Set intentions, Be Present, Be Mindful….. they say.

Here’s a snapshot of how I look on paper: I’m a woman. I’m forty-one. I’m a mother of four. I’m a wife of sixteen plus years. I’m an aunt to seventeen. I was a nurse for years in multiple departments. I’m a business owner three times over. I’m an AA-attending alcoholic. I’m a therapy-going overcomer of an eating disorder. I’ve gotten enough tickets that my GAP insurance was dropped. I’m usually ten minutes late. I sincerely love people of every single solitary kind. I drink approximately four La Croix’s a day (minimum). I have every essential oil known to man literally just to seem like I’m into that sorta thing. Similarly, I own an expensive, dust-collecting juicer. I love sweets. I consume approximately four Dole lemon popsicles a day like my life depends on it. I used to run marathons. I’m addicted to houseplants and on (rare, but common) given days I enjoy them more than the people I live with (do not quote me on that). I’ve seen every food related or crime show documentary Netflix has to offer. I almost never fall asleep before midnight. I say “YES” way too often, but with a sincere heart. I’m actually secretly good at math, but I loathe doing homework with my minions. If I could have any talent it would be to sing and to eat whatever I want without ever gaining weight, like zero to the power of zero pounds. I’m getting enough grey hair and wrinkles to know that I’m aging. I so don’t want to work out- ever. I play music louder than most people and my favorite genre is Rap and R&B.

The above described human is supposed to be capable of being “Present”, “Mindful” and to find that magical pocket of time to set my “Intention” for the day. I’m a mixed, chaotic bag y’all. It’s a tough one.

I want so bad to have a wise, witty and yogi-like response to the admonition that is softly pelted at us day in and day out. Presence, Intentions, and Mindfulness doesn’t come to us just because we think or say the words or put on some great meditation app. These ingredients of living have to be practiced, learned and implemented…. again and again and again. I don’t know about you, but no matter what day of the week it is – these things are just hard to harness for an extended period of time. Why is it that the second you think you’ve got a handle on any one mindset in particular it seems to slip away like like melting butter to a hot pan?

A precious friend of mine sent me a Vox (the genius walkie-talkie app on your phone) recently. She was sitting beachside in Naples, Florida. For whatever ULTRA KIND reason she thought of me. She sent me a recording of about a minute’s worth of the massive ocean and its crashing waves with squawking birds in the air all just doing their thing. She said that the sound of it all was just a little gift to my day and to stop for a minute and take it in. And so I did. I closed my eyes. Played the recording a few times. I near instantly felt light, peaceful and ultimately known by my friend. I am a Florida native, born and raised. She knew full well that the ocean, and all its wonder and glory, is engraved on my heart as the most pleasant place on the planet. So, I stood there listening while tears filled my eyes. I had been going so hard between work, child rearing, home making, watering my plants, laundry sorting, attitude adjusting four children, more work and so on. I was taken aback by the incredibly peaceful sound of the ocean that was so vivid in my imagination I may as well have actually been right there in that moment.

I found it interesting and emotionally moving that as soon as I stopped and engaged something that spoke to my spirit – the “presence” everyone tells me to find easily overwhelmed me. I didn’t even really try. It just happened. I was moved. The heartwarming thoughtfulness of my friend carried serious weight in making me feel loved. The chief gain, however, was the fact that I felt alive in that moment of pause and intention to give my imagination a connection to my spirit. And so there’s the ticket, I think. You can try as you might to do all the meditative things. For real. Go ahead- diffuse your oil, juice your veg, play your app. But, unless it’s something that directly connects your imagination to the wonderment of what moves your spirit you’ll be trying to do some prescription like maneuver to generate mindfulness.

Moral of the story: There’s no one way to peel the apple of peace. Find what speaks to you and what you connect with then marinate your brilliant mind in THAT for the minute or two that you find. We put our make up on (or not), do our hair each day (or not), but don’t forget that in the hustle and grind the Spirit, that is you, needs attention too. Stare at a piece of your favorite art, burn a scented candle you just love, or play a favorite song ridiculously on repeat. Whatever man. Mindfulness, Presence, and Intentions can be more easily achieved if done in your lane, your way, according to what moves you. Go there…. and then stand in it for just a bit. Thats all I’m sayin’.

I believe in us.

image.png

 

The Body

A kindergarten teacher once asked her students what the purpose of their body was. The classroom’s consensus and precious reply was this: “It’s used to hold our head up.”

Oh, the irony of that perspective. The profound simplicity.

When I was in nursing school (far too long ago) I had to take anatomy and physiology. I straight up consumed every lecture like it was as good as air. I loved it so much I swear I’d go back right now and take it again. I was fascinated by the genius of the machine that our bodies are on a cellular level. (I mean, can I please get a quick shout out for the Krebs Cycle or what?!) Like many of my fellow colleagues, I held several different positions as an RN. In my former glory years, I worked in Pediatrics, Obstetrics, Surgical Intensive Care and Trauma Nursing. I had the fortune to see the body function, heal and sustain mind blowing injuries. I saw countless babies inhale their first breath. In my Trauma days, I saw a man live to tell about the horror of falling thirty feet from a building onto a bar of rebar that impaled itself straight through his skull. I saw the inside of a chest cavity more times than I can count. I can do CPR in my sleep like a BOSS. I’ve seen patients return to an alert state of mind after being comatose for two whole months or more. Our bodies are incredible and they’re forever seeking a state of whole homeostasis (stable equilibrium).

If we stopped for a quick ponder, no doubt, we would all agree that our bodies are intelligent and globally mesmerizing. In the light of my knowledge, experience and education why then did I allow my mind to reduce the sole purpose of my body to: appear “thin”? Why did I lose the respect and wonder of its actual functions and endless abilities? At what turn did I begin to believe the shallow societal notion that our size and shape are our vehicle for securing other people’s opinion of us? That’s such a slap in the face to the wonderment of the body’s near indescribable capabilities.

I’ve lived with a (self-limiting) narrative that I’m as good, desirable, acceptable and respectable as I am thin. As if “thinness” is the showcase for my worth; the strength of my internal locus of control; or the reflection of my self discipline. As if “thinness” equals beauty somehow and suggests that my body is all that and then some. As if “thinness” somehow secures my seat at the table of life one row ahead of where I’d be otherwise. I can hardly get over how shallow that sounds. I can barely stomach how narrow that perspective is and the realization that it ruled my life for decades.

We have to fight a little bit. We have to wrestle a lot a bit. We have to subscribe again and again and AGAIN to the truth that we are so much more valuable than our size or shape. I have two daughters and two sons. When I think of how beautiful and priceless they are I want to protect them and filter any influence over their belief system in their worth like a raging caged animal. I want to stand at the gates of their thoughts and arrest anything that will mess with their sense of how precious they are. I would fight to the death to protect them. I would need massive restraint as I’d nearly rip the throat out of anything that spoke crap over them. FACT: I am worth that same level of intensity. How can I convince my children of something I don’t believe for my own self? I have learned repeatedly that kids can smell a fake from a mile away.

People- please hear me. There’s nothing easy about going against the grain of society. I think we all know that full well. I let my mind be water boarded by shallow lies for sooooo damn long. There is no time like the present to stand up for myself and to get vigilant about protecting what thoughts I believe to be true about my value. I have children to model authentic self confidence for. I have WHOLE people to care for. My body, in full view, is a total machine y’all. It is working around the clock for me. In the same way that our bodies are infinitely more complex than simply holding our heads up, our worth is tied to so much more than our size and appearance. There genuinely is NO room to believe otherwise.

I believe in US.

 

 

 

Under Pressure

Pressure. It mounts on every side from time to time.  Pressure to be something. Pressure to change something. Pressure to grow something. Pressure to nurture something. Pressure to be whole. Pressure to embrace our brokenness. Pressure to dream. Pressure to live out our dreams. Pressure to produce. Pressure to be perfect. Pressure to accept our imperfections. Pressure to spin the plates. Pressure to keep the plates spinning. Pressure to effect change in the world. And on and on and on….

Sometimes I just feel pressure on every side and I genuinely want to scream.

Raise your hand if you’ve bought into the pressure cooker phenomenon of the Instant Pot?! I was raised with a mom and grandma that used the pressure cooker of the olden days. The kind that had a little bobber on the top that would wobble back and forth in a furry and make this loud hissing noise. You’d have to seriously know how to use the thing because there was no “indicator light” to tell you when to open it. You had to trust your instinct, memorize how long things needed to cook, and literally learn the sounds it made to know just when to open it up. Otherwise, you’d have a mess on your hands and green beans might explode all over your kitchen. Thanks to modern advancements the pressure cooker of our day, Instant Pot, comes with an electrical panel, a little red pressure valve, and a subtle beeping noise that tells us exactly when to open her up. It’s almost fail proof and it cooks your goods in a third of the time that my grandma’s pressure cooker did. There’s so little thinking involved and you can completely walk away from this machine without a watchful eye because it’s programmed for you. And, if that’s not enough, it’ll simmer itself down and keep a timer for you letting you know how long it’s been waiting for you. It handles the pressure for you and all but tells you “I’m done, your food is good to go, but don’t be rushed, I’m just here waiting for you until you’re ready.” There’s almost no human instinct required in the use of this machine.

Why am I talking ad nauseam about an Instant Pot? I would just like to say that while we have great advancements in kitchen products that handle pressure in a programmable, fail proof, patiently waiting kind of way… Life is more like the pressure cooker of the olden days. Things can heat up with a fury and ripple through us and the only thing that tells us we’ve made our way through a pressured situation is that internal knowing. That familiarity with the sound of our breathing. Life situations just cannot be hurried. The things we need to get through cannot be cut by a third of the time no matter how bad we want them to. If you hurry a healing you may just explode on someone, somewhere, at some time.

We live in a microwave, Instant Pot world. But, life experiences do not follow that trajectory. No matter how advanced we’ve become, sometimes things just need the ways of the days of old. They need time. They need a watchful eye. They need our attention divided as it may be. They need us to know ourselves so well that we are our own indicator that we’ve made it through to the other side.

This is me, right here, right now just offering permission today to not be okay for a while. Some things just take a while to get through. Again, we cannot rush a healing. We cannot spin everything all the time. We cannot walk away from the pressure and expect things to just magically turn themselves out for us. Sometimes we have to sit in our situation longer than we’d like to and …. wait. Wait for the revelation, the inspiration, the change to come. It’s okay to go at it slow and to feel the pressure for what feels like “too long”.

Bottom Line: You are not an Instant Pot. You are a human being that is absorbing life on every side. And oftentimes we need what feels like a really long time to make it through to the other side. And that is seriously okay. Do not rush a breakthrough.

I believe in us.

 

The Magic of Healing

Sometimes pain lives like a virus in your system. You cannot rush a healing any more than you can rush the run of a virus. It just has to take its course and partner with time to find its resolve.

There are certain things in this life that effect us at different levels. They hold on to our memory banks like an encoded java script that takes some serious technological advance to decipher. I just want to give you permission today from one human to another to still hurt. Just because we are grown adults doesn’t mean that we’ve worked our way through it all by now.

I watch America’s Got Talent with my kids. It’s a thing. Our thing. I used to hate the show because I couldn’t stand to watch half the acts like knives being inserted apparently as deep as a hip socket or someone falling to their death only stopping inches from plunder. It’d ridiculous to me how people even discover talents like these. I mean – who thinks of sticking a knife down their throat and getting shot at with a flaming arrow narrowly missing all vital organs as it hits some teeny tiny baby target? It’s short of crazy.

Where’s my correlation? America has certainly got talent. Act after act people stuff amazing, harrowing events into a three-minute span that’s riddled with magic and illusion as they bear the brunt of what appears to be deeply painful tricks to the naked eye. Pain, healing and overcoming in real life is the exact opposite of what we see on the screen. There is no way to take magic and illusion and cover the events that our life has held. Furthermore, there is rarely a round of applause as we come up standing on the other side. I think humans are incredibly resilient. This show certainly proves that. However, when it comes to real life pain sometimes it runs as deep as our hips and it needs far more than three minutes to recover and find equilibrium.

I sat in therapy yesterday divulging intricate details about the origin and the presence an eating disorder has held in my life. I was left with shock and awe as some of the events of my life bubbled up with tears and a heaviness and straight up pain attached. There were things that I thought I’d dealt with only to find them surface with a fever, evidence of a virus still working its way through my system. I came home last night and cried a hundred more tears because I want to be “over it all” by now, but my heart was telling me otherwise. There is still work to be done. There is still time needed for the virus to run its course and find its healing. Just because I’m the ripe age of forty now doesn’t mean I’ve arrived at a place of wholeness and healing.

All that said, sometimes we have to take inventory of where our heart is at in all reality. Sometimes we have to honor our pain, acknowledge it, let it bubble up with tears and emotions and give it space to work its way out. Just because the things of the past still hurt doesn’t mean you are broken. It means you are alive. Just because you still have tears and anguish doesn’t mean you aren’t every bit amazing from head to toe. It means you are REAL.

I do believe in magic. But I also believe in reality. Where is your heart today? Be gentle with yourself. Your reality is worth honoring and taking a concentrated look at. I also believe that we do deserve a standing ovation as we come up, out, over and through our stories with resilience. I am cheering for you today. Truly. I believe in us.

 

Dear School Cancellation,

Dear School Cancellation Days,

I am truly lucky to have four children. Two boys and two girls. I have known so many people in my life that have struggled to have children of their own so this gift is not lost on me at all. I swear. But, I love school. I love it with every fiber of my being. I love the influence of the teachers in the myriad of ways that they speak into my children’s lives. I love the sense of responsibility that’s fostered in them through things like homework and book reports and making their OWN lunches each day (since I apparently don’t know how to put anything “good” in there). I love that they get to expand their mind through art and music and science. I love watching their interpersonal relationships grow through recess and lunch, albeit twenty minutes short. I love school from drop off to pick up…..

Can I just say to you, school cancellation day, that you are cramping my style man. The very week I decided to paint my entire main level floors white you go and give my kids not one but three days home from school. I get it – there’s a negative fifty degree windchill in Minnesota this week, but seriously. Can’t we all just bundle the little love bugs up and send them your way? We have gloves and stuff. And for those that don’t I will personally nominate myself to hand extras out at the door. I am being eaten out of house and home. The snacks are gone. The television is literally fried from over use and is heating our home faster than my furnace can keep up. My voice is hoarse from yelling at them to stay off the floors I’m painting. I mean, come on school, take one for the team here. These kids have things to learn. I have a blog to write and floors to paint. And I’m out of food. Our games are “boooooooooring”. I will say, however, that laundry has been a dream this week since no one seems to think they need to change clothes. There’s been ample hot water since the opportunity to bathe occurs to zero children. But, their teeth are literally falling out for lack of brushing. And apparently reading a book is akin to water boarding.

School, you are a portal to happiness for all of us. You are every mother’s break. You give us time to think and sit and do and grocery shop. Four children home from school for three days means we have digressed to WWA wrestling tryouts and my entire basement has become an obstacle course. Not that I mind and all it’s just that if I have to put out one more fight I’m gonna go cra-cra or body slam them myself.

These floors are getting painted come Hell or high water, but they are in the direct path to the kitchen. At least by now there’s no more food so the traffic has slowed dramatically. I would like to request that the powers that be consult the mother’s far and wide before you go swiping right on whether or not those educational doors open.

Sincerely,

Mother of The Year (with beautiful white-painted floors and no more food)

What I Would Tell My 10 Year Old Self

I was 10 years old. I sat outside my dance studio on a much needed break from the four hours of classes I had back to back. I remember the sun beaming on my face. I sat with a friend on the curb. We started talking about our bodies and how I wished I was thinner (Reminder: I was 10). I was already inundated with a sense of body consciousness due, in part, to the fact that I basically lived in a leotard and tights approximately twenty-five hours a week. My friend, who was a few years older than me, looked at me and said, “You are perfect just the way that you are. God gave you the body that you have and you’re capable of anything. Be super grateful for that. Gratefulness for what you have is key to being content with who you are. There is no one else like you and there is no need to compare yourself to anyone. We don’t need to strive to be thin…. we really just need to be healthy and think well of ourselves….Treat ourselves like we matter. We all get to be different. And that is a good thing. Healthy comes from the inside out and this world would be a really boring place if we all looked the same….”

That’s actually not what she said at all. That’s what I wish she had said and that is what, today, I tell my children as often as I can. Instead, born out of her own struggle, she volunteered the information: “You can look as thin as you want as long as you puke everything you eat. It’s easy. You should try it.” And so the seed was planted… at 10 years old.

Thus my lifelong battle with bulimia began. This often morphed into a bouncing game between bulimia and restriction. Whatever the mood called for. All I remember thinking was, “this is how to get thin.” Thin was the goal. Thin made me fit in and thin meant I may not be the girl with the largest costume after all come performance time…. as if that mattered. I was obsessed with my body image at such a young age. I had a misplaced sense of self-worth. Clearly stating the obvious right there. I wish someone had stepped in to show me that I was perfect just the way that I was, that I was beautiful in the skin that I was in. I wish someone had drawn my attention to how much stamina I had athletically speaking. I could dance for hours on end and dance well. I was good at it. I loved it, but I hated my body compared to the girl next to me.

I’d give anything to go back to that 10-year-old girl sitting on the curb. I would put my arm around her, tell her that I understand what it’s like to compare herself to others. I would tell her how beautiful she was…. just as she was. I would tell her that life would be challenging along the way, but that the entire me is what the world needed…. not just a thin girl. I would remind her that her value was truly from the inside out and not at all simply what she looked like. I would tell her that being healthy was in no way simply a reflection of the outside image she presented the world. I would remind her that healthy is a mindset as much as a body disposition. I would tell her she’s gonna be amazing and that the she lit up the room with her humor and would affect change in the world in big and small ways. I would tell her that someday she’d be a badass mom that worked hard to provide and love well. I would tell her not to be afraid of failure or not being the best at all the things. I would tell her that kind humans trumped thin ones any day of the week. So, strive to be unendingly kind. I would comfort her that she would be the best at some things, but absolutely not at others and that it would all be okay as long as she showed up with who she was at her core. I would tell her she was creative and strong and friendly. I would tell her that those attributes were the seeds worth watering. I would tell her that people remember people who show up for others and care and give and share and empathize and laugh and hold hands with the hurting…. far more than they remember how thin they were. I would tell her that someday she would raise some great kids that would need to know all of the above as well. I would button up this pep talk by reminding her of what her mom always said, “Beauty comes from the inside out”.

I believe in us, you guys. I believe in our ability to value who we truly are at our core, not just what we look like on the outside to others. I believe in our ability to be kind, to care, to give, and to take notice of others…. because that’s what people remember most about us. Not the size of our jeans.

Comfort Food

The greatest treasure that this Earth ever held was my grandma, Mimi. She was Southern to her core as an Alabama native complete with an endearing drawl and all the “Bless your heart’s” one could insert into a conversation. She was the warm and caring grandma that you read only of in story books. She set her hair at the parlor and diligently pinned her curls at night. Somehow, she was the only one who could brush my long brown hair without hurting my head as she wrestled the tangles of the day. To me the sun rose and set in the light of her beauty and tenderness. My nails were always painted under her care and I never went to sleep without a story read to me in the big bed with the silky pink sheets. A bath was never a bath without bubbles and Loretta Lynn serenaded us on the daily and made her way into our favorites.

I will fight to the death defending her acumen in the kitchen as well. A biscuit is just not a biscuit if it wasn’t baked at the hands of my Mimi. They were perfect every time-piping hot and flaking apart after having been kneaded for long enough, but not too long that you kill the butter. If I could go back in time I would climb up to her counter on my little red stool with my present day iPhone and track her every move. To this day I can hear the sizzle of the gently peppered chicken frying in her cast iron skillet. The aroma was akin to Heaven itself. I can still taste that first crunchy bite that rivaled Colonel Sanders any day of the week. I can hear the sound of the pressure cooker bobbing back and forth as it gives way to the best green beans, cooked always with bacon, that you ever did eat. I remember loving green beans. I suppose it was the fact that my job was to snap the ends and pop them in half and somehow I surmised that I’m actually the one that made them.

I am now a mother of four children. I could no sooner get my children to enjoy a bite of green beans, black-eyed peas or okra than I could pull a rainbow out of my mouth. But, Mimi, she was magical. There wasn’t a morsel of food that we weren’t willing to try so long as it came from her stove. What I wouldn’t give to have her for a day so that my children might possibly consume a vegetable, or at a minimum, something other than beige food. I don’t think this fine woman owned a microwave. If a child requested mac and cheese there was a cheese grater and a roux involved. There was no such thing as ripping open a package, God forbidden powdered cheese and seven minutes later ta-da. When it came to breakfast there was rarely a cereal in sight unless they were in the fun single sized boxes. There were egg bakes and bear claws and biscuits with butter & jam. For lunch you enjoyed a skillet fried Reuben complete with sauerkraut and pickles. Unlike my children We did not snack all day like our livelihood depended on it because Mimi filled you to the brim with all things Heaven sent.

As if her cooking wasn’t stellar enough, every single night of her married life she baked a pie just the way my grandpa liked it. A small scoop of ice cream and a perfectly set cherry pie or pecan pie or carrot cake, the list was endless. This was a close to an already perfect meal.

There was no such thing as Weight Watchers, My Fitness Pal, Whole 30 or Paleo within a 100-mile radiance of Mimi’s kitchen. There was only food. The best food. Food made with love, from scratch, and most often a little bacon rendering. This was food that filled your soul to overflowing. There was no tracking macro’s or counting or restricting. Gluten was far from a forbidden accompaniment and organic was her way about her.

I no longer have my Mimi, but I can proudly say that I have personally eaten the best fried chicken this planet will ever know. The only thing greater than her cooking was her heart.