Tuesday, May 31, 2016

You have to go back to go forward

Somehow I ended up reading the perfect book for where I find myself right now.  Val, a friend from college and a kindred soul when it comes to book affinities recommended Katherine Reay's books.  I ended up reading "Dear Mr. Knightley" first and, a mostly light-hearted read, I thought it was lovely.

When I opened "The Bronte Plot" and expected much the same thing...I have been startled by the heavy-ness and truth there.  It's where I need to be.

One of the main characters, an 85-year-old woman named Helen, keeps talking about how she needs to "Go back to move forward," visiting places from her past to be okay with what comes next in her life.

One section where she talks about her life hit me especially hard:
  I'm working on my choices.  There are things I have to lay down and others I need to embrace.  Right choices that are good--they hit your heart.  We are wired to know what they are and they make us solid.  We can stand on them.  And that's what I want, Lucy.  I want to stand firm.  I want my family to know me, and I'm not sure they really do.  I was so bold and daring and then somewhere along the way, I shrank.  I became frightened, and I hid behind rules and manners and other things that weren't true." ( The Bronte Plot, pp. 151). 

Going back to go forward....When people ask about my family roots, well, I talk a lot about how I moved around as a kid.  It's not untrue--born in London, England, spent a few years in Oklahoma and then my formative years (K-5th grade) in Toronto, Canada until my dad took a job as a professor in Illinois.

But those aren't "roots," really--are they?  I like to pass myself off as British and Canadian first (I love you peaceable, measured folk), but the core of who I am through the generations of the Hartleys and Davis clan is more midwestern and southern in sensibility.  We are somewhat emotional people--and most importantly, drawn to good storytelling with heart and a bit of heat.

But somewhere along the lines, that girl who took "Oral Interpretation" in college and got up on stage in musicals and poured her soul out through acting and singing?  She shrank.  My kids have never heard me sing outside of things like VBS or in church or at home.

I realized today as I read those lines that I'd started hiding somewhere along the lines--I told stories while I was a youth leader, in charge of kid-friendly worship and I really, truly miss that part of the job. I MISS telling stories and sharing songs and in the midst of watching my grandpa pass and drift away from afar, I'm ANXIOUS to get HOME to Arkansas.  I never thought I'd feel that way--drawn to the south, wanting to listen again to the family stories I hear there--even with Granny gone, what? 13 years now? My grandpa's mom's stories and the home she made and the family she drew us into somehow feels present in my memory long after she's been physically gone.  I want to see my second cousins and hopefully my cousins and my aunts and uncles and to sing those songs we know so well (church songs and silly songs my grandpa taught us)...

and those stories!  Stories I never lived but could probably tell after hearing them so many times---Granny smashing the moonshine jars, but telling Great Grandpa "It musta been a bad batch-they plum exploded!" and Grandma and the switch tree outside of church where my father, as a sort of rascally sort while young, would pick out a branch for her to use on his backside when he couldn't quite sit still through the service.  And the ones I DID live--Grandpa teaching me to play dominoes (I'm not sure I still understand that well, but it was a good excuse to play with him and granny, killing some time until we could open presents at Christmas), and hearing the Christmas story in his tenor voice.  Having Grandma and Paw Paw whisper in my ear about the goody drawer and where to find the Little Debbie snack cakes if we didn't see our favorites in the drawer (and this is where the rumors of "Debbie in the closet" began). Getting to know my way around Grandma and Paw-Paw's church well and touring the hospital where Grandpa was an administrator--usually in clothes that matched with whichever of my cousins were there with me.  And the trip to "Myrtle Beach!"

You have to go back to go forward--embrace those memories, good and sometimes not so good (hey, I wasn't the most emotionally stable teenager when my grandparents had me stay with them the summer before the move to Greenville.  I'm not proud of who I was, but they loved me through that) and let go of other things--like not being able to record Grandpa on video the summer of 2012 when I'd hoped and found that those lifetime memories had already left him. I have to let go of the regret that I'd waited until I'd finished my dissertation to try and get family stories and in waiting those years/months had missed the opportunity entirely.

And something stirs in me when it comes to storytelling.  My mom mentioned this weekend that "most of the great storytellers (in our family) are gone," but that somehow felt like...I don't know--like an art I was meant to pick up?  Something that had shrunk in me after college and after having kids...that doesn't mean it's gone.  It's something that, if I'm bold I think I can reclaim.  When the time comes to rally around family in Arkansas, I keep hoping that going back will also help pull me forward, and bring that back out in me again.

Stories don't have to be lost forever--but sometimes we have to go back to who we were earlier in our lives to go forward with those pieces again.

I think.  Maybe.  That's just what I'm feeling and thinking as I sort through what has been, what was lost and I want to reclaim, and hopefully what can be.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Re-framing my photos

I had a privilege of spending Mother's Day weekend with my parents and my kids.  Because they're within a couple of hours drive of us, we usually do day trips only and have shorter visits but as my husband and his parents were redoing our bathroom, I took the kids to see Marmee and Pere pere for a few days--and I took LOTS of photos.
I LOVED this one--It reminded me of one of the last photos I have with my mom's mom who passed when I was 7, where she, my sister and I were out on our swing set.  I showed it to my mom and her response was her usual "well, my hair is bad and my thighs are big but other than that, it's a good photo."

I'm not saying this to slam my mom but because I think it's something a LOT of us do--we critique our appearances in photos with a very keen eye.  I mean I'll admit that there probably aren't a lot of photos of me with my kids (partially because 90% of the time, I'm the one taking photos), but when I do my eyes go to similar places.  But this time it gave me pause because as I've realized that I'm growing to look more and more like my mom and I'm always told that my daughter looks like me. I heard what she was saying differently this time.

I thought, "how would I feel if I heard my daughter who is 1 1/2, voicing things like this about herself?"  And I stopped. I feel very strongly that my daughter is beautiful and amazing and, well, I'm her mom and it hurts to think that some day she might not see herself the way I do. And I realized something about my lack of body confidence and fears of not being liked--unless I changed the way I talked about myself in photos in front of my boys, my daughter, too, would pick this up.  And she would feel and talk this way about herself.

SO I decided to reframe everything--I can like a photo or not and can even voice how I feel about a photo because whether it's flattering or not says more about lighting or angles than the individual's form.  What's more important to consider isn't a critique of forms but how a photo makes you feel, or what you felt in that moment.  I love that photo and my mom because she's here, she loves her grandkids and playing with them and I see that reflected in this photo.

In an effort to work towards this "focus on how a photo makes you feel" approach, I also took a lot of pictures when I did a 5k with my son yesterday.  It was his first...and my first in a couple of years (I didn't do them while pregnant with my 3rd child or for awhile afterward due to energy and time).  I was proud.  I felt strong and happy and it was a beautiful day and being there with him to see him work through it was fun and encouraging.  It was encouraging to me, too, to  press on and remember that I'm capable of this as well.  So this may well be my new favorite "me"--not at peace with my body, but working towards it and definitely someone not afraid to take pictures and remember that in working towards health, I feel empowered and happy and like I can help my kids develop positive attitudes about being healthy and their bodies, too.
I'm challenging you to do the same--let's change the ways in which we talk about our photos and ourselves.  We're not sizes and forms to critique, but people at moments in time that can make us (and others) feel a myriad of  emotions worth remembering!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Day 9: Choosing how I see my struggles and successes

A year ago, a day like today probably would have undone me completely--Donuts at MOPS (I managed to avoid then, but ate a bagel--not much better..), melting down 3 year olds, oldest coming home with a stomach bug and then all 3 kids having stomach issues.  Lots of crying, begging me to get things, and barely a moment to collect myself.

And, absentmindedly, I ate part of a donut. I was focused on getting in more protein, keeping my cool, mind from attacking itself. And still that familiar "I'm not sure I can make it to 5 o clock without binging now that I've given in today."

So I reframed it--I resisted donuts at MOPS.  I came home and had a protein shake.  I had 6 glasses of water at MOPS and another 5 when I got home.  I am still remembering to make good choices and all is not "done."  Yeah, I'm not real pleased with the way this cleanse has gone because of little stress out/stress eatings like this one, but I keep going.

Because it's not about that "but I was doing so well and then I..." It's about "Then I..."

What I've learned is that dwelling on that and trying to focus on that only hinders things-- It's about what I do NEXT that matters.

One of the most memorable poems I know deals with this--

Cheesy, I know but kind of true.  I could sit on my duff and wallow in the fact that I was struggling, or I could look for a branch, a hand, anything--and pull myself up and right my vision.  I could think, "I ate sugar today," or "I have had almost a gallon of water so far today.  I cooked ground turkey with homemade taco seasoning.  I walked my son to and from school. I worked on my resume and job interview questions." 

These are all true--not things I would have focused on a year ago, but I try to now.  Because what comes next is "Can I drink one more glass of water right now? Can I roast some awesome onion and sweet peppers to go with dinner?  Can I have a dance party with my kids?" Trust me--it feels a lot better than the question I used to ask ("Can I keep myself from eating any more sugar?") because THIS focuses on the positive ways forward rather than focusing on avoid bad behaviors. 

I guess you could say that I realized I kept sitting in my butt prints and it was time to look around,  realize that my legs were strong and the beach was beautiful and if I stopped focusing on not falling down, I might actually run further and faster ;) 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Day 6: Learning"Self Care isn't Selfish" and rediscovering personhood

I'm not afraid to say it--I got lost.  In my academic identities, in my kids, in...a years' long funk perhaps? I knew that binding my identity up in my work and kids alone and defining myself through them wasn't healthy, but I'm not even sure I knew I was doing it.

I was busy.  I didn't think about the fact that 'normal' people probably didn't analyze the articulation and speaking rate of those they spoke with.  I don't think  I realized (thanks to my love of Veronica Mars and Big Fish) that internally narrating events and re-narrating events until I found the right words to write was abnormal.  Just like I didn't realize that a baby that cried 5-6 hours a day wasn't normal when I had my first until a pediatrician finally noticed MY dark circles when my son was 2 months old and asked the right questions (reflux and colic are evil, and we had them with both boys).  Then there was the spinning, the awkward approaching of adults (not kids) to talk, limited speech...and I finally had the drive to ask questions and push for help when, as an Education PhD student, I realized my 3 year old wasn't developing normally.

I think I actually stopped talking to EVERYONE except 1) family 2) husband 3) our "Game Night" friends 4) My advisor and 5) my research team.  Yes, seriously.  Getting through testing, IEPs, and the mourning of particular things (will he ever say "I love you, mom"?  even potty train?  Will he be able to make more friends?  Attend a regular school? Want to do things like Prom? Will he be able to live independently one day?) meant that I withdrew big time.  Not to "live," but to take care of him and finish my degree.  I rarely sat to eat as I had to chase him, took him to lots of appointments/therapies and doctors, and even when I had a babysitter helping I was usually studying or working. As he got older and 1 kid became 2 boys, it was even more that way.  My second ate/nursed CONSTANTLY.  I was sitting now (my oldest was calming a bit), but unless I found a way to read one handed, it was mostly about feeding that baby and keeping the preschooler out of trouble. Even though I'd finished my PhD, I was still thinking in terms of academia.  My best friend/God mother of my boy's death  changed things a bit--I made myself branch out and joined MOPS to make more friends. But even that was about kids, really.  Then I had my third (surprise!) baby, and she kept me even busier with a Kindergartener, toddler AND a baby who I basically molded my world around--we found that Taekwondo met our son (with Autism)'s needs for balance, focus and discipline best and enrolled him and his brother.  I took them, practiced with them, cheered them on...and then was making lunches, reading to everyone, helping with homework (and trying to make it interesting)...and it was all about them.

And something slowly changed for me in the last year.  It's not just that I realized the phrase "you've got to take care of yourself first before you can take good care of them" is true.  It's that I realized somewhere beneath the "mommy"-ness of me, there's still a growing, changing person.  I love learning new things.  I love coloring.  I've grown to love CURVES and working out and my support group there (something I NEVER would have expected 4 years ago when I started going, though much more sporadically than I should have).  I love hockey and mystery novels and spending time outside on the porch when the sky is blue, the wind is blowing, and the kids are playing around me.

But I also still love alone time.  A neighbor saw me the other day walking after the kids had gone to bed and said "If you need someone to walk with, call me!"  I went walking again tonight and I didn't call.  It's not that I don't sometimes walk with a buddy--I do--BUT tonight, with my itunes playing and walking my myself, it was energizing.

I used to feel guilty every time I left my husband alone with the kids--they cried, and I felt like I was somehow failing them and him, since they were MY responsibility most of the time.  Some days I still feel guilty when I don't take them somewhere with me and they're awake, but then I remember that it's healthy for us to be apart and for both of us to know who we are apart from each other.

That's part of the struggle with women especially and weight--I think we sometimes forget we have physical bodies.  That's not to say that we believe we're all metaphysical, but, rather, than after having other people pass through our bodies, it's hard to believe that it still belongs to us and that the squealing things in our arms aren't the only things we need to care for.

Because we silence that screaming in ourselves sometimes, to nurture others, it's been important for me to remember how to advocate--not just for others, but also for my self--my physical being, my sanity, my emotional health.

Something Tina Fey wrote in a piece for TIME about Ronda Roussey keeps running through my mind today that I think neatly sums up the importance of self care and holding on to the belief of our worth:

"Imagine if we could teach our daughters to value their bodies for what they can do, not for how others think they look. Could Ronda Rousey be the one to finally help us understand that as females, we define the word feminine and that it doesn't define us?"--Tina Fey

WE define who we are and what we should do, not how we think others think we should operate. I only hope I can teach my daughter to be this brave and this true to herself, hopefully earlier in her life than I finally felt comfortable tackling it.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Day 5: Cauliflower? I hardly know her!

I think I've mentioned several times by now that I love rice.  I had a rice cooker on our wedding registry 12 years ago.  We've been through 3 of them now.  My husband will tell you that especially when we first got married, I had no problem making recipes with rice in them 3 times a week.

And now I'm learning that PCOS makes it harder to process carbs.  So what's a girl to do?

I guess join in that "vegetables posing as your favorite carbs" thing.  Since my kids don't want to touch anything that's green, much to my shagrin, the zoodles (zuchini noodles) option isn't working so well yet (can you do it with yellow squash?) but I have tried cauliflower rice.

I'm not going to lie--I HATE cooked cauliflower.  The smell turns my stomach (maybe it's from all those years working in the dining commons at the college and the dish room smell of food being sanitized off plates?  who knows.) The first time I thought, "Oh!  This looks like a good idea.  Steam it first!"  NOT GOOD IDEA.  The pungent smell meant there was no way it was passing as rice for me.

Then I found this: Curried Cauliflower Rice

Quick?  With Garlic, Onion, and Curry?  YESS!!! I'll admit--their approach WAS easier--cut in half, take out the core, pulse in a food processor (as step I'd done before, but not as effective then because I had too much stem), and then saute.  Extras could be frozen in portion-sized bags.  Oh I loved this--one prep for  4 family meals! 
 After adding some oil, garlic, curry and chicken, this was my lunch!

Yeah, it was WAY better than the first time! I'm slowly warming up to cauliflower again...but never steamed or served in a college dining commons again!

 Pros: easy to prep, easy to make, freezes well for later use, big yield! (8 cups or more from 2 heads). Cons: messy! Thanks to my little one spinning my cabinet, it got on pots, pans and a shelf. Dividing it led to crumbs on the stove

After this test run, I'll try the full recipe for dinner--fingers crossed that the kids will at least try it (the 15 month old always tries, the 3 year old almost exclusively rejects anything I make, and the 6 year old is hit and miss).

I will say though that next time, I may make it on my back porch as my kitchen counters/surfaces now seem covered in cauliflower confetti (it's rather messy to make!)

What are some ways you've found to replace your favorite carbs with healthier options?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Day 4: Fighting my "What if" Monster and Sleuthing out problems

One of my absolute favorite books to read to my little guys (6 and 3) right now is called Jonathan James and the "What If?" Monster. It's about a little boy who's dealing with a "What If" Monster in his head, "Filling us up with worry and dread." You can see the author reading the book in the link below:

My boys come by it honestly.  I was the kid that had my mom reading "Your Worry-Wart Child" by the time I was in sixth grade.  I was the kid who almost never slept the nights before tests.  My boys are too young to deal with much testing, but the three year old is terrified:
*of the dark (even though he sleeps with a twilight turtle)
* of being alone (he shares a room with his brother now, so this helps)
*of big dogs
*of tunnels
* of going to Taekwondo (though he loves it when he gets there)

And the list goes on.  His 6-year-old brother's list is pretty long too.  I often listen to LOTS of fears right before they go to sleep and we try to talk through them.

The thing is, though I'm not AS fearful as I was as a kid, I still have LOTS of them, like:
*Ethical questions over clothes I buy and yet trying to be budget conscious
*Making the best choices I can for my family's health in terms of food, but also making sure I have things they WILL eat
* Educational choices for my boys' IEPs--making sure I advocate for their needs, knowing when to get them tested for delays, trying my best to model language and actions that will help them past delays and having them enrolled in things like Taekwondo that helps their balance, agility, ability to focus, etc.
*School District/area of St. Louis--making sure we are in an area where they can get a good education, but also carefully balancing in diversity and empathy for those different than themselves (trust me--the more I watch and read, the harder this seems to accomplish in Greater St. Louis)
*Trying to balance part time teaching, full time motherhood, and full time keeper of the house--and usually one or two of those slip constantly if we're honest.
*And then there's my health, my stress, and my sleep levels.

I used to sit around and compare and plan and do my BEST to do organic, things my kids would eat,  ethical...and round and round and round and eventually we'd go out to eat or make tacos or something simple like that and I'd feel GUILTY, knowing that I almost certainly didn't make the right choice but had run out of time and energy.

This summer, I finally talked back to my "What if" Monster.  "I have to stop doing nothing and worrying about my choices.  It's time to go or get off the pot."  So I said, "I'm trying this." I'm constantly re-evaluating, based on time-money-energy factors though.  For example, this morning  I had an eczema flare up after adding in OmegaPlex to my routine last night.  I did some digging and was surprised by what I found.  I had my gallbladder removed my senior year of college and was told then that "You should have no further problems."  Nothing else, really, other than after care for the laproscopic wounds.  Within a year, I could no longer eat processed meats without severe pain.  After I had my oldest son, I developed lactose intolerance, but assumed they were unrelated.  when I did a search on the Omega 3s, it started to fall into place--I was missing a HUGE piece in my health puzzle, and then I stumbled upon this:

Without knowing it, I wasn't taking care of body's needs and I needed to up my game.  my body no longer digested fats as well as it used to (and that I'd figured out), and the cleanse phases were doing wonders for my overall wellness, but because I had no gallbladder, I couldn't process Omega 3s!  They were actually being turned INTO fat!  No wonder I wasn't losing much weight/stayed heavy even when exercising and eating right and was now having eczema outbreaks--my body couldn't handle the 03s~! I'd heard MOST of this stuff before and had gone to mostly natural cleaning products, deodorant, ACV water, cleanses...but not the digestive enzymes.  I thought doing the rest, this wouldn't matter.  Well, my skin says otherwise today, and so I ordered digestive enzymes after explaining this to my husband.  "What's the worst that could happen?  Nothing?"  He said.

And then it clicked--this has sort of become our new motto.  We were the cautious "let's wait and see" folks not too long ago. When our oldest was diagnosed with ADHD and Autism, we had to become a little more comfortable with experimenting: elimination diets, supplements, medicines, behavioral therapies because that was about "trying something else can't be any worse than the 'doing nothing' we have been doing." When I was tired of not finding full time teaching gigs and tired of staying at home full time and tired of being THIS heavy, it was 'Okay.  I'm trying something new and walking away from the familiar--what's the worst that could happen?"

It sounds negative at first, I think, but what we mean is "I trust us.  I'm stepping out in faith, not knowing where this will go, but it's time to silence the 'What If?' fears and move in the direction of action.

So tomorrow I get to start digestive enzymes, and hope they help.  Lord knows I could use the "mind strengthening" power of Omega oils working in my favor right now!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Day 3 of the challenge: Learning to Give myself more Grace, and accepting wisdom

Today started off with another message from Christa--"I read your blog.  Did you say you were hungry the first day?  What were your snacks?"

Now, I *thought* I knew "the rules" and was supposed to stick to things under 200 calories for snacks,  but then Christa sent me THIS:


I was flabbergasted.  It's not often you end up realizing that you're not eating enough on a cleanse!  I'm used to a handful of almonds and a few slices of apple, or a teaspoon of PB and celery...but proteins that aren't nuts--I wasn't eating enough, quantity-wise, and so now I'm diving into grilled chicken strips or eggs and veggies, and feeling fuller during the day.  I was so grateful for Christa's encouragement and eating suggestions today.  

Meanwhile, I've also been searching for some recipe ideas incorporating protein powder into things other than shakes.  One of my favorite finds is:

AdvoCare Protein Snack Balls! 

- 1 AdvoCare Meal Replacement Shake (any flavor) OR 2 scoops protein powder any kind
- 1/2-3/4 cup nut butter (based on preference)
- 1 tbsp. honey
Take 1 tbsp. of dough and roll into a ball. Roll in desired topping and enjoy!
Topping Ideas:

Unsweetened coconut flakes
Mini chocolate chips (great for a dessert option)
Slivered almonds
Chopped nuts

Makes 4 servings. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

My new favorite place to find recipes, outside of challenge support groups, has been 

There are  tons of seasonally-appropriate ideas and additional recipes added  all the time :D  In the winter, when I got tired of not having a hot beverage and spark seemed less appealing, I found an Sugar free apple cider and orange spark recipe that made me look forward to my mornings again! 

 I am making progress at adding new, fresh ideas into our meal and snack rotations,  But where I need to give myself grace is...well, daily life.  I know I'm a stress eater and though I've gotten much better about the quantity and quality, I really struggle not to give in to chocolate when my 3 year old is screaming, kicking and pulling my hair. Today, I gave in more to cravings than I'd like, BUT I still got back on track, finished out the day with supplements, portion sizing and a protein shake now before bed.  Tomorrow is another opportunity for clean eating, and I'm looking forward to a grocery run for some more veggies and trying my hand again at making cauliflower rice (fingers crossed it goes better this time than last!)