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31Jan/130

The Reality of Community

I've been wanting to come here to just write for quite some time- not so much that I would actually sit down and do it. Until today, of course.

I'm not sure when I'll sit down to do this again (maybe tomorrow, maybe in a month), so today I'm just going to write. I hope that it all ends up making sense, but if it doesn't, please ask questions if you want. I will answer as best as I can.

It's the last day of January, and the yoga habit I hoped to get back to didn't stick (maybe after sick season?), but I am still eating mostly vegan. I intend to keep up with that indefinitely.

I've been thinking for weeks now that my next goal needs to be something along the lines of "write and send a card every day." With an actual message. Nothing online counts. It's a goal that's kind of evolved into "connect with someone every day." Phone calls, visits, and cards all count. A goal like that sounds so obvious when written or said, because hello? We all need connection with other people. It's surprisingly easy to go through a day without really sharing myself or really listening, but I'll tell you- life is so much richer and better when I'm willing to be vulnerable and make those connections.

Oh, that word. Vulnerable. Ugh. It means I am just myself, no pretense, no excuses or apologies. And it's scary because it's an invitation to accept or reject.

I'll tell you what- sometimes I'm pretty good with the whole vulnerability, openness, confidence thing. Oh, but sometimes? I'm not sure how to adequately explain what happens in my head, but I'll tell you that the past couple of months have been a roller coaster for me emotionally. I love my life, but then some days I would annoy myself so much with my own second guessing and unwillingness to just be myself that I was pretty sure no one else would want to be around me, either. I would hole up. Stop making real, technology-free connections.

That is not a good thing for me.

In my marriage, my husband is the outgoing one, but I am the extrovert. I feed off of real life connections. When I don't have that, I kind of wither and  become a less and less  healthy version of myself. Not, not good.

Lucky for me, making real-life connections only requires a little effort (and doesn't actually require spending a lot! My most expensive outing recently was less than $2, I think).  I just have to ask for what I need. I ask people to come over or if Nolan and I can visit. I ask one of my willing family members and meet a friend for coffee.

So, as much as I am a writer and I so love this space, most of my working life out recently has been happening as I go. In other peoples homes, in coffee shops, while playing, that kind of thing. Much of life happens in seasons, so I know I will be back on a more regular basis. But this is where I am today.

We are all burdens. Wonderful, terrible, lovely, obnoxious burdens. It is the reality of community. -My husband, in response to the "but I don't want to be a burden" excuse for not making connections

6Sep/123

Lately

I have a thing for "quality of life."

Years ago (maybe 10 of them?) I read, "the thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but I come that they may have life to the full" (my paraphrase) and I think my spirit leapt up and said Yes! That is what I want.

I've been fixated ever since.

I've made quite a few stops along the way, but it's where my real journey of physical health began (which turned into physical, mental, and spiritual because now I think they're all related).

(I emphasize "real" because prior my discovery, I was fixated on being skinny enough, pretty enough, all of that as a goal- no matter if it meant drinking Diet Coke and consuming packets of Equal and cutting calories with no care about what it was actually doing inside my body. Now,whenever I start thinking/or talking about "feeling fat," I know I need to re-calibrate. Although I do enjoy putting outfits together and a good hair day, I see my body more as a way to experience life than a mantle to be left perfectly decorated and untouched.)

I make many of the food choices I do in pursuit of quality of life (for myself and now for others). I workout (when I do) so I have the strength and stamina to at least try anything that comes my way.

I want a quality, full, slurp-up-the-last-drops life.

Quality of life for me lately has looked something like:

Less time on the internet.

More vegetables and less added sugar.

More shared meals and glasses of wine (spaced out because I cannot handle more than one at once)

Reading actual books

Giving myself time to just think and pray without any distractions (this might be just a few minutes at a time!)

30-minute workouts (not every day)

(You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body. -C.S. Lewis)

15Apr/121

Happiest of Birthdays

Yesterday was my birthday. It was perfect, thanks in part to so many people that I felt I just had to find a way to pay homage to all of them. I hope I didn't miss anyone, but yesterday was just so full of good that I have a feeling I likely did. Still, if you played a part in making the day so refreshing and beautiful and special, thank you. My heart is full, and I am so grateful to have the friends and family I do.

Nolan has changed yet another part of me (in a good way) because most years I have "needed" the day to be perfect (whatever that means) and FULL of celebration. Those are good things, but usually I will put too much pressure on it which kind of takes away from the fun.

This year, I just wanted to go to Rodale's Tulip Festival with my family; I wanted to bask in mass quantities of my favorite flower and show them to Nolan.  I wanted to go on a date with my husband. Since those events were already on the books, I took on a much more relaxed approach to the day. I was free to enjoy it.

And enjoy it I did.

Some of my favorite parts:

-Snuggle time with Tim and Nolan in the morning. Oh MY, you should see this baby in the morning. He is chatty and happy and so excited that hey! all 3 of us are together! I love it when we can all lounge in bed together.

-An hour long conversation with my sister. It made it seem like she's not so far away. Also? She's getting MARRIED to a man who is perfect for her, and I'm so excited for them and her and OK, me,too because I just got a new brother-in-law whom I adore.

-Two hilarious phone messages, one each from Katie and Steven. Really. I laughed out loud.

-Tim took care of Nolan while I did Yoga for the Warrior. I'm getting closer to being able to do Bird of Paradise! (See below if you're wondering what I'm talking about.)

-Birthday mail! My favorite piece today was a card from my friend Kristen T. I'm pretty sure Kristen is my long-lost sister. Words from her just kind of seep into my heart and fill in the cracks.

-The Tulip festival! Rodale is a bit of a drive for us, so it meant time for Tim and I to talk. When we got there (after a bit of a panic because oh, no! We were going to be late! I HATE being late and making people wait), I fully sunk into Tim's everything is going to turn out fine and soaked up an hour and a half of wandering through fields, rows of beautiful flowers, and what I think is going to be Rodale's kids' summer camp with Tim, Nolan, Mary Ellen, Bill, Steph, Eric, and my mom.

Can I just tell you how much I love my family? I had a blast just taking in the scenery and exploring the grounds with these people who I feel so lucky to have in my life. And I got to watch them love my son. There's not a lot that can fill my heart like watching people love my baby well. (Also? You should have seen Bill with that little boy. They looked like they were just meant to be together, chilling, and taking in the sights. Ho.ly.Cow.)

-Tim and I went on a date! Just the two of us! I'm not quite sure when the last time that happened. I mean, my parents offer to watch Nolan often, but we usually have to use that time to work on homework or complete a project. But today? No projects, no homework. We wandered into a health food store when we arrived a bit too early for dinner (I got a few new things to play with- dried cherries with no sugar added, coconut oil, and fair trade cocoa nibs.) and then ate quite possibly our best dinner out to date.

Tim's cousin, Stacey, has been recommending The Farmhouse for quite some time, and I'm so glad she has. Words are my love language, but right after that? Food. Really good, well-thought-out food. The Farmhouse does that kind of food well. They source local and organic ingredients whenever possible (part of why it tastes so good- it's fresh!), aren't afraid to use fat (hello butter, pancetta, cream, and duck fat) and are creative with their menu offerings. Love, love, love. I'll certainly be talking about this meal for quite some time.

Oh, and our server? Amazing. I'll be contacting The Farmhouse to find out her name (we were at Table 3 at 5 o'clock) because she was just that good. Guessed immediately that I love mojitos, works there because she loves the food just that much, had great ideas and tips on what to order, and was so sweet and fun. To our server- I'm so sorry I don't remember your name! But I'll be finding it out and remembering it. You helped make our dinner so wonderful.

-With my love tank full, thanks to all the great conversation, experiences, sweet birthday messages (in email, text, and written, and facebook form) and amazing food, I returned (with Tim) to pick up my son, refreshed.  Snuggles happened immediately, of course.

-As a perfect topper to the day, my dad presented me with two cookbooks he personally picked out for me. My dad essentially works two jobs, is training for a marathon,and is in the middle of a construction project at home (plus he tries to spend as much time with his grandson as he can!). He doesn't have a lot of extra time to be picking out presents, but he DID. And he picked out ones that perfectly suit my interests. That made me feel like a million bucks.

-And then my mother handed me giant organic chocolate cupcakes.

10Apr/123

The Look on His Face

Nolan had this look on his face this morning while I made his breakfast that I just needed to capture on camera.

Except the camera was upstairs and my desire to just be with him and experience that look won out. Grabbing the camera would have taken me about 30 seconds, but staying is what I chose in the moment.

But that look? Oh, my goodness. Eyebrows raised, lips puckered into a closed "O," waiting expectantly- mostly patiently- for mashed banana and rice cereal. It had me breaking out into a smile at every glance.

We both did our kitchen thing-him with that look, his waiting, his watching the cars go by. Me with my mashing, mixing, and trying to get some kind of breakfast for myself started.

He took a few bites but was more interested in taking the kitchen in, in watching the sun rays stream in and those cars move across the highway.

A week ago (and even further back than that), I was struggling. Struggling to put my finger on just what was bothering me. Wanting to talk to someone who might get it but not quite knowing which words might provide a proper outline.

Layer by layer (a blog entry or two,conversations with a friends, a social encounter-or several!), I realized I felt like a different person and I wasn't sure if I liked me because I felt like I didn't know me. Not everything has changed, but so much has. That realization came with an almost instantaneous of COURSE you've changed- you're a MOTHER now.

I don't know if everyone is like this, but I'm the kind of person who almost always feels so much better after she untangles all the mental knots she's been working through.

I also realized- I do like me. I get to watch the world through the eyes of this little boy who is the best of both me and my husband. I get to watch the different kinds of excitement on his face, listen to that giggle, hold him when his lip goes all pout-y and he breaks into a slow, sad cry.

I don't care about cars at all and I can't catch or throw very well (you can imagine how I am in group sports situations), but I will learn those things because my son loves them and I have a feeling he will continue loving them.  We will try out thousands of new things together, but we will also be content with simple things- like plastic spoons and sitting on the porch to watch the world go by.

That look on my son's face this morning, with its patience-but-not-really, is a mirror.

I'm linking up with Just Write, an exercise in writing about ordinary and extraordinary moments.

4Apr/124

Day 149 of Being a Mother

I had an entire post written in my head last night.

I was feeling like...some kind of alien and I wanted to write it out. Life is just different as a mother.

(I'm imagining the long-time moms reading this  and chuckling at me. It's okay. You can. It's like when I look at my little boy and say to Tim, "he's such a BOY!" I know how simple my "revelations" are these days. )

I often try to get Nolan and I out of the house to do "something fun" 1x per day. I've noticed that any more or less than that usually gets to be too much for both of us. We both love to be around people, we really do, but we need plenty of time to recharge, too.

Here's the thing. If said outing includes (much-needed) time with a dear friend and Nolan is awake and we are not going for a walk or he just doesn't want to be in his stroller...well, then, friend time now Nolan time with friend on the side. And it's fine; it really is. Nolan is a charmer most of the time, I'm proud of him, and people like to see him.

I just have this need to be known. I want to feel understood...so sometimes I put too much pressure on a particular experience, instead of just enjoying the moments as I live them like I should. And then of course I am disappointed because life often has its own agenda.

It is these types of feelings that lead me to be thankful for the internet. Places to write and have conversations and read posts that I can just nod my head as I read...

And think maybe I should start that moms group I've been thinking about. I'll make the food, and they'll make me think I can have a conversation without having to explain myself or Nolan. Not that anyone makes me think I have to offer up excuses; it's just me. Something I have to deal with and get over.

This morning?

My little night owl woke up early, ate, and went back to sleep. This is becoming a routine I can (mostly) count on and it works well for this morning-loving mom. I feed him, sometimes pump, then have some time to do whatever takes priority in my eyes.

This morning it was a tough workout.

And I don't know- maybe it was the fact that everything seems better in the morning or the endorphins- but today just seems better. Brighter. Less self-induced pressure. More do-able.

I think I may just start that brunch-for-moms group, though, because I'll need help fighting off the alien feelings when they come back.

[Photo taken by my sister-in-law, Steph]

24Feb/123

Waves

I used to write a LOT about my struggles with binging.

Much of (my, and maybe yours, too) life comes in waves.

The strong desire to eat my feelings, the urge to run, the amount of time I spend cooking meals. how much time I spend writing...

It all comes in waves.

I can tell you that it's all always there, somewhere.

One day I will have the urge to just go outside and run, and I will do it if at all possible.

Some weeks I making cooking more of a priority than I do other weeks.

Some weeks I have so much to write, some I don't, and some I just can't get to the computer to bleed out all the craziness that is happening inside my head.

And that old familiar urge to handle unwanted feelings with food, food, FOOD..? It's still there, sometimes up front and center, and sometimes completely buried. Always there.

I purposely cut WAY down on sugar this past week. I haven't cut it completely out- if I really want a sweet, I will have it, a little bit, and I will enjoy it. If there is a little sugar in my food (and there is sugar in a lot of  unexpected foods!), I will still eat some, but I will be mindful of it. I just can't cut almost anything completely out and feel healthy mentally.

I'm not cutting down on sugar for Lent.

I'm doing it because I'd gotten myself caught up in the I've eaten sugar so I crave sugar roller coaster until I just wanted more and more and felt like I just couldn't be satiated.

Cutting down on sugar makes choosing not to binge much easier...but the default setting of handling difficulties with way too much food is still there.

This morning, I really wanted to gather all the peanut butter and chocolate I could find and go to town. I credit not being hopped up on sugar with being able to think clearly enough to tell my husband.

I avoided saying anything self-deprecating about how I was feeling. I allowed myself to feel, to be honest.

And just like that, that intense desire to ease the tensions I was feeling with food until I was numb? Dissolved.

At the end of it all, I felt so glad that I was able to be so honest with Tim, that I'm able to come here and be just as honest, that I made a choice that enables me to live life a little more fully today.

Happy Friday to me.

That default setting? I'm convinced it will never leave, but I have some thanks to give to a few people who have helped me process life through it and live life a little more fully. I'm looking at you, Tim, Mish, Eating as a Path to Yoga, Kristin T., Tina and Katie. (Eep! I hope I didn't miss any body!)

3Feb/1212

Hi, and How’s it Going?

I've missed this place.

It feels like a long time since I last posted, but I just checked and it's only been a week.

At the same time, didn't I just give birth to this cutie?

Time is almost meaningless to me right now. Every thing compresses and stretches and I only typically know what day it is thanks to reminders I set in my phone or dates I schedule with friends and family.

Every day life  is a big jumble right now. Even Nolan isn't exactly on a "schedule." He's a bit of a free spirit, and I thought I'd be feeling jealous of those kids who are on more of a schedule. But I'm not.

It helps that I have people in my life who will take over Nolan duties while I exercise or run a few errands by myself or do whatever it is I want to do. (But really, I usually just have time for a shower and some errands, and it is enough.)

Last Wednesday, Nolan's Nana (and my mama) came over to do some of that. I took a shower (!) (I take one nearly every day, but taking one without worrying if I'm going to turn off the water to hear a screaming baby still feels like a luxury.) I had a few errands to run, but my excitement lay in the possibility of writing. Thoughts turned into sentences in the way that made me wish I had some kind of machine to take down those sentences as I thought them, and I was ready to write.

I'll admit I took too long to choose my outfit. Maybe because I could?

I ran my requisite errands.

And then decided I didn't have enough time to sit down and write and really do it justice.

But the possibility of writing was enough.

The words came out of my head and my heart like I had written, and it was almost as renewing as seeing them in front of me.

And anyway, I ended up wandering the aisles of the "health food" section of a nearby grocery store with my remaining free time, and that is one of my favorite rejuvenating activities.

I mean it.

Cooking, exercise, writing, health-food-store-perusing.

Those are the things that give me back the energy that sneaks away during the day.

If I'm not here for a while, I'm likely using whatever free time I do have to do one of the others.

I'm discovering that while I can have "everything," I can't have it all at once.

That's ok. That's great, even.

Speaking of which, the 21-Day Yoga Challenge? I enjoyed it. I'm glad I signed up. I didn't do it every day, but it did have me doing yoga more. It did show me the value of squeezing just a little bit of yoga into my day if I can manage it. Not every practice has to be a drawn-out process of getting ready, traveling, setting up, waiting for the class to start, taking the class, and traveling home (although I feel like I kind of need some of those in my life, too.)

Sometimes little bits are good enough.

Like this.

It's nice to check in, say hi and how's it going.

Even if I have just a few minutes to do so.

So hi. How's it going? :-)

If you have a few minutes, please tell me something about you. I want to know about your favorite meal or what you like to do during little spurts of free time...or anything you want to share. Just share! Please, I mean :-) .

7Jan/126

21 Day Challenge

Yoga Journal is hosting a 21 Day Yoga Challenge. While I'm kind of digging the walking, 30 Day Shred workouts, and 1 yoga class a week groove I've got going on (can you call sticking to the plan for 6 days so far a "groove"?), I'm wondering if a little extra yoga in my life might be a good idea.

I credit yoga as a catalyst for a lot of the positive changes I've seen in how I look at the world.

It might help my body and mind stay relaxed, which is what I need when I'm on call for Nolan nearly 24/7.

So more yoga is a good thing for me.

I'm going to try it.

Yoga every day for 21 days.

Anyone want to join me?

Click here to sign up. The challenge starts on Monday!

27Nov/117

Yoga Love

I stuck to my plan of doing no physical exercise for 2 weeks postpartum.

I'm glad. My body had, and still has, healing to do.

But I've been itching to do some yoga.

During pregnancy, I attended a prenatal yoga class and practiced with Shiva Rea's prenatal yoga DVD.

I enjoyed the DVD so much that I bought the postnatal version, which I plan to use until I get my strength, flexibility, and stamina up enough to do non-pregnancy-related yoga practices.

(Does anyone have recommendations for post- postnatal yoga DVD's or podcasts?)

The day after Nolan turned two weeks old, I tried it out, with the expectation that I would follow along with the DVD until it was time for my body to stop. Yoga is very much about listening to and respecting the boundaries of the body, pushing the limits, but not too much.

I ended up doing the whole thing.

It felt wonderful.

It was the perfect amount of challenge without being too challenging. The next day, my muscles were sore in ways I haven't felt in quite some time.

I completed it again 2 days later. My plan is practice 3 times a week. At the 6-week mark, I'll start attending one studio class a week. (I still have paid-for classes, and I also found a great deal to carry me through March.)

I'm thrilled that my body didn't revolt after 50 minutes of yoga; it is so good for me mentally, emotionally, and physically.

I'm entertaining ideas getting back into running. A woman pushing a jogging stroller lapped me during the first 5k I ever ran, and I've felt inspired by her ever since.

I'm playing around with plans to work up to yoga teaching certification.

But for now, I'm practicing 3, maybe 4, times a week, and that feels really good.

17Oct/114

Compassion Fatigue Gets a Punch in the Face

My blog friend, Love, celebrated her birthday yesterday.

Some people don't tell their birthday wishes in fear those wishes "won't come true." Some people hint around for weeks or months or slyly leave gift idea lists out.

Love posted her wish right on her blog.

Love recently returned from a trip to Uganda where, among her many adventures, she saw that the people of a village called Busoga drink water that looks like this:

They use it to cook with, bathe in, drink from, and their animals drink from it (and likely pee in it), as well.

So, for her birthday, Love wants a well. For the 550-ish people in Busoga, because, in Love's words,

[God's] word is really complex, but really simple, too. Love God.  Love others as yourself.  How much would I love to drink that water? how much would I love to serve a glass of that to our children? i don't want to drink that water and they shouldn't have to...it's as simple as that.

I read her wish. I read all of Love's posts because they have been a tool to open my world and change my perspective.

But I have to tell you something.

My first reaction to Love's request was, "no."

No, I can't do everything. No, this opportunity isn't for me. No, I don't want to participate.

Mostly valid responses-there is nothing wrong with knowing where to stop or when to pass up an opportunity in favor of another.

Sometimes it's important, even- I really want to do a 31 Bits party in time for holiday shopping, but I know I can't do it on my own due to the upcoming arrival of my baby boy. Can you imagine if I pushed through and did it anyway (in just a few weeks)? Not a good idea this time around.  Not every opportunity is for me- or you. We can't do everything.

But when I say no to something that seems like a good thing to do, I think it's important to determine why. There are good reasons (like a healthy family environment)...and there are not-so-good reasons.

Like I just don't want to. Which is often another way to say there is so much wrong with the world, so many needs to be met, so many causes and passions and fundraising going on...that I'm feeling overwhelmed. So overwhelmed that I'm just going to sit down and veg out right now.

With the rise of technology, we find ourselves piled with info, needs, requests, ways to make the world a better place. Not all of them use our money wisely. We get discouraged. Sometimes it's hard to see how we can really make a difference. It's just so much. Compassion fatigue happens. It's real.

I've come across good articles about overcoming it here and here.  My means of overcoming it? Asking questions. Questions like...

Why don't I want to get participate in this? (Because there are good and not-so-good reasons.)

What is the money and/or time requested being used for? (Because there things I am not willing to give money to.)

Do I have the money and/or time to donate?

Do I believe this cause will meet true needs?

Is this a wise use of my resources?

Questions like these help me process why I do what I do.

Which is what I did with Love's request.

In that process, my heart changed. I decided that this was an opportunity I most certainly want to be in on.

I may pass up another opportunity in the future- and that's okay if my heart is right in that decision.

But this one? I'm in.

If you want to get in on it, too, please click here for more information.