Sunday, March 23, 2014

The moment you can never erase. My Sunday Confession.

Today marks my very first ever link up post. Basically, how this works is, the amazing bloggess behind "More than Cheese and Beer" invites other bloggers to 'link up' our post to hers, all sharing a post with their own take on a common topic. The benefit to everyone being an overall widened audience of readers. While I'm not sure I am bringing many readers to this party, I am definitely stoked to be hitching my wagon to such talented group of bloggers who I had already admired and read in the process of getting up the courage to become one myself. In that respect, I kind of feel like the awkward kid in the movie Almost Famous, nonchalantly in awe of the enormity of the talent that is all around him. The bloggers represented in this chain are my personal rock stars, and like him, I'm not going to sugar coat my Rolling Stone article on you lot. Sorry. Principles. You break up the band, I am writing it, Yoko.

Ok, all that to get down to the nitty gritty of today's throw down. Awkward moments. Oh, man. How do I narrow down a topic that pretty much encompasses the whole of my life's collective vignettes. Awkward is my middle name.

I do the wrong thing a lot. I think it may be a major reason why I retreat into myself so much. My introversion is somewhat of a defense mechanism. I am saving myself from myself, and potential harm to others. My intention with this post was to be funny and light, because so much of my awkwardness has been honed over the years into something that mostly passes for endearing or adorable, and I can totally live with that. After reading Juice Box Confession's post on today's topic, I felt compelled to go another direction entirely. This one is going to be bloody.

Juice Box Confession's link up shared a heart wrenching depiction showing a moment of hurt and betrayal she felt when a friend's unkind and insensitive words to her tragic news forever changed their friendship. It is gorgeously written and very raw.

For me, it struck a very painful nerve. I felt horrible for the pain she felt as a result of another woman's thoughtless words. I felt horrible for the loss she had endured, the sadness and grief of losing a beloved and celebrated pregnancy. I felt horrible also, for the friend, who may or may not have understood the enormity of her statement. I felt horrible for the absolute impossibility of turning back time, because, yes, I was that friend, and I am no longer. The power of a moment is one I am all to familiar with.

I am not one who has any place to comment on miscarriage. I feel guilty, somehow. I have been told that my thinking is common and it is something similar to survivor's guilt for wartime soldiers. I have 8 healthy happy children. I have never endured a miscarriage. I cannot possibly comprehend the loss.

A couple-friend of ours was expecting their fourth child. I love babies, pregnancies, and everything they entail. I kept general tabs on their progress through the periodic Facebook posts that went up. The husband of the couple was a notorious dry jokester who used uncomfortable pauses as an element of his humor. I had gone into work at our coffee shop, where a group of our guy friends went almost every morning before heading off to their various offices. My own husband was already there working. I had known by a Facebook post a week or so prior, that they had an ultrasound to find out about baby's sex, but assumed that I had missed the update with the news somewhere in the mix. When I saw the husband of the couple that morning, my face lit up immediately and I asked how the ultrasound went. He was uncomfortably silent...his standard M.O. for a joke set up. So I started laughing by default, waiting for the punch line. Glancing over at my other friends, however, I saw they were silently, violently shaking their heads 'no' at me. Then he dropped the boom. "We lost the baby." My heart sank. Nauseating dread swelled into a heavy ball in the pit of my stomach. I was  heartbroken and devastated for my friends. Just the remembrance of the incident has me in tears now, again. His look of hollowness and loss will forever haunt me. Stunned, I looked over at my husband, who had known but forgotten to tell me in the craziness of our lives and schedules. In this man's mind, I knew this news and was mocking him. I was horrified to have hurt my friend by laughing, and had no idea how to rectify it. I said how truly sorry I was, with all the sincerity and regret that I felt, but have no idea if he received the sentiment the way I intended. I carried that numbing sadness around with me for the rest of the day, and still, more than a year later, have trouble processing it properly. I went over and over it mentally, trying to understand how I could have made that moment right, and never found a solution.

I will forever be sorry for my part my friend's pain that morning. The next time I saw his wife, while I wanted to show my genuine sympathy, instead I said nothing at all, for paralyzing fear of making some other hellish mistake. My words, prayers and good intentions became aching cotton in my head, never materializing. Some days I pray that the old saying "It's the thought that counts" really holds any truth. More likely, the phrase came into being as a result of some other moment of regret involving things said, or things left unsaid. That couple's view of me likely changed forever that day,  I will never know. I do know that moment will forever live in my brain as one of the singular most distressing of my life.

I'm so very sorry. Words will never be enough. If I could take it back, in a heartbeat it would be gone. I have no excuse. If I am truthful, many more moments have since gone by silently in the aftermath.

To link up with all of the other amazing bloggers participating in this week's Sunday confessions, check out my girl over at More than Cheese and Beer.

Our day of nothing.

Saturday. Under normal circumstances, and I use the word "normal" loosely and in a context that in no way resembles its actual definition, we are fully booked with more events and obligations than are physically possible for the average family (not that they are physically possible for our anything-but-average family, but they are booked and on our calendar nonetheless). Sporting events, work events, family and friends' birthdays, holidays, you name it, we usually have anywhere from a handful up to a dozen entries on any given calendar's Saturday.  I usually never like dealing with things until they are actually upon me (they tell me it's called denial, but whatevsies), so I never ruin the surprise by actually looking ahead at our calendar of craziness. The day I am living is usually way more than enough for me to handle, anyway. Because of this constant chaos called Saturday, you can imagine my supreme delight when, on getting into bed last night, I asked my husband what was on the calendar for today, and he replied with a casual "nothing".

"Wait, what?" I would have looked ahead for that. I didn't even know how to respond.

So today, we had our day of nothing. And it was just as blissful as I imagined it could be.

We slept in until the crack of 8:30 (Which is like 1 in the afternoon in middle age parent time). The cars did not leave the garage. All. dang. day. long. My husband and I are both still in the pajamas we woke up in. Maybe gross, but don't lie, you're jealous.

Every stitch of clothing got laundered, dried, folded, and put away. I had very little to do with that. My husband has a thing about finishing what you start when it comes to laundry, and it is beyond my capacity to even listen long enough to understand what he means...because, hey, if it's clean, it's golden. Bonus if it is folded in neat piles, separated by the human who is currently wearing them. But putting them away in the drawers, and hanging in the closets?...psh...sounds like the stuff of Elizabethan romances and magical animated Disney animal servants. To my husband's thinking, however, this is what needs to happen to the laundry to be done, so 6 loads of laundry are fresh and in their proper drawer, closet, and cubby.

I got 8 loaves of bread baked, which is about enough for 3 days. Basketball was watched, baseballs were thrown, and a toenail was ripped viciously from it's bed in a freak door opening incident (don't happens.) She heals quickly.

Two pots of coffee were consumed and three meals were eaten, all in the comfort of our home, all in the company of my family, my favorite people on earth. While this might not sound like much to most, to me, the quietness and togetherness made this Saturday something altogether special. Its rarity transformed something unspectacular into a day that insanely enough, I can honestly describe as wonderful.

I adored our day of nothing. I am writing about it to serve as a testimony of hope. A day of witness for myself to look back on, because I know with a certainty it will be many moons before another comes along. To remember that such a day existed. That it was wonderful. That it will come again, someday.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ten apps that rock my life

I love apps! As a mom who is always on the go and always in the middle of about 600 things, having apps on my iPhone and iPad are basically as essential as oxygen or you know, video games for teenage boys. I have a gazillion of them, but want to shout out my absolute die hard favorites!

10. Quiz up (FREE): ***Disclaimer*** I am not in general a gamer, because I don't like the idea of frittering away my limited time with no fruit for my labor. Thankfully I was able to escape being sucked into the craze of Candy Crush or Angry Birds that everyone and their pets went gaga over. This is a game, but I rationalized it was educational. With almost 300 different quiz topics, there is something for LITERALLY everyone who can read. So that was the premise under which I got this. Well, if you are a competitive personality (like me), your time could very well be sucked into the vortex of Never Never Land, leaving you bleary eyed and dazed when you emerge from the Quiz Up fog. I became World Champion of Classical Literature in 3 days of practically non stop play. My family is grateful that after 3 days of no laundry and barely stopping to feed them, I snapped out of it and came back to my senses. Now, I more prudently play only when I am waiting in unavoidable lines, or waiting for my kids to come out of lessons/practices.

The basics: The quizzes are real time one on one trivia style, played against other online players. You can connect it to your Facebook profile or have it independent of any other social media. Connecting it will allow you to see which of your friends are also playing and which topics they are going at. The quizzes are each 7 questions long (so perfect for a few minutes of unoccupied time), and you are given points for playing, with winners obviously getting more points. Each quiz topic has it's own independent  ranking of cumulative points and you are ranked on state, national and world scoreboards.

9.Pinterest (FREE): Yep, like every other lady on the planet who has gotten the bug, I LOVE me some Pinterest. Their app lets you check out the genius of your unknown muses while you are out on the go, being fabulous.

For Homeschoolers like me, this is a God send of ideas that keep you from getting stale or redundant in your lessons. There is a never ending stream of brain food to stimulate the studies for your kids. I can't even begin to name all of the things that can be sparked from the creativity of both other homeschooling homes and public school teachers. I would say that if you homeschool, and DON'T use Pinterest, you are doing yourself a disservice, and probably re-inventing the wheel and working way harder than you need to be.

The one caveat to this one: it seems to get bogged down as you pin, loading it up with more and more data, and rendering the available storage space on your phone more quickly filled up. To combat this, I will delete and re-install the app about twice a year. This seems to re-set the storage on your device, while all of your Pinterest data remains intact.

8. Show Me (FREE): available for iPad only. As a homeschooler, we teach our children in our home, and every place we go becomes a classroom as well. This digital whiteboard was such a find! With it you can have a writing surface (multiple color options), in addition to being able to paste photos or images onto the board, record sound, and record the work you are doing for future playback. In addition, it is a social platform, so you and other users with the app can upload work and it can act as a virtual distance-learning platform. We absolutely love this app for how versatile and user friendly it is.

7. Countdown: (FREE): What parent doesn't need a timer? Whether you need to time your kid's shower or how long you're holding a plank (2 ways I actually use mine), this timer is great. It does a count up, or countdown, and allows you to select your buzzer music or sound. It is very easy to use, so small children can navigate and use it easily.

6. YouVersion Holy Bible (FREE): These days,  I rarely have to take my paper version of my bible anywhere unless I am teaching. This app has everything I need. It gives a verse of the day when the app opens, and allows you to bookmark, share passages to social media, select a reading plan with a layout and checklist to guide you in reading through the entire bible, and has every major version of the bible all in one app (which makes comparison between the versions a snap). The app also has a tab that allows you to take notes on what you are reading.

5. Flashlight (FREE): I would have to say that this app is the MOST used feature on our phone, hands down. We have searched for toys under couches, shoes in pitch black parks, found our way along rocky paths, searched for monsters in closets, and looked in ears and up noses with this app. It is a parent's best friend. No one with children should be without this one. Period. It is super bright and stays on as long as you need it.

4. Phonto (FREE): This app is fantastic! You can take pictures and add text and shapes, making the creation of funny memes effortless. It is so easy to navigate and turns out a professional looking end result. The choice and variety of fonts is huge, and it allows you to import any font you can find.

3. InstaFrame (FREE): This is our go-to frame for creating picture collages for Facebook and Instagram. It is user friendly and not glitchy, plus it doesn't bother you with pop ups every 10 seconds.

2. Photoblend (FREE): This app allows you to layer one picture on top of another. You can control the opacity of each photo, and adjust the image until it is exactly what you want. It is great for creating word art and double exposure effect images.

and drumroll please.....

1. BubbleFrame ($1.99): This is my ALLTIME favorite app! It has so much versatility and can be used for so many different projects. Every update this app has undergone has just made it better.  It cost $2, but to be honest, I would have paid for this app at ten times that price. You can make images from photos, start with a background out of their collections (that update seasonally, while still giving you access to all of the past archived collections) or simply create a background color to begin. You then can make bubbles (which can morph into any circle to square shape) and fill those with photos or colors. You can add in text either straight across the image, or you can have text run along the edges of your bubbles in a geometric effect. Fonts can be downloaded from the internet directly to this app for instant use. When you save your image, it can be set to a high definition resolution, for a crisper effect when used on social media. I'm sure I am forgetting a ton of things this app can do, but let me tell you, this is by far the best $2 I have ever spent in my life. I would only be joking a little bit if I said this app has improved the overall quality and contentment of my life.

So there you have it. Some of the greatest apps that help to make my days easier and more efficient. Be sure to leave a comment with the apps you can't live without, because we gotta have each other's backs in getting our lifehack on, right?!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Empowering Women, my "Inner-View"

"Inner-view" Q & A 
Empowering Women to Stand Up, Stand Tall, Stand Strong.

1. Please catch us up to share where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you would like to go from here. (specific to your transformation)

OK where I have been. I have been, in my short time alive, the liver of at least a few lives. One of my friends once joked, after hearing me tell my story, that I should be at least 97 years old. I have had a lot of experiences, both good and very ugly, and count myself incredibly blessed with being a rather quick study. I learn and move on from mistakes and poor choices rather than linger in them for too long.

I grew up in a standard middle class home, and was raised by my father. My mother left when I was 5 years old, and I grew up the oldest of 2 children, with a younger brother.  When I was 12, my dad remarried, to a woman that, had the stories not been written more than a century before, might have actually been the  literary inspiration for the "wicked stepmother" of Grimm's fairytale lore. Ironically, my mother also chose for her second marriage, a man who did not care for children. In hindsight, most especially as a parent myself, their choices are hard to understand. 

I excelled in school, and loved learning. I was an honors student at the top of my class and had been 7th semester early accepted to an amazing college. My 8th semester of high school, however, for the first time in my life, I had attracted the attention of a guy, and a much older guy at that. As a girl who had never been viewed as... a girl in the romantic sense, I jumped headfirst and blindly into a relationship I had no experience nor anywhere near enough emotional maturity enough to successfully navigate. I had never been taught what a healthy relationship encompassed and I didn't have the "proving ground" of puppy love and high school boyfriend drama that the bulk of my peers had gained in their years of school. I was the definition of book smart, street stupid.

By the time I graduated from high school, just 3 months later, I was an unwed, teenage pregnancy statistic. The poster child to prove to all the kids that "Yes, you can get pregnant the first time you have sex!" Had you asked anyone who had ever met me, to make a list of girls they thought might get pregnant in high school, I guarantee my name would have been on exactly zero of them. Instead of Yale, I started college as a single mother, a year later than all my friends, and stayed close to home at Arizona State.

After college, I went to work in a large hospital lab, and became an administrator. It was at that time that I met my husband. After we were married, I became very ill. I underwent a number of surgeries and numerous other treatments over the next 2 years that followed. It was a grueling experience that helped bring me closer to God. I got to see, being one of the youngest people in the hospital, chemotherapy infusion room, and radiology labs, a glimpse of the people who lived and died during that period. While sobering and sad, it was also uniquely prophetic and educational. I saw nutrition for the first time EVER in my life, as medicine. I saw healing occur in people. I saw laughter and humor and their power in the process of making a person whole. In all, the experiences I got out of all the years of health issues brought far more good into my life than bad. Of course, being upright after a prognosis that should have had me 6 feet under more than a decade ago will add a rose colored hue to any person's perspective. 

Over the course of being sick and eventually returning to health, in addition to my mental and spiritual improvement, my body understandably underwent quite a transformation as well. All my life I had been overweight. I had hit an all time high after my first child was born of 285 lbs. On my 5'2" frame, I was morbidly obese by clinical standards. Well, after those years on that medical thrill ride, I had left behind most of that weight. I call it another perk. I am a fan of silver linings, I guess. 

After recovering from yet another surgery, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant with our second child. The doctors told me that if I wanted to have more children, we would have to have them back to back. The risks of having time between pregnancies could allow some of my health issues to return, making problems for my unborn child and for me. 

I had 4 very high risk pregnancies in 5 years. All told, I had spent the better part of a decade in and out of hospitals and surgical suites. My body was very run down.

I have also struggled since my teen years with depression, and felt it very heavily after each of my children were born. So the year after my youngest son was born, I needed to rebuild my strength, bodily, mentally, and spiritually.  It was rough and I spent a lot of time in prayer. In hindsight it was only logical to have been going through that rocky patch, but in the middle of it, the weight was much harder to bear, the blessings that were abundant in my life and screamingly apparent to the world around me were hidden in the thick of that stifling mist that defines depression.

That was incredibly long winded, but that is who I was. It was instrumental in shaping who I am now, which is a blessed daughter of an infinitely merciful savior, the wife, gal Friday, and permanent Valentine to the cutest and most joyfully loving man I know, homeschooling mom to a houseful of rowdy and brilliant children, a small business owner, writer, lover of life, and drinker of coffee.  

Where do I hope to go from here? I feel that I had this life, these experiences, this story for the express purpose of becoming a woman who can help other women. I realize I have been called to do so. My hope is to be able to speak the truth of hope into any heart who will hear it. 

2. What is an example of you standing on your own two feet?  And, if you would like, an example of when you didn’t.

When I found myself to be pregnant at 18, the "choice" of abortion came instantly into the conversation by my son's father and by my mother. I put the word into quotation marks because it never seemed like a choice. It was absolutely ludicrous to me and I wanted no part of that discussion at all. The thought of thinking about it as a clinical procedure without blinking an eye was actually physically repulsive to me, and if I am honest, it made me bitter toward anyone who would suggest such a thing with such a cavalier attitude. For me, that is the one moment in my life where I said NO. There was no middle ground, grey area or room for discussion. No child that God had entrusted me with was going to be talked about or viewed as an inconvenience or less than the miraculous human being he was then, and at 17 years old, is today. I thank The Lord for giving me the words and the strength to be that champion for my son

3. How did you learn to be a woman who can stand up, stand tall and stand strong? 

I am, and always will be, a learner. I seek always to have a teachable spirit and to learn the lessons God has for me in the moment I am in. I have learned that every person I encounter has something of value, and I need to hear the words they have to say. 

I have always been a believer in finding people who have what you want. Not materially, but in their person: the way they talk, carry themselves, interact with others, people whose spirits speak to yours. Associate with those people. We become like those we keep company with. Make the company you keep reflect the person you are becoming. Peers and mentors should lift you higher. 

4. How do you allow others to see you as your authentic self?  

I am only close to a very select few people. Even among my closest friends, only my husband truly knows and has seen my whole heart. I once heard a speaker give an illustration of a sniper surrounded on all sides by a very high wall. He shoots everyone who tries to come over that wall. But the ones who make it over are friends for life. I thought that was a very accurate depiction of how friendship works for me.  

My authentic self is only ever truly represented in the words that I write. I find myself always bungling and second guessing myself when I talk out loud. My thoughts seem to flow more rationally in my head when I am able to write them down, and I don't have to do battle with the panic and doubt that is always nagging at the edge of my thoughts, as I do when I speak.

5. How do you know when it isn’t safe for you to share your authentic self?

It's really kind of a default view for me. I am guarded, by my nature. I have to be very comfortable to share anything, let alone parts of myself.

 6. How does standing in your own strength relate to the healthy relationships you have with yourself, your family, friends and others?  

Knowing who I am and whose I am is what defines how I interact with people now. It is easiest to illustrate with relationships that have historically been more strained and difficult for me in my life. My relationship with some of my family members come to mind. I had, in my past, been more submissive or passive in some of my relationships, which is to say I was a doormat to dominant and aggressive behavior. I would let things that upset me fester internally. My emotions went straight to my stomach when I was a child and teenager. I would let worry, anger, and stress eat me up from the inside. It's then not surprising to learn that my stomach is the area of my body that illnesses most often spring up in. Even when things did not effect me directly, I would hold onto negative emotions.

Now, I can see a little more clearly. I am very intentional about my life and my family (meaning my husband and children) being my own. I no longer cast myself back into the role of passive child. This was really huge for me because it took me a very long time. I was almost 30 years old and the mother of 7 children before I took ownership of my own world, and no longer granted former authority figures to a controlling influence over me. It made an enormous difference in my family's dynamic, to say the least. 

Standing in your own strength gives you the power to say NO without apology. It makes your priorities valid to the people around you. It demands respect from those who recognize it. Most importantly, it casts you in the role of leading lady in your own life. This is imperative, given it is the role you were created to play. 

 7. How do you pull yourself back up after making a mistake?  What do you tell yourself?

We all make mistakes. I have made more than my fair share in my life. There are those who love and will always love to hold over our heads, the sins of our past. I used to allow that and really marinate in it, beating myself up over and over. I have found that people who are particularly unhappy in their own life are only too thrilled to serve you up a big steaming plate of your past disappointments and bad choices, with a smile and a shrug. 

In a word, the way I get through this is Jesus. He granted me grace and died for my shame. One of my favorite verses in the bible is one that I hold to tightly. The Lord's love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23)  This is His comforting word to me, especially now, in the season of life I am in, as a mother of many, I constantly struggle with the question "Am I good enough to be their mother?" His word tells me that even if I'm not (and I'm NOT), He is. I am confident that I am going to screw up. A lot. I'm a flesh and blood human. I am more confident that He is standing in the gap of my shortcomings, and that He is more than enough. 

 8. What is your greatest risk you’ve taken and how did that help you build courage to take other risks?

I guess the biggest risk I have taken is to become self employed, with the security net of an amazing level-headed husband/partner by my side. Business ownership is always a gamble with a pretty significant statistical possibility of failure. But being a small business owner in a small town has been hugely impactful in seeing risks as the opportunities they are. I have found out very quickly the value of networking with quality people. The importance of interdependence and loyalty is evident in ways I had never realized. I now understand the term, and appreciate the appeal of "serial entrepreneurship." It is a bug that I am glad to have caught. It is a total immersion education that can truthfully be described as "failing your way forward"  

9. Have you ever been bullied?  And if so, how did you handle it?

I mean, there were mean girls in my life, but no, I can't say I was ever bullied. I could always perceive when someone didn't care for me, but I never had anyone be malicious or ugly towards me. 

10. What would you like other women to know about you, your transformation, your life, or? 

I would like to be as transparent as possible. The most inspiring women I have ever met have been truly genuine and honest about their stories. They are real. They aren't untouchable perfect princesses on pedestals. If they were, I wouldn't have learned anything from them. They all overcame huge obstacles and took the time to tell me all about it. None of them were victims in their stories, they were victors, and something in each of their stories resonated within me, some piece of their life paralleled my life, which helped me to see that I could be a victor too. I want women to know they are endowed with the ability to be victorious in their life, regardless of their past, or present circumstances. I know, because I am. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

What are we going to talk about?

People like to know what a general theme of a blog is. Is it cooking, family, spiritual, health & beauty? Well in a word, yes. We are a family friendly blog, where I post on anything I feel led to share. The following is a list of the things that I may be posting on. They are topics that my life experience has educated me enough to speak intelligently enough on to not embarrass myself. So if you have any interest in any of these topics, stick around...

Large Families
Frugal Living
Christian Family Life
Raising Boys
Raising Girls
Raising young children
Raising Teenagers
Small Business Ownership
Small Town Living
Rural Country Living
Vegetarian/Vegan Lifestyle
Losing more than 150 lbs
Exercise health & fitness
Empowering Women
Christian Ministry
Personal Finance & Debt Reduction
Being a Writer
Celiac Disease
Oppositional Defiance Disorder in children
Overcoming obstacles
Beauty Tips & Tricks
Life Hacks in general
Ice Cream
Social Media Marketing
Civic Duty
Servant Leadership
Community Involvement
Giving Back
Shopping Locally
Organic Foods/Nutrition
Being a Military Family

While that seems like a crazy list, I am sure I have left some out. There you go. I'm pretty sure there isn't a blogger box big enough to stick us in, so we will just be here. Blogging away and covering some or all of the topics listed up there. Guess I better get to it. If you have any suggestions/questions, I would love to hear from you in the comments or on our facebook page

Victory 101 Progress


Today marks 17 days into my 101 day challenge to better health. Checking in with some of the highlights.

Height: 5' 2"

Starting Weight: 130
Weight Week 1 (Day 7): 126
Weight Week 2 (Day 14): 125
Total Weight loss to date: 5 lbs

Waist Measurements
Starting: 28 inches
Week 1: 27 inches
Week 2: 26 1/2 inches
Total loss to date: 1 1/2 inches

Hip Measurements
Starting: 35 inches
Week 1: 34 1/2 inches
Week 2: 34 inches
Total loss to date: 1 inch

Mile Run Timed Test
Starting: 14:42
Week 1: 11:22
Week 2: 9:35
Improved by 5 minutes, 7 seconds!!! in 2 weeks!

Also,  I have been able to increase my weights each week, and went from a 30 second plank, to 3 sets of 60 second planks! 

So yep I am pretty excited about my progress so far. 

On the diet front, coffee has been a beast without my beloved half & half, but I really saw that coming, since I have tried non dairy plant based creamers before and never found one that I loved. Cheese and eggs haven't been as much of an issue as I thought. I found substitutes that work, but I can very easily just go without as well. 

My goals going into February are to do the month with a raw vegan diet, focusing mainly on juices and smoothies made from fresh produce, nuts and seeds. I will be back with another update soon! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

My father's daughter

I always identified with Elinor Dashwood, the older sister in Jane Austen's classic Sense and Sensibility, formal, cautious and guarded to a fault. I was so grateful when I met her character on those pages. Until then, I had never been able to make peace with my nature. Like Elinor, I am an introvert to the fiber of my being. In college I was called the world's oldest 18 year old, an old soul, rip tide beneath still waters, and intense. My more romantic spin on it is the notion of housing a love so large that it can't easily find a way out. I deal in the not very valuable currency of silent revelry. I marinate in life, studying, watching, analyzing. My life consists of always feeling emotion with close to zero ability to adequately express it. When I do talk, I find myself kicking myself in regret for things I said, forgot to say, or wish I had said, leaving me always wishing for a do over...or better yet, wanting to write a letter to clarify my end of the conversation. As a result of my being...well, all of that, relationships in my life have many times been hindered, stalled, and sometimes even dissolved totally in the wake of a personality that is hard for people to understand or appreciate. What seems practically impossible for me to say, however, I have no trouble writing. For whatever reason, this is my voice.

I realize much of who I am is closely connected to who my father is, a quiet man who works hard and enjoys home. As a child, I remember his presence always as one of steady constancy and security. I see so much in my adult self that similarly parallel memories I have of him from my childhood. One in particular stands forever etched in my memory. Obviously, I didn't see it at the time for the life defining moment that it was.

At age seventeen, I had worked hard for over a year to earn my church's Young Women's Recognition Award. It was a big deal for me and carried the same status for a girl as an Eagle Scout Badge would for a boy. My dad had always quietly attended and supported my school activities like sports, concerts or academic awards, but somehow, nothing could compel him to do the same when it came to my church activities. It was something I understood and never questioned. I don't remember ever even thinking about it. It was always just assumed that he wouldn't be present for those events.
On this night, I remember the other girls and their families admiring their awards and the necklaces that were given to signify the work they had done. I felt that unsavory feeling pop up, just for a second, just that tiny twinge of jealousy. I was the only girl without her family there to celebrate the milestone. It vanished as quickly as it came, and one of my youth leaders came over, hugged me and handed me flowers. She then placed two pieces of paper in my hands. The top was a typed white sheet with a yellow lined notebook sheet underneath. 

The rest of this memory, for me, happens in slow motion. Looking down, I read. I stopped, looked up at her, then back down to re-read it. I read it over and over about half a dozen times, looking up and down from her face to the page between each reading. I was stunned. It was one of the only true moments of surprise in my life. My face must have registered this as well as the fact that I didn't understand. It wasn't computing.

"Well, your dad doesn't always make it out to these things" she began. She was a sweet woman and chose such a gracious way of saying he had never darkened the doorstep of the church. " So I went over to your house and asked him to write something, a memory he had of you, that you could keep"

I looked down at the paper again. She continued "I typed it up, but then thought you might like the one he wrote too"
I pulled the second page to the top. It was torn from the yellow lined notepad he always had on his desk. The same words were written as the typed sheet, but the sight of his familiar tidy block lettering staring back at me was overwhelming.

When Coleen was 5 years old she asked for a rainbow to be painted in her room. She loved to go outside after the rain, searching for rainbows, and wanted to have one where she could always look at it. So on a hot afternoon in the middle of the summer, we painted an enormous rainbow that took up the entire length of her bedroom wall. Even as a little girl, she knew to look for the beauty after a time of trouble. Coleen has endured a lot of storms in her life, and now, with the life she has chosen, she is living in that rainbow.

In those words, he was there. In those words, for the first time in my life, I truly understood his love for me.
I made it out to my car before I started crying. 

To this day, it is the single most cherished memory I have of my father. Over the past twenty years, I have lost the award, the necklace, and the typewritten words, but I still cherish that yellow lined sheet from his steno pad. It is as precious to me as my wedding ring. They are both powerful and tangible evidence of the men who love me. The note helps to remind me that I am as blessed to be my father's daughter as I am to be my husband's wife.

I am painfully aware of how awkward, closed, guarded, perhaps even cold, I must appear at times to people in general. In our home, however, I try to be very intentional in rising above my nature when it comes to my emotional transparency with my family. Far from easy, it is a daily prayerful struggle, but one I see God's hand in every day. As always, I am grateful to be His work in progress. 

My prayer is that I may be continually guided in my words and actions so that each of my children will feel from me, even a fraction of the love and joy that I felt from my dad in that note twenty years ago. That, for me, would be the definition of a wholly victorious motherhood.