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Icing on the Cake & Selfies & Stuff

It's 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. I took a selfie in my room. Bed is made up with substitute blankets while everything that usually outfits it gets washed. Both kids ended up sleeping in it with me & that makes for some messes you probably don't want to know about. My mirror is kind of dirty and there is my new favorite Noonday necklace & scarf in one corner, a card from a dear friend stuck in the other side. I am freshly showered, no make up, wearing a Krochet Kids t-shirt I adore & am sporting a belly seemingly made of a batch of pizza dough, and am feeling pretty cute and good in my skin at the moment.

At the moment, I'm feeling I could stay a little chunky forever & it wouldn't really matter because I have two beautiful kids that stretched out that belly, I am learning to be free from so many self-imposed food rules, and I am working through the 30 day shred mainly because it's stress-relieving and I like to feel strong. I am spending a lot of time I would normally spend thinking about food on other things, and despite the fact that being alone with little kids for too long can be maddening, I'm sure I live a pretty sweet life.

I decided against posting the selfie, even though I like what it represents because I can picture the comments about not being too hard on myself. I know what we will do as women; we will compare; whether we think we look better or worse (which usually actually has to do with where we sit mentally); we'll make guesses about pounds or make it about the appearance of something.

I believe in presenting our true selves. I do.  You guys, I love bright colors. I love a simple look with a loud pop, bright red Toms, big earrings, and loopy scarves. Some times the "self" I am presenting is "hey, I'm tired and worn and I'm doing my best here." That's okay, too. But the clothes & the make up is just the icing. Let's make it good icing, but let's not make the whole celebration about it.

I'm excited about this whole intuitive eating and fair trade and learning to live a better, more ME version of myself in large part because my kids are going to see that. I want them to love every inch of themselves and use it for the best possible good they can come up with.

Speaking of which, Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass is on repeat over here.


How Intuitive Eating Is Helping Me Like Myself More

I have a post about how I'm doing with sticking to my grocery budget coming up mid-week. I know I said I was going to post on the 8th, but most of it's already written, so there's a good chance it'll actually get done this time.

Intuitive Eating makes my vision less cloudy.Figuratively. When I take away the anxiety, the thinking about food, worrying about food, spending too much money on food, there is room for more. There is room to see where else I can and/or want to invest my energy , time, or dollars. There's more peace for me.

I think maybe we all have this? Maybe it's not as tangible as food, but it's something that threatens to take away more of our attention, money, and devotion than it should. I don't know. I know that I've actually started praying about my meals...maybe this is what those rote before-meal prayers I've experienced so much of are supposed to be? God who made me, how do I eat to take care of ALL of me (body, mind, spirit)? How do I handle ________? How can I use the resources you've given me well?

I've eaten some really creative & delicious meals. I'm finding it easier to spend less. I'm letting going of perfect & not so consumed with food when I'm supposed to be living (most of the time- more on that in a moment). I've walked away from an unplanned pizza dinner with a satisfied (not overstuffed) belly and no anxiety over a meal I wouldn't normally choose.

These are big for me.

That isn't to say I'm having a completely easy time of it. I've white-knuckled my way through hours when I just wanted to stuff lots of food down and make it all stop. I've given in to the pull to eat my feelings and then paid the price for the next couple of days in my mood and energy (meaning, my family paid the price, as well).

And it isn't to say that food justice is no longer important to me. It is.

But I'm experiencing more peace. The peace I'm finding in the way I'm eating is seeping into other areas of my life. Most specifically, the what am I going to DOOOO for the rest of my life?! area. Maybe I won't do ONE thing for the rest of my life. Maybe I'll make lots of meals & spend my afternoons on the porch with the neighbors & advocate for women and families to stay together and not be taken advantage of (fair trade) & try to nurture my gorgeous family right now. Maybe my life will look boring sometimes & maybe I will never have thousands of followers -something I truthfully struggle with believing means I have found my niche in life.

Maybe a lot of things. I know that getting rid of the blinders that all that anxiety & all that binging brought me leads to a version of myself that is closer to how I was made and less formed by lies I('ve) believe(d).

I haven't arrived, but I sure as hell am walking that way.


Intuitive Eating: feeling hopeful

I have two issues with food:

Anxiety- crippling worry about eating or having the "perfect" foods on hand; worry about whether or not I have control of any particular meal

Binge eating- consuming food, but not really enjoying it or tasting it as a means of comfort.

Though seemingly conflicting, the two feed into each other. I construct ideas of what the perfect way to eat is. (This often is well-intentioned. Our food system IS a mess. There IS such a thing as food justice. I DO have the option to "vote" with my grocery dollars. I don't want to discount that. I'm not giving up my fair trade ways here.) I restrict. I say no to whatever food or foods for a variety of reasons. And then I miss those foods.  I experience loneliness, inadequacy or fatigue; I'm feeling weak and BAM, I'm shoveling in forbidden foods and or foods I don't even LIKE to quickly to really experience them. And then there's the guilt over eating too much and/or breaking the rules, the resolve to do better next time, the new eating plan or re-commitment to the old one. On and on, and the more times it happens, the weaker I get.

When I am in a healthy place with food, I actually find a lot of joy in the selection, chopping, cooking, serving, tasting, and sharing of food. I love roasted anything and coffee with plenty of cream. I am thrilled with the fact that I live in a place where I can get local and pastured eggs and meats, raw dairy, and fresh, seasonal vegetables. One of my happiest places is the kitchen.

If I could, I would open up a cafe that serves fair trade coffee and local cream. Fresh, local bread with smashed avocado and local eggs would for sure be on the menu. I've been banning myself from bread for so long because gluten makes me tired! when the reality is, eating too many grains is likely what leaves me feeling sluggish. Staying away from wheat all together has me frustrated and more binge-prone, and I'm done with that.

I would serve local pastries, too (fresh cinnamon buns with icing, please!), and fun concoctions for the gluten free people. Lunch would offer sandwiches made with thick slices of bread I miss so much and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

My daydreaming reminds me that I am a lover of simple, fresh, and homemade food. I also love to explore places and cultures through food. I used to look for reasons to invite friends to sit around my table and dunk chunks of bread and slices of apples into cheese fondue. Oh, and fall food? Bring on the homemade pie with crumb topping and vanilla ice cream. Give me hearty soups and cheddar cheese.

I am thrilled to become an intuitive eater. I'm already feeling more free. I'm already rediscovering the pleasure and joy that food can bring. It feels like it's been way too long since I've experienced that.


The “How are you doing?” question

My brother goes back to Alaska today after a too-short, two-week visit. I miss him already and cried when I saw this picture posted after he left.

That's really all I want to say about that, but I am about to post more  pictures of our time with him, so it might be helpful to know that the tall, dark and handsome guy in my photos is my *little* brother.

Somewhere between the heat, increased activity, upped need for water and time continuing to march on, my you are getting to close to the end of your pregnancy symptoms really ramped up this week. A lot of cramping, a lot of Braxton Hicks, soreness, and some having to stop because I could not physically continue going forward. Totally frustrating for me because I've been eating well, exercising and doing everything I can think of to take care of myself and Selah. I feel like I should feel better and that labor needs to come soon because I don't know if I can handle a lot more of this.

So when yet another acquaintance asked how I was feeling, my frustrations came bubbling to the surface. I later vented the truth to my Aunt Mary Beth, who happened to be in town on the very day I needed her, and my mom. I just don't know how to answer that question to people I don't really know these days.

Thank God for people I can just be with. I'm feeling so thankful for the people who laugh at me when I apologize because I'm worried about being draining, help me laugh at myself,  let me air my ridiculous complaints (even validate them!) and share their own stories.

Somewhere between getting in bed and getting up in the morning (I am often awake for at least a couple of hours during the night), I was reminded that I get to choose how to live out my upcoming days.

I've been experiencing some beautiful days, no matter how uncomfortable. I could choose to live with the weight of I don't think I can do this and this sucks OR I could choose to live out my days with the intention of living them and enjoying them the best I can.

Really, this is about choosing to live in misery or choosing to live in joy. Difficult choice, right?

I will still continue to be open about how I am really doing when it is the healthy choice to do so.

I will not dwell on what I don't like and can't control.

I will do what I can control, like leaving the dishes in the sink a little longer or accepting offers so I can rest when I need it.

I will make the effort to live and appreciate the life I've been given and not squander it.

This morning, I opted to go for a stroll on a new-to-me trail with 3 of my best boys instead of stay home and then my brother Steve treated us to a meal at one of our favorite restaurants in the area, Say Cheese. I am sitting and writing now. There are dishes in the sink that I will do...later.


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



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)


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.

-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.


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.


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 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]



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!)