Happy Crappy Anniversary

Everyone suffers loss.

Whether it's a relationship gone wrong, moving far away, the death of a loved one, or children leaving the nest, there is no meter that measures how much more one person suffers than another. When left unchecked, grief can waylay you when you least expect it. A major loss, like that of a family member, creates anniversaries that loom over you like a dark cloud. But it's the little things that crop up unexpectedly that can leave you juggling emotions while trying to navigate your day. A certain smell, a song on the radio, or any one of a hundred things can sucker punch you into having to deal with the loss like it was yesterday. How we handle these sudden emotions can cause us guilt and shame if we don’t learn how to deal with them in a healthy way.

After keeping some emotions at bay for too long after my son passed away, I found myself disproportionately angry at the automated message on the Verizon help line. My sweet husband made the mistake of saying something horrifying like "calm down" or some other insane request, in an attempt to get me to stop yelling at a computer. I lost my mind and decided I needed to do some damage. I stomped over to the bathroom and tried to slam the door, but it wouldn't close fast enough to slam. After ridiculous attempts to make a satisfying slam, I screamed at it, and attempted to throw my mini clock on the bathroom counter at the mirror to break it. It bounced back and hit me in the chest, without so much as cracking the mirror. After a few minutes of rage shenanigans, I began to feel sheepish and looked at my beleaguered husband, who has his own grief to contend with. I was making it so much worse for him. I apologized profusely, and we held each other awhile, and he was his usual amazing self. Until the doorbell rang, and the police perp walked him out the front door after our concerned neighbors assumed he was beating me. So, there was that. The patience was a little thinner after that, and my shame immeasurable.

We can feel guilty about our grieving for so many reasons; not necessarily for making the cops ring your doorbell. As I navigate the waters of grief, I've found a few ways to deal with the dreaded anniversaries and unwanted reminders.

Be prepared. When certain dates or situations are coming up, it's not business as usual, and having your normal routine with blinders on is not the healthiest choice. Take off from work, miss your kid's soccer practice, do whatever you need to do to leave room for emotional response. Those emotions will come to the surface, and they will not be denied.

Plan a distraction. Those times that you know are going to be hard, like being around certain family members, or holidays, anniversaries, etc., need to be arranged in advance for your protection. Have something planned for others to do if you need to be alone. If you need company, plan a simple outing or something else to look forward to. Those around you may not always be your best support system, so ask a friend if they will provide back up for you on those days.

Celebrate the good. There is always something beautiful you can glean from a memory, or something in your new surroundings. Find the hope in something small, and it will bring a little light into the shadows.

Reclaim it. There is always something ruined by loss. For me, it is a love of all things fall related, including Halloween. I wanted to buy a pumpkin spice latte so I could throw it at the first happy person I saw. Instead, I forced myself to sit down and appreciate something that used to bring me joy, so that grief could not have it. Sharing it with a friend, talking about the future, and not focusing on sadness, made it okay to smell fallish things without crying. Well, sometimes.

Make a tradition. Start trying things that will become your new traditions, like honoring a loved one with a planting or donation, or serving a charity when you are newly single or empty-nesting. Focusing on things outside yourself will become something you can look forward to every year. For us, we turned Thanksgiving Day into a Grace Party, where we ask friends and family to share moments of grace to be read aloud at dinner.

Ask God for help. No one has more experience with pain and grief than the one who endured the cross for us. He is the foremost authority on suffering, and the author of redemption. He literally wrote the book on it. His grace is the key to realizing hope, walking into healing, and freeing yourself from shame. There is no right way to grieve, but there is a wrong way; alone. No one can understand you like the One who made you, so open your heart and let the healer knit your soul back together the way only He can.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." - 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV)

No More New Year’s Resolutions

This may be time of the year when you are gearing up for a New Year’s resolutions to start your fitness program, lose weight or eat better.

 In my 20 yearsexperience in fitness as a certified personal training, weight loss instructor, licensed well coach and leader in the industry, I have learn that 50% of women drop out of most fitness programs within the first 6 months.  It is heartbreaking for me, as someone who is passionate about health and fitness, to see these women give up.  I have come to learn the reason why. 

 The truth is there is no one “diet” or exercise program that works for everyone. To be successful in weight management, women must find what works for them, personally.  Each year they are told something different. Give up carbs and their favorite foods; do P90X; walk 30 minutes a day or do the latest dance class craze. It can be confusing and overwhelming. The problem for most busy women is they are attempting new programs that are not conducive to their busy lifestyle or address the issues that lead to their inconsistency. When it does not work, it can quickly lead to feeling like a failure and giving up any hope that healthy eating and exercise are even possible.

 I know without a shadow of a doubt there is hope and they do not have to give up just because it is not working. For me, as a career mom with a desire to be healthy, I understand the challenges of multiple responsibilities with long to do lists for many women.

 If you are ready to be in control of your eating and have a consistent exercise program, even with your busy lifestyle, forget the New Year’s Resolutions.  You know they never work long term anyway.  Instead consider designing a personalized food and fitness plan that you know will work with your schedule and lifestyle.  Throw out what worked in the past (temporarily) or for some one else and discover how to be confident in your own program because you know you can do it consistently. 

 If you’re unsure how to do that and you’d like some help, a free consultation with me might be the best way to get started.  We will discuss strategies to overcome certain food triggers and inconsistencies in your exercise; the best exercise program and eating plan for your schedule; and what motivates you to exercise and eat healthy for a lifetime.  

 Please email me at Crystal@yourfitnessdesigner.com to get scheduled for this free session.



"You Have Cancer"

  "I can't believe it". "This is not happening to me". These are the words that were swimming through my head several years ago as my doctor delivered that dreaded phrase! I remember asking the doctor to bring my sister, Cissy, in the room and after sitting there for a few minutes we just agreed that we would face this head on. Full of fear and uncertainty, we began to make decisions and change our plans.

I am not very demonstrative with my emotions, therefore, no tears were shed when my doctor told me I had cancer. As I sat back in my seat, it felt like my blood became cold and was slowly and painfully draining from my body.  I was stunned.  And, I was angry.  My mother had just transitioned to heaven a few years earlier,  my family was still working through the devastation of our loss and now this! The prevailing thought racing through my mind, like a freight train that slipped off the tracks, was the notion that I would miss the opportunity to have children. "I am not going to have kids." Isn't this every girls dream? I was not married and would not have the chance to bear children.  I was overwhelmed and disheartened.

As I write this post, I am met with the same emotion I experienced when I first heard the news. I am, however, still alive and while I will never have the opportunity to 'have' children, I 'have' children.  I call them my God-kids.  My life has been enriched by several individuals that think of me as another mother.

Through my experience I have learned a few things:

  1. You only live once. Life is a gift, a free gift that will cost you everything you have. :)  My challenge to you: Live with audacious tenacity.  Enjoy those around you. Live with passion and purpose. Love without reserve. Forgive as you have been forgiven.
  2. We are not alone. We are designed to exist within the realm of relationship with others.  I found that I had (and still have) a number of friends and family members who were willing to stand with me in prayer, cook meals, sit and talk, or remain quiet or drive me to doctor's appointments if i needed or wanted them to.
  3. Life is not easy.  There is no way to know what one will face in life.  This is why I choose to stay connected to a Source that is much bigger that I.  Being a Christian, I trust God will give me grace to endure the challenges and victories that come my way.  I choose to believe He will take care of me through the storm. Even when it doesn't seem like it (there are times).
  4. Whether I live or die, I win.  This was a tough one for me.  I had to personally work through this reality on my own.  You see, I believe that the life I live, right now, is temporary. Death is a transition from this 'life' to eternity. I will see my mother and others who have passed on.  I will live forever.

If you, or a loved, have been diagnosed with cancer or any other disease, my sincere hope is that you have a community of people to surround you with loving care and commitment, as I have.


Hot Intensity

  Interval training is “hot” in fitness, especially for us ladies who are busy and struggle to find the time to work out.  Quitting and giving up on any type of exercise can seem like the answer when time is the challenge. To add to the challenge is the task of figuring out what type of workout should do for your personal desires and goals.

For weight loss and weight management, the bottom line is balancing the number of calories you expend and the number of calories you consume. For losing weight, it matters little whether the calories burned during exercise come from fat or carbohydrates.  You must burn calories.

Interval Training is a way to make the most of your workouts and burn the most calories.

This great way to workout breaks up the time with periods of rest and is for the exerciser who is short on time and ready to increase her workout intensity. Not only does interval training allow you to improve your fitness quickly, it is effective for burning lots of calories.

Try one of these workouts each week:

For the Advanced:

  • 3 minutes at 95%–100% maximum (max) heart rate (HR) with

2 minutes at 70% heart rate; repeat 5-6 times

Total Time: 25-30 minutes

For the Intermediate:

  • 30 seconds fast with

1 minute at 70% heart rate; repeat 8-12 times

Total time: 18 minutes

Interval workouts should include a warm-up and a cool-down; is best with a watch with a heart rate monitor; and a consultation with your doctor if you are new to exercise.


If you are not ready for that intensity, go for a long(45 min-1hr)  walk/runs with intervals of light jogging or bike ride with intervals of higher resistance and speed increasing your work load or time by 10% a week.

Getting a program that fits your lifestyle will definitely increase your motivation. Are you discouraged and frustrated trying to figure out an eating and exercise plan for your schedule and fitness goals?

Email me for a free consultation to customize a Fitness Design for YOU so that you feel confident, fit and secure with the choices you are making in your health and fitness.

When Beauty Conquered the Beast

On December 4, 2008, Judy  answered a phone call at 12:34p.m and heard the words "breast cancer." Anyone that knows Judy Kassaye can affirm that she understands the meaning of friendship in a unique way. She probes her pals to find out what they need and want in friendship so she can love them in ways that are specific to their needs. Like striking oil, the diagnosis caused what she knew of friendship to bubble its way from the depths of her being.

I imagined myself fighting for my best friend’s life, knowing that “she” (really me) is important to God, and the world. There are things that “she” is supposed to do and people’s lives that are to be affected by her (my story).

In Beauty and the Beast, Belle was the beautiful girl that looked past the surface to find her prince hidden inside a beast's body. Judy, a modern-day Belle,  foraged for meaning in the loss of her breasts and six months of chemotherapy.In the midst of scar tissue and a port that transported medication directly to the monster that ate away at her body, she found a refreshed clarity for her future and increased strength to live each day.

Surviving cancer means more than living through the diagnosis and treatment. It means finding the strength to live my best life and fulfill the purpose for my future. To fight for life means you can't let IT control your mind and emotions. I choose to dream of my future.

This beautiful woman lives each day guarding the  entrance  to  her mind and soul and wants to empower others to do the same. Judy's years in human resources are a part of her past. Last year, she started school all over again. She's pursuing a degree in nursing and it can't be a surprise that she plans to work in oncology.

I want to work "hands on" with patients. I want to encourage  and inspire them that they can live. I want to motivate other women to fight the Beast.

The Beast comes in all kinds of disguises, loss of health or the sudden end of a relationship  or job. It might attack your body, your mind or your reputation, but Judy's words apply to every woman fighting for her best life.

"I choose to dream of my future."

The Road to Love.

"Romantic love is one with unjust pressure. We must be willing to admit to those weak sides and want to change them. At its best, it is all forms of love wrapped up in one unbreakable union." I have held onto this magazine clip for five years now. Long before I met my fiance Kristian. I suppose I clipped it with that same flutter that little girls are born with, that love bug. The fascination that begins with dress up and playing wedding. It grows into high school sweethearts and college heartbreak. However, I think I held onto this clip not because of a typical fascination with love but because of my fascination with how people love. I grew up seeing love as control and dominance with my mother's abusive boyfriend. Then the other end of the spectrum, absolute loss of control, as I watched my mother spin into an alcoholic frenzy. I had never dated through high school or college. The idea of romance put me in a tailspin. Then after many years of wondering what love is, how it feels, who determines it, I met the most marvelous personification. Enter, Kristian. Don't worry, I haven't completely transformed into some gooshy lovebird who fawns over her significant other.. well not yet anyway. But knowing Kristian has absolutely opened my eyes to love.

Stumbling Into Love

In the usual way romances begin we were first friends and classmates. As friends, I was a chain smoking hippie and Kristian was more of a mischievous little brother. We'll nevermind the fact that he is older than me. The point is we were most definitely just friends and neither of us thought anything more about it. After a couple of years things seemed to fall into place. Our relationship just sort of  happened. We realized one day that we were only spending time with each other... and actually enjoyed it. Soon after we started dating I quit smoking. This would be the first of many weaknesses I would resolve to work on. He changed too. He started working on the one thing that bothered me most; his snap judgments of people he knew nothing about. For the first time in my life I felt stable. Being with Kristian made me feel normal.

So now, after two and a half years of dating, we are engaged! We have resolved to love each other daily the best we can, forever. We are planning our wedding in New Orleans, which is where I am from, and I cannot wait. I never thought I would meet someone who I wouldn't get sick of spending time with. Not to say we don't get under each other's skin, but I can hardly wait to start my life with Kristian and I can't wait to share each step here! My emotions are all over the place. I'm intimidated, ecstatic, nervous, overwhelmed, a little bit of everything and I'm just hoping I overtake the wedding process before it gets the best of me. I so look forward to every little DIY project and am just hoping I don't turn into a Bridezilla in the process!

Balancing Our Weight

Developing Healthy Habits! In a recent report by our Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, she shares her goals to decrease our nation’s rate of Obesity both in adults and children by developing healthy habits. Today, two out three American adults are overweight or obese, and another 5.9% are now considered extremely obsess.  Excess weight increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, several cancers, gallbladder disease and more. Her focus is to encourage Americans to choose more nutritious food, increase daily physical active and manage stress, which can keep people form developing healthy habits. She states that the causes of obesity are consuming too many calories, not getting enough physical activity, genes, metabolism, behavior, environment and cultures.

This can seem like too many factors to even worry or attempt to control, but I encourage you to look at that list and see what factors you can control.  The truth is that balancing our weight can be difficult. Genetics and environmental factors make it more challenging for some than others, but there are things that each of us can do.  So many times I have people asking me, “will this work?”  They are looking for the answer to quick weight loss with little effort.  My response is always with a question.  “Can you do it for the rest of your life”.  Americans spend billions of dollars a year on diets and products promising weight loss, only to fail along the way. If you are implementing a weight loss plan that you can not do for the rest of your life, it simply won’t work.

So how do we balance our weight? Incorporate healthy behaviors that you can do for a life time by focusing on small changes one at a time.

In a recent study by the National Weight Control Registry, individuals who lost at least 30 lb and kept it off for more than 1 year had common behaviors. They monitor their weight and food intake, maintain a low-calorie and low-fat diet, eat breakfast almost every day (see blog on Time Matters), perform 1 hour of physical activity daily and limit television time to 10 hours per week (another initiative by the Surgeon General).  It seems like a lot of changes and things to do at one time, but with weight loss and weight management there is not a magic pill or special formula, we have to change one behavior at a time.

Weight Loss Tip:

Take just one week to write down everything you eat.    Most people totally underestimate what and how many calories they are eating.  Write down every bite even those small pieces of candy that may not seem that much. (ex: 4 peppermints = 100 calories).  You may learn something about yourself including events or situations that trigger you to eat when you are really not hungry.

To learn more about developing healthy habits that will last a life time with your own personal Wellness coach go to www.crystalclearchange.com and for more information or to receive a free consultation contact me at crystal@crystalclearchange.com or 409-550-7606.

Another Benefit of Healthy Living

There are so many benefits to exercise and eating healthy. We can get caught up sometimes on only focusing on one benefit. But what happens if we do not achieve that benefit, such as our desired weight loss, as quickly as we want. We quite!Managing our stress and anxiety, which leads to a life of balance and wellbeing, is one of the great benefits to exercising and eating healthy. There are so many days when I don’t feel like exercising or could care less what I eat, but then I quickly remember the euphoria that exercise provides and the energy nutritious foods gives me to get through my daily task. Research has shown that even 5-10 minutes of exercise each day consistently for 12 weeks can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. Taking a few minutes in the middle of the day to take a walk around the block, walk a flight of stairs a couple of times, or conduct a few Yoga moves or light stretching can give a whole new perspective for the rest of the day. Eating High fat foods regularly can leave us feeling lethargic and greatly affect our moods. Filling our diet with fruits and vegetables, healthy carbohydrates and foods that are rich in fiber can give us energy and a feeling of satisfaction. To start the day off right, make sure to get a jump-start on your fiber for breakfast with high fiber breads or cereals and a great piece of fruit. Realizing there is more than one benefit to a healthy lifestyle can help keep us consistent in the choices that week. For more information on having a personal Wellness Coach or to receive a free consultation, contact me at 409-550-7606 or email at Crystal@CrystalClearChange.com.