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When I grow up

January 21, 2019

I can count the number of times I wrote in 2018 on one hand, and that is not okay. The need to create is in me (it’s in all of us actually), and it’s not something I get often enough at work to bring fulfillment. And at home I’m living in mostly maintenance mode just trying to keep everyone alive. My house is not decorated, nor would it matter because it’s mostly messy all the time and the dogs have destroyed nearly every piece of trim and baseboard on the main floor because OMG THEY HAVE LEFT US AND WE MISS THEM SO MUCH THAT WE MUST EAT THE HOUSE!!!!!!

We do cook a lot which could provide some creativity but so much of the time it’s rushed and stressful because it’s after work and Layla (now a threenager) is yelling at me or the dogs and demanding something or other. Also I don’t like our kitchen – it’s just small and awkward so doesn’t lend itself to much of a flow state.

Last year I setup an art/play room but in no time it was just the room of mess and chaos and gives me anxiety to step into so ain’t no creating happening in there (from me – the others have definitely created something in there!). I should give credit where credit is due because Skyler recently took it on herself to clean up that room and organize a bit, but I don’t have the enthusiasm I once did to go back in there and get out my art supplies. It only really works when no one else is around and that literally never happens in my life unless I stay up past 9 and that is definitely not happening these days. Mama TIRED!

And I have this blog, which I’ve barely kept alive for almost 12 years (including the babysite that started it all when I was pregnant with Skyler). I’ve covered a lot of ground here through various phases of life, but it’s been harder and harder to keep up. It’s not that I don’t want to write – I love writing and have so many thoughts and ideas I need to release. It’s just the lack of uninterrupted time right now and that ever-present desire for sleep. Or just to be present with the family since there is always always always something I should be doing. I think I’ve also found some minor release in Instagram – I share a lot of our life @lorikelley66 , and it is not nearly the time commitment as writing here, plus I really enjoy the photography aspect. I recent got an iPhone 10 which has a dual lens camera that produces some pretty amazing photos for a phone. Better than my old digital SLR Canon that’s been collecting dust in the closet for a few years. The artist in me feels some guilt about this but hey – no need to make life harder than it is for the sake of the craft, right? Sorry purists.

I’ve been conflicted the last several years in my career. I haven’t been doing my passion but then does it really matter since I’m providing for my family? I know working your passion is not a right, but when you’ve been in the corporate world 9 – 5 Monday through Friday for nearly half your life, it gets draining. Sometimes I sadly reminisce that I once had an art scholarship and almost went to school for an art degree. I think had I chosen a school with a better art program things might have been different, but instead I burned out real quick and changed my tune to business. It was safe and not so demanding. But it wasn’t a mistake because college was where I met Ronnie and I can’t imagine how different things would be had I never gone there.

It’s been nagging me how short life is and how much I think I have to give and share that I’m just not doing in my current career track. Don’t get me wrong – I’m pretty happy with my job and definitely love the company and people I work for and I’m proud of what we do. But I’ve got a whole lot more to offer in the areas of art, writing, nutrition, psychology, and wellness. In the back of my mind the gears are always turning and trying to figure out what to do with all of it.

helpAs the new year turned over and I was reinvigorated to get back to clean eating and cooking after some gluttonous holiday transgressions, I had a random thought of starting a new Intagram account that was all about food (@stuffinfridge). I know there are a ton but I think (and hope) that there is room for one more and I can bring my own unique spin and knowledge to that space. It will allow me to get more creative with what we are cooking, play with photography, and write (albeit briefly for Instagram), while sharing my knowledge of health through nutrition and lifestyle. I have pipe dreams of gaining enough followers someday to produce some advertising revenue and maybe really turn it into something bigger full time, but for now it’s a way to play and help others. Even inspiring a single person to make healthier choices or find easier ways to stay on track with their nutrition is fulfilling for me, so every follower matters! So if you are reading this and are on Instagram looking for inspiration in the kitchen, please consider following my little experiment @stuffinfridge or sharing it with someone you know might be into it! My goal is to keep it real and my 2019 resolution is to commit to this for the full year and see where it goes. At a minimum, it’s a creative outlet for me, that might help other people, and an opportunity for bigger things if my energy and the universe can collaborate!

But where do I start?

December 4, 2018

I’ve been dreaming of writing again – often. I haven’t had much creative outlet lately and though I crave it, the day is filled with too many other “shoulds” that by the time my usual bedtime rolls around, I’m too tired to try and make any sense with my thoughts. I often jot down blog topics throughout the day and make promises to myself to just stay up late and do it, purely for myself and my own fulfillment, but then I think about my bed and my pillow and the amazing escape that is sleep, and I put it off yet another night/week/month. And then here we are.

It’s hard to start writing again, especially after so many potential blog topics have come and gone. The words that once swirled in my head, sometimes keeping me up at night (why didn’t I just get up and write if I wasn’t sleeping anyway?), are buried in the back of my brain somewhere; less relevant to today’s concerns but maybe just waiting quietly to wander out and tag along someday when the thoughts are flowing. But it’s hard to go back and retrieve them at will. Sometimes I look at my potential writing topics and the passion just isn’t there as it was when I couldn’t stop thinking about each thing on the list.

So then I think maybe I will just start with a life update – I mean that’s basically how this whole blog started, over 11 years ago when I decided to document my pregnancy journey publicly. I used to write at least weekly about the adventures of pregnancy and then motherhood, work, and life. But then life got nuts, and then Layla got here and life got more nuts, and I don’t think my sleep has every recovered. Don’t get me wrong – I sleep pretty darn well. It’s just taken awhile to recover from a couple crazy years so my body craves sleep like nothing else. And that’s when I used to blog so regularly – once everyone else had gone to sleep. I would stay up for a couple hours and write the evening away. Oh to be young and able to survive on 6 hours of sleep again!

So here I am; everyone has gone to sleep and it’s 9:34 pm. Life is really good these days. Far from easy or perfect, but our problems are first world problems: water seepage in the basement, ruining the carpet and drywall with mold and mildew (once we got into it, looked like it had been going on far before we moved in). My car is a bit of a lemon but we just have to deal with it as there’s no room in the budget to add a car payment till Layla is out of daycare. The dogs have a chewing problem and might just eat our whole house, and also eat holes through the fence in the backyard, running the neighborhood about once a week. We tried an invisible electric fence once for about a week but they each got shocked once and then refused to leave the back patio, thus deciding the dining room floor was the safest place to do their business.

But our girls! Our girls are the most amazing two humans I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I gaze at them often, especially if they are playing well together, and think how could there be two more perfect, beautiful souls? At 11, Skyler is on the verge of being a teenager, caught in this weird place in time where one day she’s seeing “Let it Go” while watching Frozen with her sister, and another day I am helping her try on training bras at Target. She loves school and has started running around with the neighborhood kids afterward. And she’s taught herself gymnastics via YouTube and practicing on her trampoline and I can’t even believe all the stuff she can do. I must get her into a real gymnastics class after the holidays! She’s bright and creative and thoughtful (but moody these days, as preteen girls are!), and while her independence is easy, I find myself missing her. She’s either with friends or up in her room chatting with friends on her phone or watching YouTube gymnastics videos or rearranging her room or painting something. Now and then I make her hangout with us in the living room, but I also like to just let her be. I know I enjoyed my solitude at her age. I just can’t hardly believe we’re here with middle school on the horizon.

And then there is Layla – the hot mess little firecracker of a three-year-old. She’s currently obsessed with Frozen, and sings and performs “Let it Go” with every gesture and twirl that Elsa does in the movie, exactly like her sister used to do. Moana is a close second favorite and we still have Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on DVR that fills in the gaps. Those shows are my babysitter on mornings when I’m still finishing up getting ready and after work when I need to get dinner going. But in addition to her shows, she has every commercial jingle from whatever TV we are watching memorized. She’s soaking up everything she hears, with vocabulary (both good and bad words) expanding rapidly. Lately she tells me “it’s none of your bidness!” when she doesn’t like what I am asking of her, and she likes to have fake yelling arguments with her dad about nothing – they both yell nonsense at each other and fake punch and kick the air back and forth. I’m sure that’s probably going to get her in trouble at school one of these days but it’s currently hilarious in our house. She’s really a spunky, funny kid who is pretty much happy all the time and just loves to be around people and having fun. Life is her playground and unless she’s hurt or doesn’t feel good, she’s the life of the party.

Ronnie’s still waking up at 5 o’clock every morning to go run the gym, but when he’s not coaching, he’s hunting or learning about hunting or thinking about hunting. He just got his third buck with his bow last week, and this time is processing the whole thing himself. I was not a fan of that idea since we have a tiny kitchen and I just kind of imagine I’ll be finding random blood drops in nooks and crannies from here on out, but otherwise I like the concept of harvesting a natural meat source and handling it all the way to the dinner plate. I think so many people are so out of touch with the food they put in their body, it brings a whole new perspective to nutrition and food source and appreciating the gifts of the earth when you are an active part of that process. But that’s a whole other topic I actually might write about someday, so I’ll just shut up about that now. Anyway, while I do get resentful of the time he spends hunting (and learning about hunting and thinking about hunting), I am also impressed with his intensity to start something new and become an expert at it. He doesn’t half ass anything he does, which is a good thing because if he didn’t consistently put meat in the freezer, I’d have to question the time investment. I’m always happy when I don’t have to buy pricey grass-fed beef for a few months! There could be much less productive and unhealthy hobbies, so I try not to complain too much.

And then there’s me – just over here trying to figure out the meaning of life all while it flies by frantically around me. Work is good – it continues to challenge me, but I feel like I’m contributing and I like the core of what we do, connecting people. I do often wonder what I’ll end up doing for the next 20+ years of my career, and if I’ll ever find my way to something a little more creative. There’s a group of artists at work that meet regularly for a noon sketch group, which I think is open to anyone. I’ve thought many times about crashing it, but not seriously enough to remember to bring my sketchbook and pencils, and I’m already so busy I barely take a lunch anymore, so it hasn’t happened yet. But it’s a nagging thought, just like writing more frequently here. Maybe, maybe I will take a chance and commit to more writing here or popping into the noon sketch group once to see what it’s like. I cannot imagine that I would regret either one or both!


Body talk

March 27, 2018

How would your life be different if you weren’t worried about how your body looked? What would you do, what would you wear, and how would you feel? How would you talk to yourself if there were no mirrors or cameras, or you and everyone else were blind?

I recently listened to a couple episodes from The Liturgists Podcast about “embodiment” and “body image,” and one of the hosts, counseling psychologist and PhD student Hillary McBride asked the above question to the other hosts. It was almost impossible to answer (I tried it myself), because it’s so unrealistic in our modern world. The media we consume, our relationships with others, even our healthcare system all place high emphasis on the value of looking a certain way. One of the major indicators of health, fitness, and beauty is how we look. But what are those standards we compare to, and who set them? Are they based on actual health? And when considering “embodiment” and that our bodies are a vessel for our soul, that without one the other doesn’t exist, does the standard physical representation of health and fitness also represent mental/emotional/spiritual health?

I’ve struggled with my own body image for most of my life. My first recollections of comparing my body to others was in elementary school. I remember noticing my legs and how they were thicker than most other girls – my calves were rounder, my thighs were bigger, and I remember noticing my knees weren’t pointy when bent – just rounded. In 5th or 6th grade I vaguely remember a boy commenting on my “big” thighs when I was wearing some brightly colored floral pants that I was really excited about wearing, and then I never wanted to wear those pants again. Ever since I can remember, my parents wanted to lose weight and they tried various diets along the way. They were always open about whatever diet they were doing and I frequently picked up their diet books left out on the table and read through the methodology. I guess I’ve always had some interest in human physiology, maybe inspired by those books. My parents certainly never said anything degrading about my body, but they did say things like “you’ve got your grandma’s wide shoulders and your dad’s short, muscular legs.” So no matter how negative or benign the comments, my physical body was being compared and commented on by myself and others for most of my conscious life. I catch myself commenting on my own daughter’s bodies – both of which I think are beautiful in their own different ways. But I don’t want them to feel labeled or less or more than others based on the shape of their bodies.

We do focus on healthy eating and activity in our household. Skyler knows I went to nutrition school and that healthy, nutritious food is important for many reasons. She knows that exercise of all kinds helps our bodies stay healthy. Even when I’m buckling down on my own nutrition and workout routine to lose some weight, I’m careful to explain to her that I’m trying to be healthier. But that is the problem. I AM HEALTHY. Other than Vitamin D levels that are chronically on the low end of normal (thanks genetics and northern hemisphere living), my blood work is always perfect. I exercise 5 – 6 days a week, a mix of heavy weightlifting, lighter resistance training, cardio intervals, and low impact activities like yoga, walking/hiking and bike-riding. I choose high quality protein, fat and veggies for most of my meals, consume very little dairy, grains and sugar. I limit my caffeine intake to one cup of coffee per day, and opt for herbal teas or bone broth or just plain water the rest of the time. I drink kombucha, take probiotics, fish oil, vitamin D, magnesium, and a few targeted liver support supplements (based on things I’ve learned from my genetic data regarding my liver). I splurge for one or two “cheat meals” (though I disagree with that term), usually on the weekends, that often involve a couple alcoholic drinks. That’s probably my one unhealthy habit – but it’s not daily and I rarely overdo it. Sleep is a priority to me – I attempt 7-8 hours during the week and don’t set my alarm on the weekends. Thankfully my girls are good sleepers and rarely wake me up. I’m very self-aware and in tune with my body and I make adjustments in all of the above if something doesn’t feel right. Over the longterm – I’ve run a marathon and a couple half marathons. I’ve birthed two children with uncomplicated labors. I’ve summited a 14,000 foot peak in the Rockies. I can lift a decent amount of weight, more than the average person, multiple ways (squats, bench press, dead lift and olympic lifts). I have no mobility issues other than residual soreness or mildly achy joints from a hard workout.

So somebody please tell my why I think I need to lose 15 lbs? Because the way I looked 15 lbs lighter than now is actually healthier? Is it? Or because the way I looked 15 lbs lighter than now was more in line with what others think looks healthy? It makes no logical sense. Why do I get grumpy that I can’t fit in older, smaller clothing? Why do I get dressed and look in the mirror and critique the size of my arms and legs – these strong arms and legs that have carried and lifted so much throughout this life? So I have a little extra layer of insulation over everything – if a catastrophe were to happen and we found ourselves without accessible food, I would be far better off than everyone else with a lower body fat percentage than mine. I am strong and fit and would survive on my own fuel source longer than they would.

I would be lying if I said the above logic is enough to set me free from my own body image issues. I would be lying if I said old pictures of myself when I was thinner didn’t make me feel motivated to go exercise harder. I would be lying if I said I don’t “feel fat” most of the time. I would be lying if I said I don’t judge other people’s health/fitness by the way their body looks. It’s an absolutely ridiculous sickness that I hope and wish I can heal.

Circling back to the “embodiment” concept, this is one area of my health that I know I still need work, and I think it’s an aspect of health that is rarely recognized in our modern world. This mind-body-spirit connection is profound. Imbalances in our physical bodies can lead to mental and emotional problems, and vice versa. Emotional trauma and spiritual issues can seriously impact our physical health. I have found as I age and have experienced various stressful events, I struggle with more and more anxiety and mild depression, and I am not good at releasing these feelings from my body. Though those feelings are “all in my head,” I physically feel them in my body. Anxiety causes a heaviness and dull pain in my chest, a choking feeling around my throat. Depression feels like extreme exhaustion – heavy, achy limbs,  and a desperate craving for sleep. And when I hold these feelings inside and don’t talk about them, I feel a constant knot in my gut and my heart. I’ve heard about the health benefits of crying. I have heard references that some kinds of cancer are thought to be caused by emotional trauma and that there might be a psychological component to “spontaneous remission” in some cancer patients. And it is now commonly accepted that stress has a negative impact on our immune system, so we must do a better job of connecting emotional health to physical health. Considering these things, I have recently theorized that perhaps my extra 15 lbs I’m carrying these days could in fact be emotional baggage from burying my negative emotions instead of releasing them. All things considered, it’s not that far-fetched, but that theory doesn’t necessarily free me from unrealistic expectations of what a positive body image should be. It’s still me finding another reason why I don’t look healthy “enough.”

So I guess what I am getting at, is that obviously society’s definition of what a healthy body looks like is bogus. I am living proof. While I am not a perfect specimen since I still have some emotional health issues to deal with, I think one could make a case that healthy/fit has a much broader physical embodiment than what we have been conditioned to believe. However, I think we have this knee jerk problem on the other end of the spectrum telling overweight folks to love themselves and not worry about how they look and to have a healthy body image even if it’s different than what society says. And people who are naturally “healthy-looking” don’t take care of themselves because they’ve never “needed” to. I don’t think any of this kind of self love works if you aren’t actually healthy or taking steps to be healthy. Obesity is a serious issue. Malnourishment affects all shapes and sizes. Lack of exercise causes health problems, no matter how big or small you are. And mental illness knows know body weight limits. We have to be actively engaged in our own health – mind, body, soul, in order to be healthy. So if we are choosing nutritious foods, engaging in healthy physical activities, fostering healthy thoughts and relationships, and doing those things as an act of love for our whole self, the resulting physical embodiment of our being should be balanced and beautiful, no matter what the inches or pounds say. With that, I’m off to go lift some weights.

Playing God

January 18, 2018

I’m currently listening to a fascinating lecture series on “the psychological significance of the Biblical stories” by clinical psychologist and professor Dr. Jordan B Peterson and it is making for a very eye-opening commute to and from work! If you are a person with any interest in psychology, theology, philosophy, evolutionary theories, history, mythology, or just plain humanity, this is a wonderfully rich and detailed analysis by a super smart dude. It’s fairly mind-blowing, though, so fair warning that it’s hard to take lightly. If you listen on your commute like I do, be sure to wear your seat belt.

One of the themes he’s developed thus far is the innate and uniquely human need to make order out of chaos (the foundational idea of God and story of Creation). This was covered in great detail and is very complex so I’m not even going to try and summarize from his analysis (it’s seriously fascinating so if you are feeling geeky give this stuff a listen!), BUT what I am going to do is make it personal here. And I’m not even going to go into the spiritual aspect of this, but that’s probably an even bigger deal but much tougher to wrap my thoughts around. Anyway, his main takeaway from this theme was that humans are at their best, or maybe “in the zone” when they are riding that line between chaos/unknown and order/known. We know what we know and are functioning within those boundaries, but continuously stretching those boundaries and experiencing the unknown and bringing it to order. This is our potential, our groove, our “best-self”. This is balance, and the times when we are living this way intentionally, we are happiest, and there’s a bunch of biochemical reasons why that is the result. This concept hit home in several ways for me that brought clarity to a lot of things I do that I’ve wondered why I do them and why they bring me joy. So here goes.

Overthinking – I’ve often considered this a fault of mine as it tends to cause more stress, but I can now recognize this as perhaps a highly developed evolutionary trait that just needs a little coaching, rather than an annoying habit where I attempt to make order out of way more things than I need to make order out of at any given moment. It is actually a useful talent that helps me get around this world, and as long as it’s not interfering with other things in life, I actually enjoy it.

Art – Whether it’s drawing or writing, the act of doing these things is making something known out of the unknown. Whatever thought fragments have been swimming incoherently in my mind are often turned into sensible, meaningful words through the simple process of writing, whether on this blog or in a journal. And I’m dabbling in the visual arts again – challenging myself to draw, paint, and try other techniques. The things that I make did not exist before I brought them forth in whatever medium I chose, but there is a mystical satisfaction I get once I’ve begun a new sketch or project, even if it’s a meaningless still life sketch that lives in my sketchbook. Creating is crazy addicting and I feel so much positive energy with the whole process. I get an idea and I can’t stop thinking about it until I get going on it, and when I’m done I feel a rush but also a sense of peaceful relief. When I’m in my creative mindset I see everything differently – I notice the shine on chrome objects and patterns of lines on window blinds and everything plain and simple just has new significance. I think without really thinking could I recreate the essence of that object and make it look interesting with graphite or paint? It sounds dumb but it’s a much more fun way to walk through the world.

Exercise – Huh? What does exercise have to do with chaos and order and creating and joy? Well this is something I’m figuring out right now but now it’s just like DUH! There are a few different layers to this. At the most very basic, weightlifting (my preferred method of exercise) is the process of tearing down muscle fibers and rebuilding them and creating new ones in the process to make muscles stronger. There we go creating again! On another level similar to that one, there is the concept of creating the physique that I desire, and if you want to go deeper on that level, the desired physique is obtained by shedding the extra fat that creeped in due to the chaos of life over the last couple years when I struggled for any sense of balance. There is a lot to be said about healthy body image, which is not the intent of this post but an important tangent for me is that I’ve realized the shape of my body and how I feel in my own skin follows the pattern of the amount of balance or chaos in my life. So it isn’t a superficial goal for me but more a symbolic and tangible effect of being able to find some balance in the chaos of life. There’s also the physical feeling of stress relief – if I’ve been overthinking something and having some anxiety, a good sweat session expends that energy and calms my brain (more chaos into order). And finally the last and most fun layer of this little analysis is that with weightlifting, when I am doing it to gain strength (and not just “get toned”), I am consistently facing the unknown. Can I lift this amount of weight that I’ve never lifted before? How many times can I do that? How much more can I lift a month from now? Weightlifting with goals to improve is a fun and healthy way to continually press into the unknown and expand the boundaries. And it’s crazy satisfying when it happens!

Hiking – The whole concept is exploring the unknown, and while I hike a lot of the same trails locally so they are becoming familiar, there is still a feeling of awe and uncertainty when I step away from civilization even a few hundred yards and surround myself in the mystique of nature. It’s also a place for my mind to race freely and without interruption as I try to make sense of whatever is going on in life at the moment. Then, on the extreme side of this, I see that challenge of summiting Quandary Peak last September as another clear example of the desire and resulting joy in venturing into the unknown – it was unknown terrain, unknown physical exertion/stamina/oxygen capacity, and an unknown perspective of the world. And once at the top, I KNEW it, and it was exhilarating.

I’ll close with this beautiful quote from Rene Daumal that just sums all this up perfectly:

“What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up.”


2017- another chapter

December 31, 2017

I’m writing this as I listen through the baby monitor to Skyler singing “Wheels on the Bus” to Layla as she attempts to rock her to sleep for her last afternoon nap of 2017. Their sweet interactions don’t happen often enough, but when they do I am warmed with joy and visions of them as BFFs in the future. Like once Layla goes off to college and Skyler is her successful and experienced but still cool older sister. These girls are my biggest blessing and hassle, all in one. They drive me absolutely nuts and make me want to run far away screaming, but I yet I miss them all the time I am not with them. There’s never a more complete and content feeling than when my girls are snuggled up with me on the couch. I’m so very thankful for them and the depth of emotion they add to our lives.

So here I am reflecting on 2017, as all the basic people are doing. Some say New Year resolutions are silly as is the annual self-reflection and sentimentality. But I disagree. I think it’s a part of being present and seeking to get the most out of this short life. New Years is a reminder just how quickly time is flying by, and if you don’t stop, collaborate and listen, you may wake up old and grumpy and realize you missed out on a whole awful lot that life had to offer. Ice, ice, baby!

For me, 2017 was a year that came in like a lion and went out more like lamb. It started with me working a soul-sucking job that got progressively worse as the year went on. Preceded by the fact that in late 2016 one of my BFFs found out she had aggressive lymphoma, and she lives in nowhere New Mexico, so she had to go through treatment so far away through the first half of 2017 and I hated not being able to support her more. Additionally our house was on the market for what felt like forever in a market where everyone else was receiving multiple offers within 24 hours.  Potential buyer feedback is the worst! Along with being on the market for so long was Skyler’s prolonged fear and sadness about changing schools. She basically felt like she was saying goodbye for an entire year.  With all that day to day stress, I struggled with anxiety and depression for a good half of the year. It killed my motivation for anything other than the bare minimum. I had a job to keep and kids to keep alive, but my own self-care went by the wayside. Not because I didn’t want to, but I physically had no energy to do anything. It was a helpless feeling since I knew I would feel 10 times better if I got active and ate healthier, but all I wanted to do was nothing. I felt trapped.

I powered through work, and in June we finally sold our house and found a home in an amazing new neighborhood and got moved. And soon after we got settled, my job search, which had been going on for a good nine months, finally bore some fruit, and I landed a dream job at Hallmark. I finally feel like I’m in a career that means something to me personally, and my brain is being used for something that matters. And that makes the hours I spend away from home and family totally worth it if I can be proud of that time and energy! Skyler started school and loved it after the first day and hasn’t looked back since. And best of all, my badass friend kicked cancer in the you know what and is in remission. Unfortunately, she’s still in nowhere New Mexico…

To celebrate her remission, a group of us girls went to Colorado to do some hiking. I had high expectations for that trip but it blew my expectations out of the water. Not only did we do some gorgeous hikes, we conquered a fourteener (above 14,000 feet elevation at the summit), Quandary Peak, which was one of the single hardest, most humbling yet empowering things I’ve ever done. More than running a marathon, and up there with childbirth (comparing Layla’s birth when my epidural didn’t work; Skyler’s birth was a breeze!). I had no idea how difficult it would be; the altitude and the nonstop incline on giant rocks and no shelter from the wind for the second half of that hike. I almost quit several times as we neared the top, but knew how disappointed I would be. When I finally made the summit, I hyperventilated and cried all at the same time. I spent much of the year so disappointed in my body and my fitness, since I was overweight and out of shape and always tired. But reaching that summit reminded me how amazing my body really is, combined with my mind and strong will. I was far from the fittest I’ve ever been, but I did something physically demanding that few people get to do. I was truly proud of myself and felt a little more compassion for where I was at that stage in life. But on top of the physical feats of that trip, there couldn’t have been a better group of travel companions. We took turns cooking healthy and delicious meals, sharing our struggles, tears, and essential oils. Not to mention laughter – it was therapeutic in a hundred ways at least. I didn’t want to leave those mountains, and I dream of going back there, both for the physical experiences and the spiritual ones. It truly felt like a turning point in the year – we’d all conquered some mountains, and it was time to celebrate and enjoy life.

I did a lot of soul searching this year (though when don’t I, really?), and expanded my search outside my own soul. Something wasn’t right with my spirituality. My faith felt contrite and limiting; man-made and fragile. I began questioning things and reading (or should I say listening to on my commute since I have no time to sit and read), expanding my perspectives. I dig the subjects of evolutionary psychology and biology, neuroscience, and existential philosophies. I listen and I think until my brain hurts. I listened to atheists and theists and agnostics. Debates and lectures and apologetics. I listened to thoughts from non-Christian religions. It’s been fascinating and eye-opening and it has challenged my faith. I haven’t come to many conclusions other than I think an existence without a loving God feels meaningless, and I don’t think God fits in the box I once thought He did. But I’m enjoying the exploration and look forward to my longer commute so I can keep learning!

Finally, after working with a naturopathic doctor for a bit to help me prioritize my health in a way to deal with my anxiety and depression, I have felt pretty balanced for a few months now and finally have the energy to exercise consistently and take a stronger focus on nutrition. I’ve been lifting weights 3 – 5 times per week for a solid month now, and in the last week added some cardio/CrossFit style workouts back into the mix. I no longer feel drained and am motivated and excited to workout. I no longer feel like a walking eggshell that’s about to crack into pieces, and I am enjoying everyday life again. I am so thankful for the opportunity to go at my mental health naturally, since naturopathic doctors are expensive and don’t take insurance. I know there are multiple ways to skin this cat but I am thankful to be financially able to do things from a foundational, integrative approach that will enable me for more longterm balance. I will caveat to say that I think a huge factor in my mental health was finally escaping the heartless 9 – 5 job. It’s just impossible to stay healthy and balanced when the majority of your waking hours leave you burned out and thankless. It’s rarely any one thing, but that was a big one!

In 2017 I made a vision board, and I looked at it a lot throughout the year. I was amazed as the year unfolded how much of it “came true.” They weren’t really specific goals, but just ideas and visions of things and feelings I wanted to experience. When I see how it came true, I realize what a truly incredible year it was, despite the ups and downs.  I haven’t done a visualizing activity for 2018 yet, but I hope to make that happen soon. In the meantime, I feel energized and balanced and ready for whatever 2018 brings. Cheers to another trip around the sun!

I feel sorry for murderers

October 5, 2017

Yes, I’m sorry for their victims and the loved ones they and their victims left behind, but I’m starting to view murderers as victims too. Whether they murdered in the name of Allah or Jesus, whether they murdered to “protect” their race, whether they murdered to innact revenge or increase their wallet size, or there was no motive and they were just “psychotic.” There are so many motives for murder – probably a nearly infinite list due to the complexity of being human. And I feel this way because I don’t think anyone is a murderer by choice, and it took some serious amount or depth of anguish for them to arrive at that point to commit such an act, and no one chooses that for themselves.

In the child psychology class I took last Spring, the thing that stuck with me was how much happens in a child’s brain during the formative years. There is so much growth and development happening at the socioemotional level during the entire 18 years, but especially in the first few. How many children are born into “ideal” conditions? It’s easy as an upper middle class white woman to idealize motherhood as this beautiful gift of life filled with a balance of love and snuggles and challenges and tantrums but that it’s all worth it in the end to watch your baby grow and become an amazing contributer to our world in one way or another. But what if you’re a teen mom with absentee parents that never showed you the gift of loving, engaged and disciplinary parenting, and you accidentally got knocked up while searching for belonging in the world around you. You have no job, and now your own future looks bleak, and you’re in charge of raising another? If you didn’t have a good experience in life so far, what kind of hope would you have in raising a child in your world? What kind of resentment might you bring to parenting if you’d never known a healthy relationship? So then your child doesn’t have that solid start in the world that is so important to a healthy well-being. This is a cycle, and one that happens all too commonly in our nation. Take this scenario to the Middle East or Africa, where you are born into a community where violence is the norm on the streets, most often in the name of religion or heritage. Feuds between sects run thousands of years long and it is ingrained in you from birth what is “right” and who is “wrong” and that death is fair punishment for non-compliance. This is all you know. This is all your friend’s and family know. This is all your country knows.

Those are just a couple obvious examples of how people can end up so “evil” – when they have been raised around emotional vacancy and/or violence – what else would they know? But there are others who have had seemingly easy, loving upbringings, and something else “triggers” their violence. This could be any number of things – bullying, major life stress, chronic illness, for example. And perhaps layered with all these life experiences we have varied genetics that affect how our minds and bodies respond to these experiences – the degree to which they impact us; our resiliency. Maybe there is a genetic pre-disposition to a mental disorder that could cause violent behavior. Still, that wouldn’t be the murderer’s fault. Blame their parents, yet again.

On top of the above variables, I will add the health/lifestyle variables. While pharmaceutical companies aren’t big on sharing this info, it is well documented that many lifestyle factors are effective treatments for depression and anxiety.  I know healthy eating, time spent outdoors, and regularly exercise in this country are the exception and not the rule, especially as you move away from the wealthy end of the spectrum. So when this kind of lifestyle isn’t the norm, depression/anxiety are lurking nearby, and we know those things can become a vicious cycle for many that deal with it.

So take all the above, layer on increasing social disconnection as we bury our faces in electronic devices, the mainstream media news that we’re reading on our devices is trying to be provocative and further divide us on emotionally charged issues. Oh, also, I forgot to mention possible environmental toxicity in our air, water, food, clothing…blah blah blah. Basically, there are SO MANY WAYS a person can “become evil” or “go crazy.” It’s not really that unbelievable when you consider all of the above and that many people in our world are living with most of the above. It’s a wonder we don’t see more disgusting, evil things going on. And maybe I’m sheltered since I’m an American upper middle class white woman. My exposure to some of this is limited, but I’ve had my share of mild to moderate depression and anxiety. It has made me feel crazy at times, so I can’t imagine what others with more complex issues feel.

But this is why I feel sorry for murderers (and those that commit suicide). Their pain and desperation from whatever combination of the above or not yet mentioned must be so unbearable that they cannot rationally think or act. I cannot even begin to fathom what goes through their minds when planning or acting out in harming themselves or others, but I know it is dark and full of pain. Even if they claim a motive or some “cause,” it is not some joy they get out of committing evil acts. It is a misguided release of hurt and anger, perhaps an attempt to rid their body of that feeling by ending their life or tranferring it to others. I don’t know, but I truly don’t believe they rationally chose to be there. The pain someone else or something caused them, whether accidental or on purpose, has affected them in a deeply damaging way.

Obviously this has been on my mind due to a recent local teen suicide and the tragedy in Las Vegas. And I’m not bringing up this point in lieu of the need for reform to the manner in which the public can purchase firearms. I just think it’s way more complicated than that. This is a culmination of events and things I’ve been thinking on and reading recently surrounding empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We want to stay comfortable and be right, but at what cost? It’s something we desperately need more of so that we can start helping each other heal from whatever damage we’ve all taken over the years.

In the eye of the hurricane

September 8, 2017

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August 8, 2017

I just finally stopped sweating from a sunset jog/walk around the lake, and now I can’t sleep. This is the problem with working out at night, is it generally gives me a second wind, but maybe I should embrace this so I can also do things like write on this blog or clean up the dinner leftovers instead of leaving it for tomorrow…anyway, the 4.9 miles I managed to fit in today feels like a big accomplishment. The fact that I had enough energy to even entertain this thought in the evening after a a fitful previous night’s sleep and long, stressful day at work is kind of a miracle. A workout of any sort, any time of day these days just seems near impossible to me. My back and hips ache from inactivity and my neck has a crick from one of the last times I lifted weights a few weeks ago, and I’m just so mentally tired all the time from the stresses of work and motherhood that doing absolutely nothing is my most prized hobby at this point in life. But, the evenings are unseasonably mild, there’s a lake down the street calling my name at all times, and most importantly, I’m going to be attempting to hike at least one 14,000 foot peak in Colorado in 40 days. It’s time to get serious about my fitness if I don’t want my friends to have to carry me down the trail.

What’s fairly mind-blowing to me is how intimidated I am by this upcoming hiking trip, when just a few years ago I was in the best shape of my life. I was a CrossFitter. CrossFit was LIFE. Fitness and nutrition were LIFE. I never envisioned a future where that wasn’t the case. I got certified in nutritional therapy, I got certified in CrossFit, and I was going to bring real health and fitness and happiness to the world while practicing what I preached. But here I am, lucky to attempt a workout every couple weeks, snacking on gluten-filled pretzels and non-organic cheese (nope, NOT on the paleo diet), 20 pounds overweight, and worst of all, I can’t do pull-ups anymore. I mean, WHO AM I?

I’m a much different person now, and the life events, both good ones and bad ones, have changed and shaped me. So while there may be 20 extra pounds of fluff and less muscle to lift heavy things, I gotta remember my heart is bigger with love for the additional child I grew since I last did a pull-up, and my heart is stronger for all the family challenges and victories we’ve won. So though my heart is my trophy for now, life’s stresses and challenges have taken a toll on my emotional well-being and in turn affecting my physical ability to exercise and eat right (yep – meal planning and prep take way too much energy for me to tackle right now).  I’m mostly trying to ration what little energy I have left these days for my family, and I’m doing a sub par job just giving them my leftovers. I’m a terrible housekeeper, I sometimes do laundry, I rarely cook. I feel like I’m living one day at a time. From Sunday night through Thursday I’m grumpy and feel like I’m barely treading water at life, and then I cheer up for the weekend. I feel bad for my family – they get the worst of me the majority of the week, and I feel frustrated and guilty that it’s not the other way around. They should be the priority, but instead there’s this thing called a job that requires me to be there a lot and attempt to do smart things that make people money. And they pay me good money to be there, so I kinda have to. They’d probably stop paying me and show me to the door if I treated my work the way I treat my family. Luckily, it’s not as easy for my family to fire me, so they keep me around, for now. I know, excuses, excuses, excuses. Well your fitspiration photos can bite me at this point in life.

On the other hand I know there is this person stuck inside this perpetually tired, stressed out, puffier body, that’s really awesome. I’ve got an adventurous and competitive spirit that if I could just get some oomph back in my blood I’d be doing good things for this body that supports me. I’ve got deep, crazy thoughts on life and relationships and spirituality and philosophy and if I just found the energy and time again I’d be sharing them here, gaining that liberating feeling for my nonstop racing thoughts that only writing brings me.  And I love my family and friends so much that it hurts and feels overwhelming during the stressful times, so I just shut down and pray they’ll continue to believe in me and support me. I dream of a day where my energy is balanced and I can overwhelm them with love and laughter. That person is in here, tapping impatiently to climb her way out. Until then, I’m going to start celebrating the small wins that help me find my way back to my true self. And hopefully that also means I’ll be able to celebrate not blowing a lung or a knee on a mountain in the near future.

The pursuit of happiness

April 27, 2017

Trying to sell our house may well be one of the most uncomfortable situations we’ve ever chosen to put ourselves through. We just never expected it to be this hard with the way this market has been and with the amount of work we’ve done to update this home. We are not naive to real estate – Ronnie used to be a real estate agent and we’ve seen every episode of every buying and selling and flipping show ever on HGTV. We listed with an experienced and successful agent late last Summer and through the Fall, with very little traffic and only a few that showed interest but ended up choosing something else. Our entire neighborhood was slow during that time (I follow everything on the market over here with email alerts), but when we saw houses selling in a matter of days in February, we decided to list ourselves and take advantage of the hot streak. But that was mid-March and here we are, almost May, with no offers. We get little bites now and then, but the people most interested usually aren’t ready to buy or would rather be on the other side of the State Line. It’s somewhat baffling when we see what sells quickly and often at higher price points than ours. We’re beginning to wonder if there’s a curse, or maybe we are just blind.

The toughest part is the feeling of temporary living. We packed up a ton of stuff to de-clutter (which, makes me breathe easier too so maybe that stuff will just stay in storage!), but due to needing to be ready for showings, we never feel like we can just relax. On evenings that we don’t pick up after ourselves, it feels really stressful, like what if someone calls and wants to come see the house tomorrow morning? It’s always a thought in the back of my mind when I’m in a hurry, multitasking and not doing household chores, but sometimes you don’t want to live like a model home. You want to actually LIVE and not just clean! There are things that we don’t do now purely because it’s not worth the mess, and I don’t like not having that freedom to just be us in our own home. Not for this long!

And it’s such a vulnerable, personal thing to have people constantly coming into your home and basically judging you. If they don’t like something, or don’t love the house enough to make an offer, I take every one of those rejections personally. I try not to, and I know I shouldn’t, but this is our home, a place we’ve worked hard to make nice, so any negative feedback just feels like an insult. Homes are so personal! But that thinking has also lead me down another path – I’ve learned that I don’t want to be defined by my material belongings. This whole home selling thing and trying to figure out what we want in our next home and the things we truly value in this life has got me really anti-materialism. I know that our family and our quality of life is so much more than the size of our home and the finishes in it. That’s up to us to define and no one else. You don’t like our lack of landscaping and far from pristine lawn? Well, let me tell you about the fun things we did and the memories we made playing in the yard with the girls or sitting on the patio enjoying cocktails together instead of doing yard work. You don’t find the musky scent of two giant dogs refreshing? Well let me tell you about all the puppy snuggles on the couch and lazy Sunday naps we’ve shared with our beloved furry family members. There’s so much more to life than this house, our cars, our clothes, our bank accounts.

When this house finally sells, we are dreaming of a simpler life. One that might be on the outskirts of town with some acreage to hike and hunt on. Or maybe it’s a small lake community. Whatever it is, we want our next home to be an escape to nature and away from the stress of modern life. While we aren’t going all hipster-tiny-house-family, we do want something small and functional, but at this point we aren’t picky. Something we can pay off soon that isn’t a financial burden. We are focusing on the life we want to create for us and our girls. Simpler, more natural, more intentional. Fresh air and time and space to breathe.

In the meantime, until this house sells, I just tell myself that our future home isn’t ready for us yet, and the perfect future homeowner of this place isn’t ready yet either. There’s a plan, that’s on different timing than I prefer, but in the end, it will be the perfect timing. So we live one day at a time, learning lessons to stay in the present and not get too carried away with the future. Isn’t that how we should be living every day, no matter our circumstances? Isn’t being truly present and having gratitude in the current moment where we find real joy? Dear God, I’m listening.

This moment in time

March 14, 2017

My daughters – so alike and so different. And changing so fast. I see the Facebook Memories from 1 year ago to 5 years ago and I’m transported to another world. Even one year ago and I cannot believe how much has changed. So I need to document these things, before they are distant memories again, or worse, before I forget.

Skyler – “The Sweet One,” since the birth of your sister and contrast with her personality, this is your current nickname. You have such a kind and giving soul. Catholic school was seemingly made for you as you take to heart the lessons taught by Jesus. Lately some of the girls at school have been teasing you to the point of tears, and when our first reaction as pissed off parents is to tell you to stand up for yourself and dish it back, you immediately point out that “Jesus said to turn the other cheek.” But when we come back with “but the Bible also said an eye for an eye,” you respond “makes the whole world blind.” Ugh, I love your innocence and heart of gold! I wish I could protect it forever. You have your fair share of fire, too. You are still a sore loser and have learned not to play anything you can’t do well at. Watching you jump up and down to celebrate shooting a basket at a game gives me so much pride and joy. And your learning to love reading and have already started to notice how it makes you better at writing. You read a book and then decide to write a book. I love watching the wheels turn and seeing that spark ignite in you. Sometimes I think with your artistry and your writing and your faith, you are like a mini-me. But you got that spunk – sense of humor and quick-temper from your Daddy. I hope and pray all these qualities are never squelched – whether by peer pressure or lack of self confidence or idiot teacher. I want you to embrace these gifts that are uniquely you and use them to power your future without a doubt in your mind. You are such an amazing gift to this world.

Layla – “The Crazy One,” who keeps us on our toes and makes us question our parenting abilities that we thought were on point after your sweet sister was so easy and so good. You’ve challenged us since before you were born. Your name means “dark beauty” or “intoxication with wine,” which is SO fitting. You are like a crazy little drunk person and you drive me to drink! We like to joke that you are our little boy, the into-everything, always-moving, eat-anything-on-the-floor, accident-prone type. And you are all hot or cold – there’s rarely anything in between. If you are holding something you shouldn’t have and we take it and tell you no, you act like your heart has been broken into a thousand pieces, and you run to the other parent for consoling. You love to smile and say hi to strangers, but you’ve been fussing in nearly every car ride ever since we brought you home from the hospital. I finally figured out the other day that if I gave you a bag of veggie straws to snack on in the car, you didn’t complain. Go figure, tubby likes to eat! Which lately, I can’t feed you enough. Even though you don’t want much while it’s mealtime in your high chair, you are constantly pointing at our food, eyeballing whatever anyone else has, even if it’s the same thing you had that you threw on the floor or fed to the dogs. Or you’re in the pantry looking for a snack there or just pointing and whining at the kitchen for SOMETHING. It’s never enough! And bananas, speaking of never enough, there are never enough bananas in a day for you. You are a monkey. Right now, you’ve learned to shake your head “yes” with a big grin to almost any question we ask you, even if you have no idea what we are talking about. And you love to help out by carrying your dirty diaper to the trashcan and closing the lid once you’ve tossed it. You march around the house, pumping just one arm in determination, as you move from one task to another. But God forbid I leave the room, even if you were playing contently by yourself. You are Momma’s Girl for sure, even though when I’m gone you think your Daddy is the coolest. You used to adore your Big Sis, but now that you’ve got some independence, you are showing her some sass. You squeal in protest if she tries to pick you up, and you hit her in the face if she gets in your space. The best is how you kick her nonstop from your carseat all the way to drop her off from school. You can’t help but be obnoxious. You are very much the personality of your father, and it’s adorable. I am exhausted by you but yet pray that time will slow down so we can keep you adorable and hilarious for a little longer.

Both of you girls are so amazing and so different. I pray we continue to learn how to help you both continue to grow into your true selves and that we can protect you from those people and things that try to dim your light. You are both such wonderful gifts to this world.