how much you weigh. It’s about honouring yourself and living the best life possible.


How do you treat YOU?

We are our own worst critics! How do we get to the point where we love ourselves enough to take care of ourselves? 

Here’s something to think about.  How do you talk to yourself?  Think about it.  Do you look in the mirror and think about all the things you don’t like about yourself?  Do you think negative things in your head when it comes to your body or appearance?  

Try this now….call up your best friend and say those same things to her about her body. 

Would you? 


Because it’s mean?!  Because it’s cruel? 

Than why would you EVER say it to yourself?

Move off the Beaten Path

Move Off the Beaten Path

Good Morning!  I was thinking this morning about motivation and inspiration in the area of weight loss.  If you think back to past big life changes, what was the motivation behind your change?  I read a quote from a school teacher who wanted to lose weight.  She wrote…

“I just see something going on in kids today, there’s just such a lack of motivation and then I think about myself, I do the same thing day in and day out, I’m never challenged I’ve got it down to a science you know, I’m as complacent as they are.”


It’s the same if you travel the same path everyday, you are going to create ruts.  Before you know it, the rut is so deep that it’s almost impossible to get out of it.  So how do you get out of it?  By traveling different paths…  By taking chances and making small corrections that take you off the beaten path…Over the past few years I’ve made huge changes in my life, but the truth of the matter is, I didn’t start out making a ton of changes in my lifestyle all at once; but rather a few manageable changes at a time.  Each week, I added a bit more activity to my day.  I started out walking 10 minutes.  Before long, I could walk 15 minutes, then 20 minutes.  I started cutting out fat here and there, stopped drinking Pepsi, and started eating breakfast.  As long as I truly challenged myself every week; I was proud of my accomplishments. 

There is no point in making huge changes that are impossible to sustain in the long-term.  One of the reasons we fail in the area of weight loss is because it’s too many impossible changes all at once!  If we rely on will power; we will inevitably resign at some point, and then eat more to stuff the disappointment.  It’s a vicious cycle and one of self-loathing and negativity. 

Focus on positive, small changes, which lead to bigger changes!  Draw support and motivation from those who love you, or find a support system!  Don’t look at the amount of pounds you need to lose in its entirety, but rather focus on the first 10 pounds, or dropping one size. That’s manageable!  It’s a great time to start fresh don’t you think?!