Thursday, April 2, 2015

Women in Criminal Justice Conference

This week, I had the honor and privilege to attend the annual Women in Criminal Justice conference held at the Omni Colonnade in San Antonio, TX.  My supervisors chose me last year sometime when asked who they would choose to attend this conference.  Then, sometime later, other people narrowed it down to 6 ladies that they would pay their way to attend the conference.  My agency paid for my hotel stay at the Omni for 3 nights, which included a breakfast bar each morning, along with coffee and orange juice.  Mid-afternoon, they also provided us with snacks and tea and lemonade to drink.  There was always ice water at the back of the segmented ballroom areas.  We are also apparently getting reimbursed for our mileage and a per diem for our food.

Anyway.  I had no clue that I had been suggested as one of the people that should get to attend this conference until about 4 weeks ago when I got the email from the lady coordinating the trip for us that included all the details for the conference.  I was immediately excited.  I had a new friend in San Antonio and made plans to get together with her for a run on Tuesday evening while I was there.  They did encourage us to carpool, but we all had different things going on before, after and (in my case) during the conference that required we all bring our own vehicles.

I spent Monday morning doing my packing last minute.  Hooray procrastination!  Because of that, I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into the clothes I was bringing to wear so 2 of the 3 button down shirts I took were too big (no time to hop of the sewing machine and slim them to fit me better).  I totally spaced that I had “power suits” that I could have taken to wear.  These are blazer-skirt sets that I could have paired with this ill-fitting shirts and made myself look more put together.  Oh well…lesson learned for the future…plan out a week ahead of time what the heck I’m going to wear!!!

So, I arrived late…ish.  I arrived at the hotel just 15 minutes before the keynote speaker, Carmella Jones, began her speech.  She is a cancer survivor (still has super short hair due to chemo, but has loads of fun wigs!), a former elected sheriff, and has a long list of high level qualifications within law enforcement and criminal justice.  We listened to her speak for about 2 hours and she was truly inspiring and amazing. 

Since I had arrived so late, I just had time to dump my luggage in my room and make a beeline for the ballroom.  So, after Carmella was finished speaking and we all dispersed, I went up to the room to truly check it out and set my stuff up the way I like it.  As I said, there were 6 of us from my agency at this conference.  All but one of us had agreed to meet for dinner Monday night.  The other lady went to have dinner with her grandma that lives in San Antonio.  We went to Papadeaux’s.  I had never been there and, while the food was good, I will probably not go back for a few reasons that are nothing at all against the restaurant.  I do recommend it.

Monday night, I didn’t sleep all that great…different bed…roommate in the next bed over breathing.  Just stuff I’m not used to.  We got up at 6 the next morning.  I didn’t realize that their notation of “morning refreshments” actually meant a somewhat extensive breakfast bar, so I walked about a quarter mile down the road to Egg & I and got the chicken apple sausage scramble with fruit for breakfast.  The other 2 mornings, I ate from the provided breakfast bar…which was different each day.  The first day, they had breakfast tacos, breads, muffins, pastries and fruit.  The second day they had bagels (with peanut butter, butter, cream cheese, jellies and jams), muffins, breads, and pastries.  There might have been fruit again but I don’t remember.  The third morning, they had breads, muffins, pastries and croissants with eggs and cheese in them.  YUM! 

On Tuesday, on top of eating breakfast at Egg & I, I also had lunch at Jason’s Deli.  After the conference that day and before I met up with Jennifer for our run around the Riverwalk, I drove to the grocery store and bought a couple things of sushi, some prepackaged salads, some strawberries and a sandwich.  I didn’t eat out until my drive home from the conference when I stopped to get some yummy BBQ.

The sessions I attended on Tuesday were Customer Service (speaker: Aimee Crockett), 4 Agreements (speaker: HeatherAsh Amara), and Dealing with Difficult People: Conflict Resolution Skills (speaker: JoAnn Linzer).  Customer Service was good.  It was, however, not my first choice for that time block.  I had originally wanted to attend the Stepping Outside the Box session (speaker: Kelley Blain), but she was a no show to the conference.  I did gain new and applicable information from the Customer Service session.

The 4 Agreements session was AH-MAY-ZING!  So amazing that I bought a book set from Amazon that includes the 4 Agreements book and the 5th Agreement book.  I plan to read these as soon as I get them and then I encourage you to look forward to me writing a short blog series about the 4 Agreements and what they mean to me. 

The Dealing with Difficult People session was awesome.  The lady that taught the session was a District Attorney and has an “interesting” background for someone that is in the criminal justice field.  I think it has helped her greatly.  She is an amazing woman and I really enjoyed her session.

On Wednesday, the sessions I attended were Leadership as a Lifestyle (speaker: Amanda Tuck) and Character Driven Success (speaker: Beverly Chiodo).  I absolutely loved the Leadership session.  Ms. Tuck is a Major in her agency and has a great amount of experience from which to draw from.  She was also extremely personable and approachable.  I took a LOT from her session.  The Character Driven Success session was an excellent message but I didn’t like the way the speaker presented it.  She lost me at the beginning by using golf analogies.  I hate golf.  But, by the end of the session, even though I didn’t like HER, I had been completely drawn into what she was saying and was very moved by the message she was giving us.  And I very much intend to apply quite a few things she spoke about.

Thursday, the final day, there was just one session: Personal Wellness (speaker: Charlotte Stallings).  I lalalalaloved this session.  Charlotte is an amazing, passionate, energetic, and FUN person to watch work.  She is so inspired and so inspiring.  She got almost everyone involved by asking many, many of us ladies to stand up and tell their stories.  At the very end of the session, she asked for a volunteer to come up in front of everyone and tell their story about something they had done that they were very proud of.  She had told us earlier in the session that she would do this.  I knew that I wanted to do that.  So I started thinking of what I would say if she chose me.
Charlotte wearing a tutu and a "DIVA" headband
The end of the session came and she asked for a volunteer.  I raised my hand.  So did others.  She chose me.  So I walked up front and she handed me the microphone.  I started talking.  I said “I am Sara Casey and I work at (my agency).  5 years ago, I was in a real bad place in my life.  I had gained 80 pounds in 7 months from a bad relationship.  It has taken me 4.5 years, but I have lost that weight again.  I started running and I recently ran 3 marathons in 78 days and became a Marathon Maniac.  I am so proud of that.”  It took me a minute or less to say this.  I had wanted to say so much more, but I was so nervous that all my words left me.  I went to hand her the microphone and go sit back down.  She put her hand on my arm and said for me to not go anywhere.  She then told all the ladies in the ballroom to think about what I had said and how it made them feel.  She told them to write down one word that described how what I said made them feel.  After they had written down their word, she told them to bring them to me and put them in my hands and say the word they had written.  I was overwhelmed.  I did not see this coming.  Quite a few of the ladies also hugged me when they gave me their piece of paper.  By the time the last lady gave me her word, I was crying tears of gratitude at these women taking from my little tiny short blurb that I am a determined, courageous, persevering, enduring, brave, fierce, overcoming, proud, strong LIONESS (to quote one of the slips of paper).  One wrote “you did it.”  A couple wrote “Marathon Maniac” and one, this is one of my favorites, wrote “maniac.”  Love it!  Those last 3 I guarantee were written by women that also run and know from their own experience what a Marathon Maniac is and not just because I said I was one.
So, I said I gave a very abbreviated version of my story.  I said that I had wanted to say so much more.  Well, I would like to take the time to say everything I didn’t say to those women.  So, here we go.....

5 years ago, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with an internet addict that cheated on me with other women over the internet.  I gained at least 80 pounds during the just 7 months we dated.  I ended up with semi-severe back problems (bulging discs in my lower back that eventually required minor surgery) that caused me to be put on restrictive duty at work and caused me to gain even more weight.  Whenever I looked in the mirror, I only looked at my face.  I was in complete denial about how I looked and how overweight I really was.  My doctor recommended I lose weight but I just brushed it off and said I wasn’t THAT overweight.  I was in denial that I was eating Tums like they were candy because of the severe acid reflux I was having.

One night, after going out with friends for my birthday, I got home and was uploading pictures from the evening to my computer.  There was one of just me.  I was horrified.  I literally said to myself “OMG I’m a cow!”  I started making efforts to eat healthier.  My back hurt so bad that I really couldn’t do any exercise, other than walking, at that time.  I think over the next couple months, before my surgery, I managed to lose probably 10 pounds just by making better food choices.  After I recovered from my surgery, my pain level was GREATLY reduced and I could start doing exercises I couldn’t before.  I went and got fitted for running shoes because I just had this inner calling to run.  I started running just to be sidelined by severe shin splints and was told to stop running by a doctor.  So I went back to walking.  Over the next 8 or so months, I lost another 20 pounds or so.

When the new year came around, I made a vow to really make good changes.  I started calorie counting and eating about 1200 calories a day and doing a workout DVD every day.  So, from 20 minutes to an hour every day, I worked out in my living room.  A couple months later, I added a gym membership and started doing weights, the stationary bike and the arc trainer.  This is when my real struggle started.  I would do great for a couple months and then I would backslide.  I lost and regained the same 30 pounds alternately for the next couple years.  In 2013, one of my co-workers heads up a year-long fitness challenge.  5 people buy into it at $20 each.  I started off the challenge with P90X.  That program is great.  (I want to start integrating the occasional P90X workout into my current routine, in fact)  I still had the nagging urge deep within me to run.  Another co-worker told me about a company called Airrosti that could help with my shin splints.  So I went.  It hurt like hell but the doctor “fixed” my shin splints and I could then run without pain.  I spent the next 3 months doing intervals on the treadmill at the gym until I could run for 3 miles without stopping.

Now, I know for a lot of people, running is like the magic pill.  They start running and they just drop all the weight they ever hoped to lose.  Not me.  But that’s not exactly what I needed to get from running.  Sure, running has helped me lose the weight, but that’s not my primary goal from my running.  Running has made me a more personally powerful person.  Because of running, I love myself.  Because of running, I accept myself.  Because of running, I appreciate myself.  Because of running, I am who I am.

I still continued to struggle with losing and regaining weight.  Through running, I have learned how to push myself to do things that make me uncomfortable and to enjoy doing them, even though they make me uncomfortable.  Through running, I have learned how to challenge myself.  Through running, I have learned that you always have to have a strategy…you also always have to have not only a plan A, but a plan B and maybe even a plan C and D.  Through running, I have learned that nothing ever goes as planned.  Through running, I have learned that I am capable of so much more than I ever dreamed was possible.  Through running, I have made so many new friends.  Through running, I have had a whole new world open up to me.  Through running, I have found life and the ability to enjoy and appreciate it.

My most recent accomplishment is that I ran 3 full marathons (26.2 miles each) within 78 days and I qualified for and became a member of the Marathon Maniacs.  I had a great time achieving this and I learned so much more about myself.  I have plans to up my marathon game later this year.  I want to try to do 3 marathons within a month.  I will never stop challenging myself.  And I will never stop running.  Running is who I am now and I am so proud of that title: Runner.

To close this out, I want to say I met so many awesome and amazing women.  One, and really just because she's the only name I remember, was Jennifer.  Her and I exchanged emails and plan to stay in touch.  She's an avid hunter and camper.  I would love to join her for one of her trips.  I would love for her to show me how to dress a deer properly.
with Jennifer at the end of the conference
And here's a group picture that I took with one of the other ladies from my agency plus 2 from another agency (Alamo College PD, I believe).


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