Celebrating Women: Reminder!

March was National Women’s History Month and I was fortunate enough to be able to share with you interviews from four incredible women. If you haven’t had a chance to read them, please do. I’ve no doubt you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed sharing!

Renee. Here she shares with you her incredible weight loss journey as well as advantages and pitfalls of weight loss surgery. Side note: Congratulations, Renee on your marriage to Dave!

Heather. A Wife, Mom, Christian and incredible Artist! Read her story about developing her talent, career, work/life balance and starting her own business.

Janni. What a warrior! Her story is one of survival. PTSD, an abusive marriage, health issues…she openly discusses her struggles as well as her victories. She’s an amazing author, too!

Katrina. Spiritual mystic and (my) life-saver, Katrina shares her story of spirituality, her thoughts on the importance of meditation, advice on traveling a spiritual journey as well as advice on Tarot readings.

If you missed it, you can read my blog on empowering women here.

Enjoy your week!

Celebrating Women: Katrina Marie

Our last interview in this month of Celebrating Women is with my soul sister, Katrina Marie. In more ways than one, she has saved my life.

As with Janni, I also met Katrina years ago when I first began blogging. Her blog spoke to me in so many ways and I feel incredibly blessed that she is part of my life.

Her gifts are unique. Her words are powerful. She has given me so many valuable tools to help me learn and embrace my true self. She is genuine, honest, and insightful. She will ask hard questions that you’ll be shockingly relieved to answer. My advice: if you need Spiritual counseling/guidance, please reach out to her. I 100% promise you will not regret it.

Thank you for being such an amazing you, Katrina! I love you!

Tell us about your history. Has Spirituality always been an important part of your life?

Yes, Spirituality has always been a part of me. Who we are and our life are two different things.  My parents were very religious, but not spiritual. They were afraid of my gifts because the church didn’t approve and my parents were afraid if people knew I had spiritual gifts I could be put in a mental hospital. This was a real fear in the 1960s and 70s in Appalachian West Virginia. However, my Mom’s parents were Appalachian Granny Witches. For the readers that don’t know what that is, I invite you to research them. When I was home with my parents, I was lectured that just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should do it. If God wants me to have something, he will give it to me. I was even made to recite and memorize scriptures because my Dad said it was good for me. In the following questions I will explain the effects this has on everyone.  When I was on the farm with my Mom’s parents, life was very different. I was allowed to be myself. I played in the woods sometimes with my grandfather sometimes alone. I learned how to live by the phases of the moon, how to communicate with animals, how to embrace each season and have fun with just being. So, yes, Spirituality has been part of me since birth.

How have the women in your life impacted your beliefs?

Growing up the women in my life were sadly not that helpful. The only spiritual woman I had around me was my maternal Grandmother. Everyone else in the family made fun of her because she bragged about her gifts, said she was a witch and refused to give in to societal norms. Fun side note, she and my maternal Grandfather were also school teachers. Well loved by their students and respected by their professional peers. The woman who has had and continues to have the biggest spiritual influence on me is my Daughter. She is as spiritually gifted as I am in somewhat different ways. But she gets me. She supports me. And she calls me when something spiritual is going on that she needs help with.

What about relationships? Has your belief system affected relationships in your life?

My spiritual gifts made all relationships nearly impossible in West Virginia. Don’t get me wrong, I love West Virginia and those good ‘ole country people. But even in current times, I have managed to scare off every man I dated. And it has affected female relationships also. I have had one true friend in my life that accepted me as me. But I am now married to an amazing Native American man who understands being spiritual, encourages me to be Me, and helps me with spiritual issues when I need him.

How have you dealt with negativity/criticisms towards your beliefs?

I hate to admit this but I didn’t deal with the negativity toward my beliefs until I was in my late 30s – early 40s. Before then I shoved my gifts, talents and beliefs down under my soul and they fermented into shadows of shame, guilt, embarrassment and feeling like I had to be a people pleaser to get and keep friends, relationships even drama free family. This happens to most people who ignore or deny their spiritual gifts. This is where the feeling of not fitting in, also thinking you’re dorky, or clumsy, not classy or socially acceptable. These are just a few of the issues that people deal with when they are not empowered to live the truth of who and what they are. This is what I base my services on. Helping people overcome religiously induced trauma and helping them come out of their spiritual closet.

Do you feel there is a difference between religion and Spirituality? If so, what are those differences?

There is a big difference between religion and Spirituality. Basically, to use metaphors, sitting in church thinking about fishing is religion. Sitting on the lake fishing and talking to whatever deity you believe in is Spirituality. Anthropologically, religion developed over time because people needed to feel safe with events they didn’t understand and/or that frightened them. They accomplished this by developing the belief system of higher powers. Spirituality has been around just as long, but it developed from a connection to the earth, and accepting gifts and talents as unique to each person and not something to fear.

What advice do you share with those you counsel who are on their own spiritual journeys?

Each person’s spiritual journey is unique to them. In sessions, my advice is based on their questions, fears, ailments, life views and goals. But one thing I tell every client is that peace, courage, and happiness comes when they decide they love themselves more than anyone who told them to be anything other than their natural, unique selves. True authenticity is where every person’s spiritual nature hides. The great spiritual journey can be whatever makes you happy. The people who do what they love in life are on a spiritual journey. The man who invented Sam Adams beer is on a spiritual journey because he loves what he does. Ozzy is on a spiritual journey because he loves what he does and he is true to himself. He has never let anyone tell him how to be Ozzy.

You’ve done Tarot readings for some time and I can certainly attest to their accuracy. Would you say readings are a learned ability? A spiritual connection? Both?

The spiritual gifts choose you. Your connection powers the gifts. And your gifts change over time. My Daughter can read Tarot but overtime she has developed an intuition that does not require the cards for her to read people. To segue into the next question, you need more than an interest in Tarot to be a spiritually connected Tarot reader.

Not all who offer Tarot readings are legitimate. What are red flags/warnings in which we should be aware?

What I look for in deciding if any spiritual guru, psychic, Tarot reader, etc. is legit is: they will not come to you, if they are sending messages, emails, etc. that you have to contact them right away or something bad will happen or you’ll miss  a big opportunity that might never come along again, my advice is to steer clear of them. Fear tactics are not conducive to a good Tarot reading or any type of psychic reading. Check with other people who have received readings from them. And ask them questions about themselves, their beliefs, how they feel when doing a reading, etc. If they’re legit, they welcome the questions.

Let’s talk about meditation. You are a big believer in meditation and its ability to de-stress, clear the mind, and bring peace. Are there other benefits? How does one who is new to the practice of meditation start?

This is a huge issue for me. I know people that use drugs to reach meditative states. In my opinion this is counter-intuitive to what you are trying to achieve with meditation. I think the first thing to understand about meditation is that just like everything we do, there is no right or wrong way. It’s what works for the individual. Sitting in a yoga pose eyes closed listening to my own breathing has never worked for me. I prefer to listen to calming music (whatever that is, even Ozzy, lol) and letting your mind relax until you realize you’re no longer thinking. I have also achieved great meditative states laying on the back of a horse (my first experiences with mediation happened this way when I was a child). I’ve meditated while floating in a pool, river, etc. I’ve meditated while sitting on my patio watching rabbits play in the yard. The goal with meditation is to stop consciously thinking about anything and allowing your mind to relax to the point your body also relaxes. The relaxation is important because it keeps energy from becoming stuck in your body. Stuck energy can cause illness, propensity for injuries and accidents, or just extreme fatigue.

I know you’ve been working on furthering your education and building a new and improved business. What can we look forward to in the future from you? How can our readers contact you?

Yes, I’m continuing my education for my own validation. My parents also thought it wasn’t necessary for women to have formal educations, lol. I’m so over that! I previously studied counseling, cross-cultural communications and comparative religions. But I wanted more. I recently finished a certification in Spiritual Life Coaching. I was just accepted into the International Alliance of Holistic Therapists. By the end of April, I will have completed 150 hours in Neuro-linguistic programming and an additional 150 hours in Energy Anatomy. I have applied to be a member of the Complimentary Medical Association, as well.

I am revamping my website. By mid-April I will have a new email address. For now, please feel free to check out my website with the understanding it is a work in progress. This is the link: https://katrinamarieslc.wixsite.com/katrina-marie. The email address to reach me is freefullife@gmail.com. I welcome all questions and am happy to provide more information about myself and my services.

In the first question/answer, Katrina suggested researching Appalachian Granny Witches so I did. I was only a bit familiar and found some fascinating information. If you’d like to read more about these wonderful women, here are resources:

Got Mountain Life

Appalachian Ink – Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

Celebrating Women: Heather – The Life of an Artist

Continuing with our March Celebration of Women, I’m honored to introduce Heather. I have been in awe of her artistic skill for some time and I’m so glad she’s part of our celebration!

What I love most about this interview, aside from getting to know Heather better, is how her passion for art, life and God absolutely shine through. She is so genuine and her responses so heartfelt. She’s got a great sense of humor, too! Such a joy! Thank you so much, Heather!

Before we get to the interview, I’d like to share these encouraging words from Heather:

“You didn’t ask, but I’d like to share that I have no degree, and only about 6 months of college. When it’s your thing and you’re passionate about it, you can find someone to teach you or some way to learn. I’ve had a few people I’ve worked with be snotty about that, but then I’d be mad if I had their student loans too. College is awesome and if you can go, go. But just because you can’t, doesn’t mean you’re less of a person, stupid or not worthy of career greatness.”

Talk a bit about your background. Have you always been interested in art? Was there a specific moment you decided art would be your career?

My mother gave me a pilgrim and his turkey that I drew when I was three. To be fair, the turkey looks like a turtle with dinosaur spikes on his back, but you can tell I was working through how to make what was in my head get onto paper. The pilgrim resembles those entertainers that paint a face on their belly and wear giant hats over their shoulders. I’ve always drawn. My mother kept a sketchbook, her and my father both work with wood and leather, and my mother was also a mechanic. My maternal grandmother was a bead and sewing crafter. I’ve just always been surrounded by makers. So, I think I always said I wanted to be an artist, except maybe for that brief minute in 5th grade when archeology stole my heart and then again in 7th grade when I thought a missionary was my calling. But those didn’t stick the way my art did.

How did your first job as an artist come about? What lessons did you learn during your first job as an artist that you’ve carried with you as you pursued your career goals?

My first real job as an artist came when I’d just come home from my first semester of college in Savannah at School of Visual Arts and was trying to change to an Atlanta art school. I had a weekend job at a bank, but my mother was not happy with that so she told me that I must have a job for the rest of the week, Monday through Friday or get out. I was not about to settle for the vision I had for my life. Rather than going to the closest McDonalds as she wanted me to do, I went into the closest sign shop in the area, off of Main Street in Forest Park (located in Georgia), and asked if they were hiring and they were! This was my first experience learning sign making and really having daily use of computer designing. Of course, I was a smart-ass teen so I went by Zesto’s on the way home and brought in Gyros for my mother and I announced I had a job. She got a huge smile and said, “At Zesto’s?” I smiled back and said, “No ma’am, at a sign shop.” I was proud and she was annoyed that I wasn’t grunting in something I hated. This is just where we were then. The biggest thing I learned at that job was not to settle. If I wanted to be an artist, there’s always something I could be doing to make money and use my skills.

You are a wife and mom who has worked full-time as an artist. How have you managed all of your responsibilities? Any time management and/or organization tips you’d like to share?

I honestly have a lot of regret on this subject. The first five years with babies I just did design work at the company I worked for and didn’t really do much art at home…maybe a painting a year. Then I was struck with an uncontrollable urge to create and honestly, I haven’t stopped since. I really would like to tell you that I just worked on art once the kids were asleep or when they played, but it was just all the time with them at my feet or playing around me or sitting next to me. I wish I had taken more breaks to play with them, it goes so fast. Now I beg them for time, and they haven’t got it to spare. Word to the wise – it really does happen in the blink of an eye. I do have a tip for people who want to make art but are always on the go. I carry a field sketch mixed media sketchbook, water color paint, and a water brush pen in my purse at all times. When I’m in the car rider line, in a waiting room waiting on the doctor, auto repair shop… whatever, I have my paints and it’s easy to use. It’s great to get ideas out and capture moments. My house is never the neatest in the neighborhood. I’d rather paint. And I’m the queen of frozen dinners!

You seem to have an incredibly solid faith. How has your faith impacted your life as an artist?

This is possibly the easiest thing to answer that you’ve given me. When I was in my young and stupid teens doing everything I could to find myself and was as far from God and what he wanted for my life as I could get, the art didn’t come. I was blank. The little that I got out was just a cheap imitation of what was influencing me, not even a good representation. It’s unfortunate, it was the true jumping off point, when you want to get those scholarships and opportunities and nothing. I did some art, sold some art. But it was just not what I have flowing through me when I’m close with God. Once I came back to him, the flood gates opened. And so did the opportunities. I got my job designing in the Coca-Cola Company HQ for a contracted company through a prayer list. I started designing for Shane’s Rib Shack because someone asked a friend of mine from church if they knew a designer… all from God. I learned the method of stroke by stroke classes from a dear friend and mentor (spiritual, artistically and maternal) that God put in my life when I was a teen and who I reconnected with as an adult. When you know the source of your gifts, it’s easier to harness them.

You have started your own business as a graphic design artist. What led you to decide to start your business?

First, my husband’s support and encouragement. Without that I wouldn’t have attempted this! He’s kind of my manager, my chauffeur, counselor, etc. I was tired of being used up and then being put out to pasture. The first time I was told there would be no more raises ever, no matter inflation, etc…forget that! I was out of there within a month. The pay wasn’t up to par as it was. The second was after 13 plus years for the company that contracted with Coke. Coke did a series of layoffs each time business got slower, until finally the last layoff took our big clients. Then I was laid off by the contract company. After seeing how well my contract work was going and that these companies really valued what I had to offer, I took the leap. Well, actually I was shoved…you know with the layoff. And the Lord’s made sure the clients and projects have come on a regular basis so Praise God for that!

Have you faced any obstacles while starting your business? How did you handle them?

Fear. Luckily my husband is great at calming those and again encouraging me. Forgiveness. It’s something I had to work on. But if you don’t get that straight, you’ll poison everything you do. Those lost years that ended up flickering out at other companies did grow me, and sure not everything is fair, but I can’t get anywhere holding a grudge. Also, self-employed taxes. Can I just be frank? They suck. After I pay the man and then the bills, there ain’t much left. But I only started this working for myself thing in June and the bills are being paid. Some companies take a long time to get there, so I’m very grateful. I’m grateful that now, when I’m starting my business, we have the leader we have in Washington. He has a heart for American businesses and small business, and it’s been a relief tax wise.

Who and/or what sparks your creativity? Are there artists who inspire you?

That’s a great question! So very many things inspire me. Little day trips to small towns with my husband, remembering my grandmothers, a good sermon, my own emotions (Lord help me and those around me), trying new foods, a good documentary or movie. A trip to Disney fills my creativity tank for a good year plus! I take in the foods, the gift shops, merch, the atmosphere… it’s seriously a creative recharge. Covington Square (located in Georgia, east of Atlanta) was the initial shock to the system when my oldest was five that started me painting again. I was so inspired by the shops and atmosphere that I went home and painted for a year straight. My hands hurt that year! Oh, new art supplies are a great boost to creativity too.

What does your art mean to you?

Breathing. Creating art is not a choice, it’s a must. It’s involuntary at times. Sometimes it’s very planned and other times it’s a huge vomit of emotions at a canvas before my head explodes with hurt, anger or joy. Plus, I just always see pictures in my head.

What is your favorite artwork that you have created? Why is this your favorite work?

This is so tough. They are all my babies. I’d have to say it was one of these two. I keep both by my bed side. So that while I drift off to sleep, I can see my favorite place (on earth that is, Heaven’s gonna rock!)

What advice would you give aspiring artists and anyone interested in starting their own business?

You simply have to do because you love it. It’s just not something you do to get rich. Not to say there aren’t rich artist out there, and sure there are times of great influx of funds, but there are also the other times, so you’ve got to love it. I’d do this whether I was making money or not. I just wouldn’t get to do it as much if I wasn’t making money with it. Be persistent. Look for ways to make money with your gifts.

Tell everyone you meet what you do and ask if they need your services/art. I literally go door to door, town to town like an old encyclopedia salesman to see what shops need design help. I’ve had one or two be rude, but I’ve had so many thank me and say that they’d been praying for help and that I was an answered prayer. That really feels amazing.

Most of all, read anything you can get your hands on by Dan Miller. Especially an old copy of No More Mondays or 48 Days to the Work You Love. He has a free weekly podcast and walks people through how to do what you love for a living. He believes that it’s insane to think that you could make more money doing something you hate than something you love and are therefore more passionate about. I listened to him for years before I began this adventure and I really feel he prepared me for where I am.

For more information on the skills and talent Heather has to offer, please visit her website.

If you are interested in researching Dan Miller and the books/podcasts Heather recommended, please visit his site.

Empowering Women

***DISCLAIMER: If you are a feminist this post may piss you off. You might want to not read it.***

Let me begin by being honest with you. I am not a feminist. I believe that men and women are relatively equal and the only thing I can’t do is become a penis model. I’ve never had a man tell me I can’t or shouldn’t pursue a goal. Furthermore, if a man had ever said those things to me I’d laugh and then ignore. I can’t recall ever being a victim of “The Man.” If you’re a feminist then more power to you! It’s just not a “me” thing. I am, however, a woman who believes there is a need for women to empower other women.

It boggles my mind to see how women can tear each other down. Women often get labeled as “catty” or “crazy.” There is a reason for that. I’ve seen Ms. Catty and Ms. Crazy in action. Goodness. Please. Stop it. Really. Just stop. Must we rip each other to shreds? Is it really necessary to be mean to one another? The answer you are looking for is no.

Show love to the women in your life. Encourage them. Build them up. Compliment them. It is so easy to do and costs nothing but a few seconds of your time. See a women on the street and like her hair style or maybe her shoes? Tell her. Smile at her. Say hello. Be friendly. It’s okay. It doesn’t hurt. I promise.

Some women feel compelled to see themselves in competition with other women. I don’t view life that way and I certainly don’t feel as if I’m competing with other women. I’ve started writing two books, haven’t yet finished either but I know women authors who are published. Do I envy them? Do I secretly hate them? Nope. I see them as inspiration. Actually, I see them as much needed inspiration. No bitterness allowed!

It is my belief that female friendships are powerful. If you have in your tribe a group of women who are confident, possess a positive outlook on life and are supportive then you’ve got it made.

Celebrating Women: Renee – A Weight Loss Journey

March is about celebrating women and the is the first interview of four remarkable women that I’ll share with you this month.

Meet Renee and get a glimpse into her weight loss journey. Here she shares personal details of what she has gone through and her story is inspiring! While gastric bypass surgery isn’t for everyone, Renee has had a great experience with greater results.

Tell us about your background. Has weight always been an issue for you?

Weight has been an issue for me as long as I can remember. I was the chubby kid as a little girl and as I got older I was always the big girl. I think I was one of the lucky ones even though most people made fun of me. I had good friends that loved me for me and didn’t care about my weight.

Did your weight cause you to deal with any limitations? If so, what were they?

Limitations yes of course. I couldn’t keep up with the others when I was young so that left me alone a lot. It limited me in the men that were interested in me so more often than naught I was the third wheel.

At what point did you decide enough is enough? Was there a specific turning point for you?

Let’s see, enough was enough when my health started going bad and fast. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure put on two different medications. My legs were swollen terribly to the point I was put on another medication. I was pre-diabetic could barely walk to the end of the driveway and honestly wasn’t sure how long I would have and for the first time in my life I wanted to live. I had a future to look forward to not just exist.

You chose surgery to help with your weight loss. What led you to this decision? We’re there obstacles to overcome before surgery?

The decision to have surgery was actually an easy one. I had been researching surgery for 5 years or so and when all the health issues started my primary care provider recommended it. When I checked with my insurance it was covered…okay, decision made. But obstacles were not that bad. The worst was the waiting and the insecurity if I could actually do it. I had failed at weight loss so many times I was sure I would do something wrong to mess this up also.

Some people feel weight loss surgery is unnecessary and all one needs to do is eat healthy and exercise to lose weight. What is your response to those who criticize weight loss surgery?

I won’t lie, I was definitely not eating right or exercising but I had done that year after year with the same results. I would lose 30-40 pounds and then gain it right back. I couldn’t seem to be able to do it alone. I needed help and the surgery was the tool I needed. And that’s what it is. It’s a tool. If I don’t use it correctly, I don’t lose. It’s not a quick fix or an easy way out. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it has worked. All those medical conditions and medications are gone. I’m slowly building my stamina and can walk 20 minutes and still breathe. Best thing I ever did.

Talk about your recovery from surgery. Was healing difficult? Did you experience restrictions during recovery?

I took three weeks off for recovery and probably could have used another. Healing was painful as you have 5 incision sites in your abdomen and of course no matter how you move you are pulling one of them. It was a good week and a half before I even felt like moving much but we are told to at least walk a couple of times a day. That first week and a half I got to the end of the driveway and barely made it back inside to sit down. After that it got easier. I was making two laps and losing weight very fast. But getting very tired. The first week you only eat about a medicine cup full of liquid 3-4 times an hour. Second and third week you add in baby food and pureed foods but still no more than a few bites. By the fourth week you are slowly adding in soft food eggs and cream of wheat and corn beef were my go-tos but I couldn’t eat a whole egg. I couldn’t even eat the baby serving for cream of wheat.

How have your diet and eating habits changed since surgery?

Well I kinda started on this one in 6 but after the restrictions were lifted my habits changed in amount mostly. I never know if what I’m about to eat will settle well or not. One day I may be able to eat half a grilled chicken breast the next the same thing may make me sick. In the six months since surgery I have learned to replace potatoes and pasta with green beans and zucchini. I’m still not perfect and do have meals that I have the potatoes but I’m trying more and more to replace with the better choices. A typical meal now consists of 3-5 ounces of meat/protein 1-2 tbsp of veggies or potatoes or pasta or some combination of the veggies and carbs. A meal before consisted of 3-4 times the amount of all of that plus dessert. I can’t believe the amount of food that I used to eat.

To date, how much weight have you lost?

Since 8/28/18, I have lost 73.8 pounds. I have gone from a 26-28 size pantsand  3-4x shirt to a 16-18 size pants and a large -xl shirt.

Fashion Alert! I’m guessing you’ve shopped for new clothes, yes? That must be a blast! How did you feel trying on new clothes?

I actually only went shopping recently after I was given such a hard time about nothing fitting. I couldn’t believe I was in an 18. I had not been there in 15 plus years. And when I went to buy my wedding dress, the one we picked out the sales clerk said I don’t think this one will fit but we can get an idea. The feeling of that dress zipping all the way up is indescribable. I have never felt more beautiful and can’t wait to wear it at the end of the month.

Renee with her fiance, David.

Lastly, what advice would you give anyone considering weight loss surgery?

Advice that’s easy. Don’t wait. The one thing I regret is not doing it sooner. I feel better than I have in years. I have more energy and I’m enjoying life so much. Don’t let anyone talk you out of surgery. This is a very personal and difficult decision and one only you can make. Be strong and don’t give up it will all be worth it.

If you are interested in gastric bypass surgery, please visit WebMD for more information.

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