A for Effort…

Cade: “Mommy, pick up your weights!”

Me: “No, Mommy can’t use the weights for this one.”

Cade: “But they all have weights, Mommy.”

Me: “Mommy’s not quite strong enough yet, buddy.”

Little man loves to “help” me workout by pointing out whenever I’m not doing something exactly like “them”, but I don’t mind, it’s a fun way to engage while I get my workout completed. The above conversation, though, spurred a mini revelation about exercise in general.

So many times in life we are told we will be graded or evaluated on merit. Pretty much as soon as you enter the school system the idea of work for credit is ingrained into your brain. And I am all about fair evaluations and challenges to help us all grow and learn! But. I do remember a particular moment in middle school that changed my perspective on grades-and all subsequent evaluations-forever. In true ADHD fashion, I had painstakingly rendered by hand a picture of the Michigan flag for my state project. But since I was running out of time to complete the project when I finished the flag-and because pine trees are boring-I used pastels to hastily sketch the state tree. I accomplished everything else in the project to the letter, to the best of my little 6th grader brain ability.

I got a C on the project and a parent teacher conference. My teacher flat out said I cheated, since no-one who drew that flag would also draw that tree. I clearly had had blatant outside help. I was so confused. And devastated. I felt sick to my stomach. I had worked so hard to get that flag perfect. I internalized it as my own fault-not that I was a cheater, I was very hurt and upset by that accusation-but because clearly I had tried too hard. I should’ve halfway done both the tree and the flag, and then none of this would’ve happened.

“Work Smarter, Not Harder” is a slogan I’ve seen everywhere, and the hallmark of EMS. The job is hard enough, no need to make it any tougher. In our true culture of “easier, faster, better” skating through by doing things well but not appearing to put much effort into them is lauded as ideal.

Exercise is the opposite. If you skimp through your workout, you get no A for completion, you burn no extra calories, you win nothing. If you work your tail off and hit muscle failure halfway through-you reap far more. Exercise truly evaluates your EFFORT. I can skate through a lot of workout programs, I’m familiar with the moves, know ways to ease off certain muscle groups, can complete the bare minimum and still say I did it-but the only person that effects, is me. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love to exercise. You get what you put in. You halfway do the workout you get half the results. You are sloppy and inattentive, you drastically increase your chance of injury. You remain focused and pour in your effort-you reap the rewards!

And there are always ways to improve. Recently I’ve really been paying attention to how I hold my abs in all of the exercises, how I draw them into my spine, remembering to engage them and not let them hang loose-this form protects my back AND works my muscles. When you do squats, you should give your backside a little extra squeeze at the top-not because you have to, but because that works the glutes just a little bit more. There are all kinds of ways to increase your effort in exercise, and I am never penalized for trying my hardest for the first half of the workout and then being barely able to complete the last ten minutes due to muscle fatigue. My effort is always duly rewarded and I take pleasure and satisfaction in that tiny little aspect.

SO go you, wherever you may be on your exercise adventure. Whether you are modifying everything or upping your weights every workout, your effort is paying off. There is no comparison here. One person does a pushup on her toes, another on her knees, both hit muscle failure by the end-BOTH earn an A for effort.

A Fitness Lament

I’m skinny, so I’m happy, right?

I’m skinny, so I’m healthy, right?

I’m skinny, so I’m good at sports, right?

I’m skinny, so I can run fast, right?

I’m skinny, so I should wear a bikini, right?

I’m skinny, so I should flaunt my assets, right?

I’m skinny, so I’m a bitch, right?

 

You don’t know the struggle, you don’t see the tipping of MY scales,

I’ve been bombarded with images of media since I was a girl,

telling me to be hotter, thinner, sexier. Telling me my body belongs to the highest bidder or the best con

-but not myself.

Telling me my worth is on the auction block based on the length of my thighs and the hollows in my cheeks.

I should be thankful for my genetics and flaunt what I’ve got.

 

It doesn’t matter that Docs told me I risked being infertile when I was 12 because I couldn’t gain weight

and now I’m thirty- hoping, praying, desperate for another child. Realizing what a miracle the conception of my babies were.

It doesn’t matter that I stand up in the middle of the night to answer their cries and pass out from blood pressure dropping to the floor.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve been on pills, supplements, diet changes (the works!) to fix the anemia that weighs me down like lead in my bones.

If I’m cold I’m just told I should put on some insulation, there is no way that it’s my thyroid since I’m too skinny for problems.

Problems dismissed, sorrow invalidated, frustration ignored-nothing’s wrong since I’m skinny and just complaining makes me bitchy, so shut up and be happy I’m so lucky.

 

Why do you work out? You don’t need to. Why don’t you eat pizza? You could use it.

Since when is cardiovascular exercise reserved for only the obese, like my heart will keep on pumping forever just fine since I’m skinny.

And my hormones will balance out just fine since I’m skinny.

And my muscles will just magically appear since I’m skinny.

And my bones won’t ever be brittle and fragile even though osteoporosis runs in my family-since I’m already skinny.

 

Stupid LIES health is important no matter the circumference of your waist,

whether there is fat on my muscles or not they need to be worked,

my bones need to be strengthened so I pick up my weights.

And as for food- am I the only one who sees that poor nutrition doesn’t just hurt your joints with extra weight but poisons your system and effects your entire life?

My body is a temple and a gift from the Lord, just look at the detail in scripture for the creation of the Tabernacle

-am I to treat the dwelling of the Holy Spirit with anything less than my best?

What is it to YOU that I care about the health of my gut or the strength of my back? Get off mine.

I KNOW, mom…

I’m waiting for it. I know it will happen when I’m reminding one of the boys something for the umpteenth time and I’ll get an eyeroll and an, “I KNOW already. Geez.” As independence is forged in the fiery crucible of adolescence, boundaries are pushed, limits are tested, and any questioning of abilities is met with shields raised. The problem, at least for me, is a lot of those shields never got lowered.

Several of the personal development books I’ve read (or listened to) lately have mentioned in passing the phenomena of people KNOWING quite a bit, but not ACTING on that knowledge. And it is easy, from a coaching or managerial position, to get frustrated with this lack of application. But the truth is WE ALL DO THIS DAILY. Seriously. I know a TON of things. I know folding the laundry straight out of the dryer will be less stress and hassle than dumping it in a heap and having to sort and fold later. I know meal planning saves time and money. I know whenever I’m reading scripture daily I am more centered and grounded in my faith. Shoot, a lot of times I THINK about what I should pray instead of praying….take a moment to let that sink in. Instead of praying, I think about what I should pray. Instead of just mentally going, “Dear God, please hear me now….” I sit and think about all the things that I should maybe pray about. How many times do we say, “I’ll be praying” and instead of taking TWO SECONDS to offer up a quick prayer, we put it off until later (and often forget)? Absolutely ridiculous. ALL of the eyerolls, please.

My point-before I got slightly carried away on the prayer tangent-is that all of us generally speaking KNOW things. Often we even know how situations occurred and what we need to do to get out of them. We know the solutions to our own problems. But we don’t do anything about it. We keep our shields up and layered in excuses. “We don’t have time, we don’t have money, we don’t have energy, we don’t know how, we have too many things going on…” For the most part, excuses are a refusal to acknowledge the actual problem. Frequently all excuses do is shift the blame to inanimate objects or even concepts! “I don’t have the money” -like it’s money’s fault. If you truly want it, you will work and save to make the money available. “I don’t have time” like time is somehow running around stealing parts of your life. If you truly want it, you will MAKE the time available. What we fail to acknowledge is that our lives ARE somewhat in our control. No, we cannot prevent disaster-but we can control our response to it. We cannot prevent our children growing older-but we can choose how to navigate through the transition. We cannot always change the hours our job demands-but we can change what we do in the off hours and/or look for work that meets our requirements. We cannot choose our upbringing or our brain chemistry or the day that we die-but we can learn how to grow, and change, and become who we want with the opportunities we have been given. We CAN choose to take risk, venture out, seek help, do new things. The real “problem” is we’re scared.

I know there is a lot of stuff out there warning about being a control freak-but the opposite is letting everything else control us. Letting the demands of society drive what we feel is important or necessary. Letting our insecurities loom so large we don’t take a risk from our current place of comfort no matter how much are heart yearns for it. Letting life steal our joy instead of leaning in to the times God says, “Go. I’ve got this.” Oh, we know what it’ll take most of the time, or we at least know enough to know it’ll be different-and that’s usually enough for us to pile on a few more excuses.

Thing is, we are never not going to be a bit scared. To be courageous means to act boldly despite fear. You can’t have courage without being afraid. I am not saying this from some lofty position, I am saying this dug down with my shields fully raised. I have allowed myself to be pushed outside my comfort zone more in the past few months than I have allowed in years. I have started taking a hard look at my words compared to my actions compared to my desires. OH how I feel Paul when he says in Romans, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” From all facets of my life, spiritual, emotional, mental, physical-I have room to grow and improve, and I know what needs to be done, but putting it into action is just HARD.

So, I encourage you today. Don’t just read this. DO something, even if it’s just making a list of the “somethings” that you want to do. Don’t just think about it, don’t just learn about it, don’t just read about it. What do you want to do that you aren’t putting into action? There are so many cliches out there, and we brush them off because they are weary and tired…but, many of them are also the truth. You do have to “be the change” success does come from “baby steps” and in the words of Yoda, “there is no TRY”

Our Big Tiny Adventure

Brian and I visited the Tumbleweed Tiny House Co today. We toured the facility, stepped inside their Micro “floor model” (aka, the one they hadn’t sold yet), and peered into the windows of others completed for clients-mentally cataloging appliances, positioning, materials used, heights…

Tiny house living is officially our dream. The tour guide didn’t bat an eye at our wanting to tiny house live with children, just nodded and gave examples from several homes designed (and now in use) for families of six. Leaving the tour we knew several things for sure: One, Tumbleweed is an awesome place to buy a tiny house, truly. But they won’t be for us (they don’t build on gooseneck trailers). Two, we may be nuts to consider this-but we are in good company, the tiny house market is booming and not just for singles and couples.  Three, we can’t WAIT to get our own. Can’t. Flipping. Wait.

Many people consider tiny houses and then purge their belongings-we kind of did things backwards. Over the course of several PCSs, we’ve realized how freeing it is to have less stuff, and conversely how anxiety riddled, frustrating, and emotionally dragging too much stuff can be. So we started donating…and donating…and donating…It dawned on me one day how silly our house looked with so little stuff in so much space, and with our “rent” possibly increasing by another hundred when we renew the lease, I wistfully mentioned RV living as a way out of the endless waste of money. Brian took my half hearted proposition and counter-offered with tiny houses. I was completely flabbergasted.

I was already familiar with tiny houses (and loved them. Ask my sister how I was forever designing tiny things. I even baked tiny chocolate chip cookies the size of pennies for my stuffed animals) but tiny house living was so far outside the realm of what I thought possible that I was dumbfounded when Brian presented them to me. Dumbfounded and thrilled. It was like a marriage proposal all over again-and in a sense it is. “Hey, would you be willing to shuck off your old way of living and come design with me a totally new and uncharted adventure for both of us?” One heck of a proposal-of course I said yes!

Here are the cons-“Phenomenal cosmic power! Itty bitty living space…” to quote the genie (the phenomenal cosmic power refers to the two tornadoes I gave birth to, lol). To fit a home into a 28 foot trailer (well, 35 since we want a gooseneck) takes some considerable finagling. It sounds ridiculous, but seriously, the Micro we stepped into (20 foot trailer) was like a luxury studio apartment. People live-and share-much worse living quarters, and space doesn’t have nearly as much to do with it. Privacy is something to take into consideration ESPECIALLY as the boys get older. And also because we all need our own space sometimes.

Here are the pros- “Phenomenal cosmic power! Itty bitty living space…” Every blog, article, account I’ve followed/read/stumbled onto mentions again and again how close they grow as a family. They figure out healthier ways to deal with conflict instead of avoiding it. They spend more time with each other. They learn how to respect privacy and boundaries better. They don’t get sucked into mindless activities inside-they spend much more time outdoors or out and about. They sleep better. They DO more. Now I know these are all prettied up in some respect for social media consumption, and that the reason they learned to deal with conflict so well is because they HAD a lot of it (especially initially/during transition). Same goes with learning how to respect privacy…but the end result of being better at those things is worth it to us.

Also, I am hoping the tiny home will help the boys bridge some of the difficulties of being military brats. They will actually have a home. The same home. From move to move, the house will come with. We paint it in all sorts of different ways, and have programs and coping mechanisms and support groups and advice to help them-and us-deal, and it’s true that military brats are tough, resilient children…but it is also true that this life is HARD on them, and it is not ideal in a lot of ways. No lifestyle is perfect, every way of living has pros and cons, but stability is something military children especially struggle with. This may be one tiny way to help that. At first the boys will share a room, but our tentative design has TWO extra spaces that can be made into bedrooms (four bedroom tiny house, you read that correctly). Plus, I am not adverse to one or either of them pitching a tent and “camping” out at night if that’s what they’d prefer.

Also, when Brian eventually retires-we have a house. Paid for. We’ll go park somewhere off grid in the Rockies and live happily ever after. 😉

Also, less stuff, less space = less to clean. Can I get all the Amens?! Watching Downton Abby I’ve realized how ridiculous middle class expectations of living are. We all aspire to have large houses kept immaculately clean, but no one to help us maintain them but the family in residence-often both of the adults working out of the home jobs, and trying to also keep children alive, fed, and happy. And you think living in a tiny house is unrealistic? HA.

Also, a BIG also for me, this will actually make things really tight budget wise for a bit, but after a year or two on our current plan things should become dramatically easier. I know, I know, don’t count your chickens before they hatch, but if these particular eggs DO crack open, then we will have so much more to GIVE. Right now our tithes and offerings are mostly tithes plus Lottie Moon, and then I donate 50% of my commissions (after tithes) to World Vision. In a year I’d like 100% of my commissions to be donated. I’d like to start getting the boys involved with volunteering. I’d like to support the causes I feel strongly about. In essence, I want to put my money where my heart is, and not have to penny pinch out a few coins when we can while trying to pay down debt. We have been so materially blessed, we would like to share that wealth. The tiny house will save us so much that we can then turn around and share.

I am SO excited about this. I’ll be posting here and there about where we are in the process (Brian and I have roughly drawn a few plans and are endlessly researching appliances) and if you don’t already follow me on Instagram, find me at “slowisapace”-I’ll be posting more frequently about it on there. I will say, some of that conflict resolution has already come into play as Brian and I have very different ideas of “reasonable” at times. (Brian essentially wants a Taj Mahal on wheels, and I’m after a hobbit hole. The end result should be, at the very least, unique, hahaha)

Speaking of Brian, my partner in this crazy business of life, it’s our anniversary tomorrow (or today, since I’ll be posting this so late I probably won’t link it to social media until the morning). He truly fits me and I, him. We are a matched set. Birds of a feather. Interlocking puzzle pieces. Whatever romantic lovey dovey cliche you’d like to toss in, we are the truth at the core of that cliche. I can’t wait to start this new tiny chapter in our lives. 🙂

 

Fit and Fancy

I have arrived, y’all. I made it. I’m there. From here on out I just aim to maintain. My scale sits collecting dust on the floor and I’m considering getting rid of it entirely. I love where I am right now on my fitness “journey”. And I know “journey” sounds hokey, but I don’t know what else to call it. The truth is that we are all on one-whatever word we use to describe it. I know some people object strongly to even having the word, “exercise” in their vocabulary, but whether are you a self made couch potato or a triathlon finisher-you’re still on a fitness journey. Your underlying routine-what you typically eat, what you typically do-that is either building you up or breaking you down. There is no escaping that. I’m not talking about wanting to lose some weight, or feeling guilty about donuts. Ditch the scale and your guilt (but keep the donuts, yum!). I’m talking simply about the fact that we can’t escape our bodies. We can’t escape their needs. We can’t escape how they function. We can’t escape eating.

We continue to focus SO much on appearance that we are missing the bigger picture. Your health allows you to do more. Your health allows you to BE more. And if you’ve decided that there are a million other things that are more important than your health-well, you’re wrong. There are a FEW things that may be more important than your health-but not as many as you may think. How are you going to enjoy your kids if you are constantly run down? How are you going to keep up with your coworkers if you get devastatingly sick multiple times a year? Or even just struggle with fatigue? Or pain? Headaches? Digestive issues? And how are you going to RECOVER from any of the illnesses/injuries that life will throw at you if you don’t have a good foundation for the doctors to work with? Who cares what weight you are, how ARE you? Really?

I am not anti modern medicine by any means. If anything I am pro-doc! (Is that a movement? Can I make it one?) But the truth is, our health system is overrun with basic health issues. BASIC health issues that then become more and more complicated. Nobody is winning-the docs are fighting to keep an already unhealthy body alive with some semblance of “quality of living” and the patient is drowning in prescriptions and feels like this is “normal”, or “part of aging”, or “there’s nothing I can really do about it”.

It’s hard being sick, y’all. It’s hard living with chronic pain, with chronic fatigue, with chronic stomach issues, with chronic ANYthing. And it’s hard to exercise daily, to eat balanced, to make conscious decisions about your health. No one said anything about life NOT being hard. But this idea that living healthy is “hardER“? I call BS.

Loving your body does not mean just dressing it well and refusing to take crap from people about it. Loving your body means CARING for it. Feeding it well, strengthening it daily, and when it gets run down-by all means get help for it! I am not saying that living healthily will cure all disease (um, that’s ridiculous) but why is it so crazy to want to arm my body with the best health I can give it so if and when disease does strike I have something to work with?

And I know it’s tough, but we need to be aware of the excuses we feed ourselves when it comes to living physically healthy lives. There is enough time for it-it may mean you have to reorganize your priority list, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time. You don’t need to enjoy exercise to need to do it. You hate exercise? Ok. You should still do around 30 minutes a day. I HATE meal prep. But I should still do it to keep me eating balanced. You hate salad? Ok. Your body still needs multiple servings of vegetables a day. You’re body isn’t excused because you hate salad. Find some other veggies. You need protein. You need vegetables. You need fruit. You need fats. You need carbs. Whether you “want to” or “like” or “have time” doesn’t matter, your body still NEEDS those things to function.

Arrogance is king in our society, to the point where we just assume that however we “feel” justifies whatever we want it to. And I am not against feeling-total wellness is dependent on a healthy emotional state-but we can’t just change the basic premise of how our bodies function just because we “feel” like it’s beneath us/not who we are/not part of our makeup/not our thing/that’s fine for you but not me. Your health is absolutely a part of you. You don’t need to become a certified trainer, health nut, gym junkie, or whatever, to be healthy. But you DO need to make an effort. I’m a child of God, a wife, a mom of two, an avid reader, an adult with ADHD, an aspiring writer, absolutely a couch potato whenever I get the chance…the list continues. And even though I have goals to pursue in the nutrition field-I didn’t start there, and nothing says to be “healthy” I have to continue along that path.

So, in a nutshell, you are on a fitness journey whether you like it or not. Be honest with yourself about whether you are heading where you’d prefer, it doesn’t take much to change in either direction.

Loving Self

Did you know that there are mountains in Texas? Seriously, mountains. It’s flat for days (literally) and then right before you hit the Mexicos (the country and the New) the Franklin Mountains pop up like forgotten geographical zits. My reference to acne aside-I actually think they’re beautiful. They aren’t as grand and imposing as the Rockies, nor as graceful and undulating as the densely forested Appalachian, but they have their own rugged beauty sculpted from the bare, jagged rocks that ripple with a variety of hues in the desert sun. My first sight of them brought joy and excitement-I knew vaguely that there was a mountain range supposedly dividing this new city we were moving to, but in the chaos of orchestrating the three day cross country move I hadn’t given them much thought. Mountains! Our last two duty stations had been flat (Ft. Bragg) and flatter (Ft. Rucker) so the presence of actual elevation more than made up for the lack of trees. Mountains! I can currently look out the window above my sink and MOUNTAINS! Right there. I love to watch the weather roll in over top and I get spectacular sunsets nightly (when the wind isn’t blowing enough dust to impact visibility, ha).

So, naturally, this being the world of social media-I tried to take a picture with my phone to share my excitement. ….womp womp. Every picture I took I felt like the mountains looked dull and tiny and uninspiring. The pictures just didn’t do the mountains justice! It was frustrating. So I stopped taking pictures and just soaked up the view in the moment.

Now we’ve all seen or done this. How many times have we tried to take a picture of something and the picture just didn’t really capture what was going on? Conversely, how many times have we seen photographs that take our breath away? This. This is exactly what we do with our bodies and our selves.

I don’t like all the marketing campaigns aimed at women and beauty, even some of the “self love” ones irritate me-because they focus so much on appearance. Appearance is only a snapshot of life. It’s only one lens. It’s not even smart phone camera quality, it’s an outdated flip phone camera picture. When I mention loving my body, I mean NOW and ALL OF IT. I don’t mean “loving how far it’s come” or “loving the pretty parts” or “loving the strength it has” I mean in this moment, wherever you are in the journey of life, loving the intricate complexities of your physical-ness. Our bodies are incredible, each and every one is a work of art-even those who are, by the world’s standards, disabled or diseased. How extraordinary that our organs work in concert to fight disease, to find ways to adapt to disability, to struggle through this life still pumping, still going, still doing. We have amazing capabilities of healing, of strengthening, of endurance and stamina, of sensation and interaction, of delicate manipulation, of shaping and creating. We should nurture them, care for them, rejoice in them, stand in awe of them, and ultimately- love them. And yet the biggest pressure society puts on all of us is how this deeply complex organism appears on the surface.

By whose standard of beauty are we measuring ourselves? I’ll tell you flat out-there isn’t one. Artists have struggled with the concept of beauty for decades-is it symmetry, a certain pattern, a specific asymmetry? Is it a hind-brain driven grab at fertility, or a survival mechanism? What makes things beautiful? What makes certain people beautiful and others, not? How come the standards of beauty change so dramatically across the decades? A better question-why are we all still so obsessed with just one measure of a person?

I am thirty years old (yesterday!), and I can just now assert with confidence that I am more than my appearance. I have dreams, goals, emotions, ideas, quirks, idiosyncrasies, talents, gifts, a soul…-all swirling together inside this body to make a complex person. My body is a part of my person, make no mistake, it is the part through which I am able to realize those same goals, dreams, interests, etc.  But it is only a part of a greater whole, and my appearance is even a smaller aspect of that part. When I look at my boys, I have to take a huge mental step back to evaluate their appearance objectively. To try and see them through the eyes of a stranger-it’s almost impossible. When I see them, I don’t just see the formation of their limbs, or the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes, the stance of their skeletal system-I see the energy leaking out the pores of my three year old as he runs down the sidewalk, the pleasure in the eyes of my toddler as he successfully recaps a marker, I see their spunk, their quirks, even their thoughts seem to be etched clearly in their movements. And all I feel is love for who they are. The lens through which I view the boys is super high quality and focused, and I’m sure rose tinted. But when I take a picture and put it on Instagram-you don’t see all that. I look at that picture and see THEM, a stranger looks at that picture and sees two boys.

Why are we believing the picture a stranger has of us? Why are we focused on making that shallow, one level representation of who we are (our appearance) matter SO MUCH? Why are we so reluctant to believe that those who love us don’t view us the same? They can’t view us the same, because they see more of us than just a snapshot. So let’s stop placing more importance on how we are seen compared to the always shifting standard of beauty, than on cultivating all of our selves. Because when strangers become less than strangers, what we look like is rapidly buried under how we connect, and that connection is not based on the shape of our cheekbones. Y’all, we can’t escape our society from judging us, that will happen-we are not responsible or in control over the actions of others. But we absolutely can, and should, remove ourselves from the equation. Because the lens by which someone is judging you may be from the camera of a flip phone. It doesn’t even come close to capturing who you really are.

Out Like A…I Don’t Care, Just OUT.

This month has been a mess. I’m just gonna lay it out there. I still wholeheartedly believe in total wellness and the importance of eating well and exercising regularly…but this month I haven’t been living up to my ideals. It started out wonderfully-hyped up off of all the success from Hammer and Chisel, breaking running PRs left and right, a FABULOUS visit from my sister and my adorable nephew. Talk about “in like a lion” March started with a ROAR!

And then I sprained my ankle.

And then my youngest got either a stomach bug or developed an egg allergy (doctor’s appointment scheduled).

And then, and then…

The biggest thing, the far biggest mess of March, has been an accumulation of cyclical hope and frustration that started last January. Last January when Brian put giving the boys another sibling on the table. Last February when I agreed to start weaning Zane earlier then I had planned to hopefully have the third child close in age to the boys. Last March when I had my first cycle. Last April when I had another. Then last May…June…July…August…September…You get the gist.

Then THIS February being unpleasantly caught a day early by surprise while at the playground.

Then this month. March. The day arrived, and passed, and I tested negative. Then the next day. Negative. Then the next, and the next, and the next… I stopped testing, but I remained hopeful. I have never been late a day in my life, my ovaries are like clockwork, there was only one good reason for being late…Out talking to the neighbors while the boys played and OH MY GOODNESS time to beat a hasty retreat to the house.

8 days late. Over a week late. Over a year of trying.

I feel like the appropriate progression of this story is some dramatic meltdown on my part while sobbing in the bathroom, but honestly I just sighed, and shrugged. It’ll happen, or not, in God’s timing, not mine. Am I frustrated? Yes. And the week of hope definitely threw my emotional equilibrium. A week of wondering where we’d put the extra crib, if we’d move Brian’s desk into the bedroom, how the boys would respond to a sibling, whether or not I’d get morning sickness this time… So instead of focusing on exercise and eating balanced, I’ve been focusing on me and Christ. Introspection, prayer, study, seeking time to be alone and listen. And it has been good, y’all. Painful at times, peace-filled at times, always real, and really good.

I didn’t throw fitness all out the window, I still eat pretty darn clean because I’m just used to it now, and it was more like “an extra carb serving here, forgetting to get a protein in there, an extra dollop of peanut butter with my apple”…nothing crazy, just nothing really planned or focused either. And these last two weeks have been hit or miss with the workouts. I’ve managed two early morning workouts before the kids-and then Zane caught a hacking cough and he’s thwarted the “early uppers club” once again. Today I managed to get a PiYo in during their breakfast, and tomorrow if Zane ends up in our bed again I may resort to that again.

My point is-March was messy and imperfect, but that’s how life is. It isn’t always riding success highs or fighting to persevere with gritted teeth. Sometimes it’s just tripping and stumbling a bit and trying again with a shrug. I’m tackling the month of April with renewed vigor and focus-I’m restarting the Hammer and Chisel workouts because I LOVE them and I’m super excited for our Clean Eating Workshop coming up on the 4th. I’ll be meal planning once again with an eye on more budget friendly recipes, and I even signed up for a vendor fair to spread the fitness love.

I won’t miss you, March. Onwards!

Why?

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Blue skies and sunny weather. Perfect for a stroller jog. But instead I stand here with Zane strapped into the Ergo snuggled on my chest and smelling faintly of vomit while I keep an eye on Cade systematically hosing down the entire backyard. Black wrap encases my ankle and allows me to rock Zane back and forth without too much pain.

God is good.

Having Zane get the stomach bug the morning after I wrenched my ankle may not sound convenient, but basically I only have one energetic boy to worry about- the other stays somnolent. Earlier, as I pondered how to look on the bright side while mopping up the explosion in Zane’s crib, I mused over last night’s deep felt chagrin after spraining my ankle doing nothing more strenuous than walking. I was even wearing athletic shoes.

Every time I get injured (which has thankfully happened less frequently over the past few years) I view it as a personal affront and betrayal. How dare my body succumb to such a thing! Triple the embarrassment now as I tout the benefits of balanced eating and consistent exercise and here I am falling over in my backyard. Last time I sprained my ankle-the left one I think- it had been going down ONE STEP onto a sidewalk while I was pregnant with Cade. One step. I could, and did, blame that heavily on the pregnancy hormone relaxin that make everything stretchy and loose in preparation for childbirth-but the truth is I’m a clumsy person with weak ankles.

It is easy, for me at least, to fall into the trap that leading an intentionally healthy lifestyle makes you immune to injury and disease. That eating clean will prevent me from getting the flu, that lifting weights will keep all back injuries at bay, that cardio will ward off a heart attack, that enough fruits and veggies will prevent cancer. But the truth is-the world is fallen.

All good things come from God. The design of my body is perfect, the reality in this world is not. Adam and Eve brought death, disease, and sprained ankles into the world, and no amount of clean eating is going to change that.

But.

BUT that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. As I chafe at being housebound with a limp, as the dishes pile up while I wipe up more diarrhea, as I ungraciously cope with the physical reality of sin I am strengthened in my resolve to combat it.

In the midst of the mess, my “why” solidified. I do this-the exercise, the nutrition, the coaching-I do this because our bodies are gifts that we have been blessed with, and taking good care of them is a form of fighting the world. I love a fight with clearly defined lines of good and evil-but those battles just don’t exist much outside of fiction. THIS, however, is a fight I can throw myself into wholeheartedly, with no worry for my combatants. I am fighting disease and injury, the consequences of sin. I am maintaining and loving the body God gave me, and fighting the long lasting effects of Adam and Eve’s decision. One day He will make my body perfect in His presence, until then I’ll invest in the reflection I have.

Melodramatic, I know, haha, but it’s the truth. No matter what words I choose it still sounds fanciful or cheesy, but all the other “whys” I could give (like “to be an example for my children”) are just small motivators in a much larger perspective. So, I apologize for the grandiose “why”, I can’t help it, it’s how my mind works.

Now excuse me, I’ve got to go strip one more diaper of runny poo and take a hot epsom salt bath for my ankle. Fight the good fight!

“It’s Not Just WHAT You Say…

…It’s how you say it.” I don’t know how many times my mom said this to me as I tried to navigate my mood swings and emotional outbursts as a child. I’d be pulled aside for a scolding for hurtful words and I’d respond hotly, “but it’s the TRUTH!” And it was-sometimes anyway. The point wasn’t in the truth of my statement, however, it was in the delivery. You can say “true” things in sarcasm, bitterness, anger, and spite. Or you can say those same true things gently, in love, with kindness and tact. <—Do I need to point out which one is the correct response?

Well, as I started this nutrition journey, I sorta reverted back to my six year old self. “but it’s HEALTHY!” as I ate three chicken breasts, an enormous salad drenched in dressing, and later had an apple slathered in peanut butter (the natural “just peanut butter and salt” peanut butter, thank you very much). Yes, bravo, I was technically eating “clean”, my snack choices were “healthy”, I even bought more things organic when I could find them. So how come the ten pounds of baby weight wasn’t budging? How come my energy levels still fluctuated wildly throughout the day? How come I’d go from comatose full to starving in 30 minutes? I was exercising! And gosh darn it, I was eating HEALTHY.

Well. It’s not just WHAT you eat, it’s HOW you eat it. Namely, how much, and how frequently, and how consistently. I’ve got two days left of Hammer and Chisel, we are coming down the home stretch, and the biggest accomplishment for me is that I stuck to the meal plan. First time ever I have taken a hard look at my diet from a nutritional standpoint. You wanna know what it looked like? Carbs. Mostly carbs. And some fruit (which is full of simple sugars-also carbs). LOTS of “healthy fats” (aka cheese and nuts). And maybe two servings of protein a day-usually slathered in oil, ha. I’d eat carb heavy in the morning and be ravenous by lunch where I’d eat a huge meal while the boys napped, then nothing til dinner, and then usually a second dinner after the boys went down. Do you want to know what it looks like now? FOUR servings of protein (I had to DOUBLE my protein intake), three servings of vegetables, two servings of fruit, two servings of carbs, one serving of healthy fat, one serving of seeds/dressing, and two tiny teaspoons of oil/peanut butter. A serving of vegetables is almost double “size wise” a serving of protein. A serving of healthy fats is small, a serving of salad dressing is tiny. I eat around every two hours. I have followed this plant consistently for 8 weeks.

The result? I am eating the same or MORE calories than when I was existing off of mainly carbs and I have lost 8lbs, gained substantial definition and muscle, my energy levels have normalized, I’m sleeping like a rock at night (when the boys let me sleep), and I just overall physically feel fantastic. I’ve discovered that if I eat veggies and protein for breakfast I don’t hit a mid morning crash/snack attack, the best time for me to eat carbs is lunch and bedtime snack, a serving of dressing is actually plenty of dressing for a serving of vegetables-I’ve even stretched it to two servings of vegetables. I actually like kale.

Eating clean definitely helps with being healthy, but at some point you’ll probably have to sit down and examine your diet for not just WHAT you eat-but how you eat it. We sling around “eat a balanced diet” a lot, but truly being balanced doesn’t mean throwing in the occasionally vegetable and patting ourselves on the head. It means daily eating a variety of foods appropriately portioned and evenly spaced. You’re going to have to put some serious effort in at first, but it gets easier. I don’t even have to make meal cards any more, I just keep track on my white board.

When Hammer and Chisel ends on Sunday I’ll probably celebrate a little on Monday (= have as much peanut butter as I want) but I won’t go crazy off my routine because I love how eating to fuel my body (as opposed to just indulging my senses) feels and what it does for me. Following a meal plan, finally balancing my diet-this was a game changer for me. I don’t want to go back. In a few weeks I might even try upping my plan to see if I can’t gain some muscle. 😉 The power of good food!

From the Nutrition Trenches

I had a challenger sum up the struggle a lot of us face in adulthood in a simple sentence, “I finally realized I can’t out exercise my diet.” We like to blame our inability to find time to workout as the reason we struggle with our health. This was totally me! “Sure, I exercise-but I am already pretty thin I don’t really need a meal plan, I just need to exercise more. Ok, so these last few pounds of baby weight are being stubborn, but that is just because I can’t run as much as I’d like. FINE, I’m a little tired and headachy, and prone to sinus infections and strep, but that’s just the weather, or hormones, or you know, life. Whatever. I just need more cardio.”

You know the saying “Abs are made in the kitchen”? Well, it’s true. But a better one is, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You know where prevention happens? In the kitchen. What you eat matters, folks. A LOT.

And I totally get why people fight against this concept. For one, sure balancing food groups has always been imperative for optimal physical health, but a hundred years ago what was available to eat was a LOT different from today-a hundred years ago people were mostly still eating food. Convenience food changed the game, it has so screwed up the typical Western diet that we have to have a label (clean eating) for eating actual food. The problem with convenience food is that quite simply a lot of it ISN’T food. I have nothing against chemicals or modern medicine or technology-but chemicals that aren’t food, well, they AREN’T FOOD.

My youngest son tries to eat everything. For awhile I found mulch that had passed through his system in his diaper on a weekly basis. I continued to try and prevent him from getting into the garden. Why? Because mulch isn’t food, people. Sure, he managed to pass it (THANK GOODNESS) but that doesn’t make it food! Not only is there no nutritive value to mulch, but his body had to work to process it and filter out any toxins that existed in the dye or from simply being outside in the garden. So much of what is in processed food isn’t food anymore (or ever was) and it puts a strain on your body’s systems as it tries to filter out all the foreign crap-just like my son eating mulch-and your body get’s very little for it’s efforts. We’ve tried to cheat the system by stripping foods of all their nutrients so that they can be convenient and quick, pack them full of fat, sugar, and salt so that they don’t taste like the cardboard they’re reduced to, and then we just dump a bunch of chemically synthesized vitamins in at the end to try and make up for it. Never mind that our bodies don’t process synthesized vitamins as well as those found in the natural form-we mark it “Enriched!” and use it as a selling point.

People look at you like you must be some die hard health nut when you talk about “clean eating” but if you think about it, NOT eating “clean” is a fairly recent phenomenon. I’m eating food, guys. That’s all. I season it with spices and herbs, I cook it with oil or steam or dry heat, I chop it, I slice it, sometimes all I do is rinse it off. It’s not weird, it’s food.

You know what? You can still eat unhealthily while eating clean. I can (and sometimes do, haha) make desserts that are “clean” that are just as loaded with sugar and fat and deliciousness. My portions can still be completely out of whack. I could get completely overweight but still be eating clean-it would just take more effort. And THAT is where the rub comes in.

People like to blame gluttony and poor impulse control/lack of willpower for the expanding waistlines and rapidly rising disease rates all around us-but the truth is gluttony is only half the problem, and sometimes I don’t think it’s even that much. The real problem is laziness. We’re completely disconnected from the work it takes to make food, and if we are honest with ourselves-we really don’t want to reconnect.

Case in point-when I decided to stop buying store bought bread and to only eat the stuff I made from scratch-I ate a LOT less bread. Every slice was weighed and considered. And absolutely savored. Making bread is time consuming, and I knew as soon as I ate the last loaf I’d have to make more. I gravitate towards simple recipes because of the time commitment that many recipes take. The end results of complex recipes are often stunningly delicious-but I am more often than not unwilling to spend that much time preparing. I know I’m not the only one who is lazy when it comes to food.

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Bread straight from the oven = Heaven. On. Earth.

Many women seem to take pride in their hatred for the culinary arts-and as a backlash against society I get it, but it’s not healthy. And men seem to have this weird “if it’s not grilling it’s not manly” vibe going on that-not being a man-I totally don’t understand. Regardless, it isn’t healthy. I’m not saying everyone has to “love cooking”, but when we talk about making food as something we can “choose” to do or not based simply on how much we enjoy it, we’re thinking about food completely wrong. You don’t have to love prepping food (I don’t), you don’t have to feel bliss as you season soup, or joy as you roast a chicken, or bubbles of wonderment as you lay the labor of your hands on the dinner table. None of those things are necessary for your life. Food, however, you must eat. And to be kind to your body you should try to eat as little “not food” as you can. This means you will have to prep food, and will probably want to cook it, and season it, and make it taste ok. The place this typically happens is the kitchen. It doesn’t require love or hate, making food should simply be a fact of life.

With that said-I’m still lazy, or well, time conscious. With two adorable ankle biters howling around my knees every time I set foot in the kitchen, I still prefer quick foods. And you can still have that and eat clean and healthily. I eat fruits straight out of the fridge-takes less then 5 seconds to grab a handful of grapes or an apple or strawberries or whatever. I scramble eggs almost daily. Just two eggs with some dill. No milk, no chopped veggies, no anything but eggs and herbs. 10 minutes tops. I eat red peppers without slicing them-like one oddly lumpy vegetable apple. You can’t tell me that the drive through is quicker than half the stuff I eat-because it isn’t. And half the “quick and easy” boxed meals take longer then the dinners I choose plus they taste half as good.

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Trying (and failing, haha) to get a boys and me selfie. Notice the red pepper? Mmmm yum!

Give food a chance, people. Give cooking a chance. Don’t set out to make a three course meal, just learn how to make eggs the way you like them. Figure out your favorite fruit. Discover where your aversion to spending time in the kitchen comes from-society pressures, bad experiences, impossible expectations-and take steps to correct it. You might be surprised at how easy it is to eat well when you step back and get out of your own way. 😉