Here We Go…

On Saturday I led my last Weight Watchers meeting. I’m still in a bit of shock and I’m not sure that it feels real yet.

I’ve been insinuating that change was on its way and this decision is something I’ve been going back and forth on for awhile. I promised myself when I became a leader that the day I stopped loving it would be the day I quit. While I never stopped loving my job, it didn’t feel like the right thing for me anymore. I’m ready to just have two jobs (as an executive assistant and performer) and focus my energy on rocking those two things and also give myself some much needed Ashley time.

I delivered this speech to all 4 of my classes on Wednesday and Saturday:

It is with a heavy heart and mixed emotions that I share the news that I am leaving the Weight Watchers organization.

This journey started for me 6 years ago when I made the decision to lose weight. I lost 30 lbs, but little did I know what a huge impact that my choice would have on me, and subsequently many other people. My life has changed so much from that day back in 2006 and I have grown so much as a person.

I am so thankful for the people I've met and the transformations I've witnessed. I estimate that I have led more than 1000 meetings and watched hundreds of people change their lives through diet, exercise and changes in their lifestyles. It has been an incredible experience and I am so grateful for each and every moment.

I am so proud of everything you have accomplished on the scale and off. I love the community we have developed in the meeting room and I hope that you will continue to inspire, motivate and challenge one another. Thank you for making this meeting room a safe and special place; as one of my members has often said "there is magic in the chairs".

This has been a huge chapter of my life but I am looking forward to what lies ahead for me. I hope that you will continue to share your journeys with me and can't wait to hear about your accomplishments. I am always here to support you, although now it will no longer be as your weight watchers leader, but instead, as a friend.

Thank you for allowing me to do this job  for the last 5 years. I appreciate your openness, candour, determination, perspective and love so much. Every one of you has inspired me, pushed me and enriched my life more than you'll ever know. I hope I have inspired and motivated you to accomplish more than you believed you could. You're all so amazing and I am just so proud of you. I know that you'll continue to support, motivate and inspire one another and continue to accomplish great things.

I felt that it was important that I end with a quote and it's taken me a little while to find the perfect one... Here it goes:

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. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? 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. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marianne Williamson

last ww meeting

I’ve shed many tears over this decision, but I know that it is the right one for me. At my last meetings, there were many tears and a great number of hugs. My members were so wonderful and supportive, and I was so proud that on Saturday morning, two of my members reached Lifetime after losing 77 and 88 lbs respectively(!!!) It was an incredible way to leave and I’m confident that my members will continue to have fantastic success in their meetings. I will be rooting for all of them.

Change is hard, but also necessary. I’m sure I will cry some more and likely wake up on a few Saturday mornings in a bit of a panic thinking I need to be somewhere else, but I’m excited for what the future holds for me. Here we go…

I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours….

It’s pretty fantastic when other people cook for me. I know that I’m not the easiest person to feed, so it means an awful lot to me when people make the effort to prepare Ashley-friendly meals. It’s especially awesome when you ask for comfort food and get this:

comfort food a la AD

Mashed potatoes, steamed collards and veggie burgers topped with everything imaginable on gluten free buns. I wish we had taken pictures of me trying to eat the damn thing because it was pretty comical.

As if the meal wasn’t already brilliant, we followed it up with a s’more tart from LPK’s Culinary Groove.

smore deliciousness

When I walked into LPK’s that day I went straight up to the fridge and immediately asked what the tart was as I had never seen it before! (you know you go somewhere too often when…) It was a gluten free crust filled with chocolate and a cream filling topped with a vegan marshmallow.

Or we can just call it heaven and call it a day.

I absolutely love cooking for other people (especially when they’ve made something for me!!). When I cook for other people I actually challenge myself and go outside of my default easy peasy yummy meals that are quick and easy to prepare. Following the comfort food extravaganza, I made plans for a delicious meal last week, thanks to the wonder that is Veganomicon. Seriously, that cookbook can do no wrong…

I went with a Mexican theme and made the potato kale enchilladas with Mexican millet.

veganomican mexicana feast

The one and ONLY issue I have with Veganomican, is that some of the recipes require A LOT of steps. All the steps are worth it. Homemade enchillada sauce? Oh yes. Toast the millet? Sure. I had initially planned to do some of the prep ahead of time, but that didn’t happen the way I wanted it to, so after all was said and done we ended up having a late dinner.

Every single step was TOTALLY worth it.

It also made for wicked leftovers the next day. I had my lunch whilst listening to a conference call and I was the happiest girl ever.

Even happier when we enjoyed these sundaes

mint cookie sundae

I. Don’t. Even. Have. Words.

Another cookbook that hasn’t failed me yet is the SECOND Babycakes book. These thin mint cookies taste just like the mint Girl Guide cookies, with the added benefit of being gluten free and vegan and therefore Ashley-friendly. Along with some Coconut Bliss, chocolate chips and cacao nibs, they were out of this world.

Two spectacular meals.
Two very happy people.

Now to figure out how to outdo myself the next time… I’m open to suggestion

I Don’t Feel Abnormal, Should I?

I’m pretty sure that at least 85% of my readership is female, so they’re going to be able to relate to this post. For the men - here’s another fun thing about being a woman in addition to menstrual cycles and giving birth…

Oh, the joy of the pap smear.

Pap smears are a screening tool used to identify abnormal cells or dysplasia in the cervix as a means of early detection for anything troublesome. I’ve been getting paps faithfully every year since my late teens and have never really had any problems. I go to the doctor. I spread my legs. It’s unpleasant. But then it’s over. It’s not my most favourite thing in the world, but I understand why they’re important.

But then this little word came along:

ab·nor·mal
adj.

Not typical, usual, or regular; not normal; deviant.

If abnormal is not typical, usual or regular, as well as “not normal”, how am I supposed to feel after having 2 “abnormal” pap smears in the last 6 months? Am I some sort of freakazoid?

abnormal

After my first abnormal pap in April, my doctor told that we would just redo the pap in 6 months rather than wait the requisite 12 months. He said that if my next pap resulted in another abnormal result that I would be booked in for a colposcopy.

Even though I did some research following my first abnormal, I would be lying if I said I didn’t freak out a little. I’ve been through invasive tests before, and even though a colposcopy is really just a closer look at the cells on your cervix with a possibility for a biopsy, I didn’t feel like having anything be wrong with me.

photo (5)

I calmed down and waited for my colposcopy appointment last Wednesday. Jessie came with me for moral support which was so lovely. (Seriously, not being alone in a hospital waiting room makes such a huge difference – love that gal) I was handed a piece of paper describing the procedure, the potential causes for abnormal pap smears and what to expect following the procedure.

My doctor was awesome. He immediately made me feel well informed, cared for and comfortable. He explained the reason for my appointment and said that my second abnormal wasn’t a total abnormal, but also couldn’t be called a normal so he needed to take a closer look. (I swear he explained that better than I just did) He told me that if he saw anything questionable, that he would be taking a biopsy for further testing. Did you know that the cervix has no pain-carrying nerves? He told me that most women said “ow” after he took the biopsy only to smile and laugh afterward upon realizing that it didn’t actually hurt.

I asked him if “abnormal” was becoming the new normal. He said that it’s estimated that 75% of women in Toronto carry HPV (Human Papillomavirus), which is one of the causes for an abnormal pap smear. HPV can lead to cancer, but most infections don’t cause disease. He followed up this statistic by telling me that he hadn’t seen 75% of women in Toronto in his office, so he couldn’t really say that it had become the new normal.

He did another pap smear (now my 3rd in 6 months), had a look at my cervix and ended up performing a biopsy on an area he said was slightly irregular. He was totally right in saying that it didn’t hurt, and I was actually laughing with the nurse for much of the procedure. He warned me that there might be a bit of bleeding to follow (true story), but that I would be fine in a couple of days. He made an appointment for me to come back in 6 weeks to discuss the results and treatment options if necessary and let me know that I’d be seeing him for another pap in 4 months. The objective is for me to have 3 normals before we move back to the regular once a year pap cycle. I’m glad he’s so awesome, because it seems like we’re going to be spending a lot of quality time together in the next little while.

I’ve been talking to my circle of friends about this and the abnormal pap result is so much more common than I realized. Many young women I know have had abnormal results, and some of those have had subsequent treatment to deal with their dysplasia or abnormal cells. The reassurance from these lovely gals was comforting and great to know that I wasn’t alone in worrying about what was happening with my lady bits. I’m not a freakazoid after all, and even though it was a little scary leading up to the procedure, I recognize how important it is for these screening measures to exist. I’m not sure what to expect when I go back, but I feel confident in my doctor’s ability to communicate the results to me and ensure that I’m well taken care of.

glasses in the window

I’m just me. Abnormal and all.

Ever had an abnormal pap? A colposcopy? Treatment? Do you think abnormal is the new norm?