Wee Paws

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This is me pausing. Pawsing. I have lots of kittens on my porch, so I think “pawsing” is more what’s going on here.
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The last two weeks have plowed me over in such a way as I haven’t been since last year at this time when I went to two funerals in two weeks for two grandpas. It seemed like every dawn brought a new punch, and after 8 solid days of punches, I woke up with the thinnest skin in the west. I think I got my feelings hurt 5,000 million times in one afternoon. Not like me at’ll.
By some miraculous, fortuitous God-planning, a counseling session I’d set up TWO months ago landed on Monday, right when I needed it. She said two helpful things.
#1) “Alicia, your reserves are depleted in every way in your life. Let’s form a plan to build them back up.”
#2) “Alicia, you struggle saying no to others, but more than that? You struggle saying no to yourself. You can’t do everything for everyone always, no matter how much you want to.”

I’ve spent this week focusing on rebuilding my reserves spiritually, physically and emotionally. These past few weeks come at the end of two months of me falling off the wagon. I’ve been eating whatever and not moving my body and not thinking nice thoughts about my body, so I was pretty much geared up for a good and solid beating anyway.
This week I’ve crawled all bloodied back onto the wagon:
Prayers, meditations, readings, yoga-ings, and lots and lots of drinking.
Lots.
So much drinking.

For a few years, I’ve wanted to set up a drink station in my home. This week, that fire of desire burned brighter than ever because I spent so much time with a cup pressed to my lips.

Smoothies, green juice, green smoothies, teas! Oftentimes, I’ll down homemade broth because it helps my achy joints.

Joints and drinking! How’s that for a Mormon Mommy?

Years ago, I caught a glimpse of a home makeover a poor married couple did of a small house. It was so freaking cozy that I wanted to curl up and squat in that house for the rest of my life. It was filled with homemade stuff, recycled stuff, salvaged stuff… it was so soft and nice. I can’t find it again -I’ve looked. But the memory of it lives on in my brain.
One thing this house had was a few open shelves in the kitchen with a beautifully simple sign that read, “Cuppa” on it.
Since that day, I’ve longed with all my fibers for a drink station with cups waiting to turn into magical cuppas.

I tried rigging a spice rack into a drink station, but it isn’t working.
I sigh about that a lot.

Last night, after a couple of long weeks where Danny and I tried to extend grace to each other as best we could (I failed pretty much across the board), we went on a date to Sonic and then Wal-Mart. We did a little Christmas shopping, and he indulged my mug shopping.
Window style.
Because there’s no point in buying mugs when you have no cuppa station.
*sighhhh*

The Pioneer Woman has some gorgeous mugs to choose from, but her Christmas mug outdoes them all because it is big enough to hold tea, broth, chili and all of my hopes and dreams. I kept picking it up and putting it down. Picking it up.
Putting it down.
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(photo from eBay)
It’s one of those, “I’m leaving without this, and if I go home and can’t stop thinking about it, I’ll come back for it.”
Like love, amIright?

I love walking through all of The Pioneer Woman’s stuff in Wal-Mart. I don’t love it all nor do I want to own it all, but just walking through all of the bright pops of color puts a bounce in my step. I always detour my shopping through her stuff.

And as I was walking away from the mugs, I bumped into this:
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“Danny, do you know what this is?” I held it up in reverence. Anyone might’ve thought it was a magical lamp, waiting to be rubbed.
“Uh…”
“This. Is for the drink station,” my proclamation was final.

The fictional drink station that’s been in my head must come out. We’ve waited around long enough. The spice rack is tired of pretending to be something it isn’t.

And with The Pioneer Woman’s flea market find holding the seemingly endless supply of herbal tea I can’t seem to stop buying (judge not lest ye by judged, homey), magic will begin unfolding.
I don’t usually make plans, but when something really matters, I make exceptions.
This matters.
Drinks matter.
Health matters.
Family matters.
See? It’s all important.

FIRST.
I found plans to build a corner hutch because that’s the only available space in my home… a corner.
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Mine will be white, no crackle. Crackle always reminds of the crackle nail polish that was all the rage when I was a kid, and I don’t like my house looking like 90’s nails.
The flea market tea rack will fit nicely on it.
So will the mugs I do have.
So will my colorful stack of hot pads.
So will a CUPPA sign.
So will a simple kettle. None of those flowery kettles we see now-a-days. The kettle will be simple and classy: a regular Julie Andrews in kettle form!

Yassssssssss.

I’ll design a “CUPPA” sign, and the world will be at rest because there will be space made for things that are important to our family:
Drinking together.

I can’t keep my hands off my roasted dandelion root tea, which I’ve felt strongly I need to down daily. Everyone hates it except me, and I’m dancing about that.
Wish it worked for the chocolate.

My Granny -our resident midwife and healer -told me you can buy a special blend of herb tea that tastes similar to coffee and is loaded with health benefits. I looked it up on Amazon, and she’s right. Dandy Blend! This stuff is going to find a home in my drinking station. If there’s anything my body is craving right now, it’s DETOX, and this blend has it in spades. Also, the mix of herbs in this tea is mentioned in the series “Good Witch” on Netflix (from Hallmark, I believe). Dandelion, chicory, and beet root.
Get.in.my.belly.

The drinking station is all but complete.
It’s been dreamed and planned, so it’s only a matter of time.

It will be a great resting place for my cups and mugs -they serve me faithfully everyday and they deserve a pretty resting place.
Ironically, the drink station will be the resting place for the rest of us as well.

We all love us a good cuppa.

And how cute is this drink station I found while searching for the first one I found?
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Found here.

A final word on drinks:

I’ve been green juicing daily during this last week of restocking my personal reserves, and I’m laughing at myself because I enjoy it so much.
Did you know that in high school, I used to drink Dr. Pepper and eat a Snickers for lunch? It was my favorite lunch!
And here I am, 31 and achy, getting all giddy over my green juice.

Whole Foods in Flagstaff, AZ has a JUICE BAR which means a lot to me because they juice everything fresh while I wait and then I can drink it without the bother of cleaning up.
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As I’ve trudged this path of juicing my veggies, I found a guide in Kris Carr -a cancer thriver who has juiced so much that I can just steal her tips without making too many mistakes of my own. I appreciate this because I’m pretty sure one bad (read: NASTY) batch of green juice, and I’m pretty sure I’d be turned off forever.
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You can buy some great books with her juice recipes.

I cruise her site and use her juice recipes, modifying them as I go. My latest favorite is a juice geared toward making my stomach happy which I really need with chronic stomach crap (literally, friends).

Danny and I had a good laugh on our drive home from our date about our green juices. Definitely not something I would have ever thought I’d be excited about!
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I throw it onto my growing pile of Things I Used to Think Were Bat-Crap Crazy… riiiiiiight on top of yoga.
Namastay crazy, my friends. And know I’ll always be right there with you.

Neon Light Adventures Pt. I

I wrote a bit about our trip to Nashville in an earlier post.  Here’s more of a tourist’s guide… akin to sitting with Great Uncle So and So while he projects his pictures of his latest vacation onto the wall.

Reminds me of the one time when, at 12 years old, I walked in on my great uncle scrolling through pictures of his kids, who were all grown up and gone.  I scarce wanted to disrupt… it was such a sentimental moment.  I finally got brave enough to quietly ask, “which one of your children is that?” as he scrolled through a roll of pictures featuring an adorable newborn.

“Hell if I know, they all look the same…” he said and kept scrolling.  It was a defining moment in my life.  I think Uncle Floyd taught me more about men in that moment than I’d learned my entire life up to that point.

ANYway.

Nashville was a truly memorable city.  It’s really growing rapidly right now, and I can see why.  The city is so friendly and welcoming.  San Francisco had a beauty and charm all it’s own, but it really lacked the friendly atmosphere Nashville had.  I guess you could say that we felt right at home in Nashville -I think everyone there did.

The resort and convention center we stayed at was incredible.  I’ve never seen anything like it!  There were gardens, restaurants, rooms, shops, a spa, a car rental!  There was even a Dr’s office a stone’s throw from the motel rooms.  Across the street was a restaurant serving all kinds of wildlife and we could make a 5 minute brisk walk to The Grand Ole Opry (and nearby mall).  It was really fun!  It was a bit cut off from the heart of Nashville, but I rented a car one day and we made great use of it.  I went to Loretta Lynn’s Ranch while Danny was in training (which means I can die and feel okay about it) and then we ate dinner at The Loveless Cafe… the best southern food I’ve ever had!  Even the catfish tasted like dessert.

Danny enjoyed his training, and I enjoyed curling my hair everyday.  I felt like a normal person!  Visiting The Country Music Hall of Fame was interesting, but not as much fun solo.  I love music, and Danny does as well -I only wish he could have been there with me.  That said, I was more than okay flying solo at Loretta’s Ranch… because I nerded out big time, and I didn’t really want anyone I knew in my personal life seeing it.

*ahem*

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The gardens inside the resort are breathtaking.  The resort has it’s own map because you get so lost!20160829_114906 20160829_161150 20160829_161159

Can you believe this is all indoors?  I just kept taking pictures!  I couldn’t stop.  The picture below really looks like it is outside, but it isn’t.  Incredible!

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Monday night, we took an Uber downtown to check out the Johnny Cash museum.  It was a real highlight of our trip.  It was so well organized and presented -it was inspiring!  It wasn’t too big or overwhelming.
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There’s garden pictures thrown in the middle of all of my pictures.  I make no apologies.

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Here’s Danny with some fried pickles.  We were on the second floor of a bar downtown.  They had one band playing downstairs and one upstairs.  It was less crowded upstairs, and the balcony opened up so we could see the lights of downtown.  We could even see the CMT building, and I was pretty excited about that.  I used to watch that channel for hours as a kid.  Crystal Gayle was my idol. 20160829_210914 20160830_094927 20160830_094932

Here’s a few shops -some of my favorites!  Below them is a beautiful river with tour boats.
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Tuesday night, I fulfilled a dream!  We went to The Grand Ole Opry!  Josh Turner, Scotty McCreery, Craig Morgan, Dustin Lynch, Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels!  It was a stellar line up!
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Before the concert started, they honored all military and law enforcement.  Danny stood up and I was so proud of him.20160830_184156 20160830_194304 20160830_204134 20160830_211214 20160830_211322 20160830_212513

I cried while Scotty Mcreery sang, “Five More Minutes.”  And I sang along with all of Craig Morgan’s songs and wondered how his wife was doing since they lost their son.  Danny has been itching to see Josh Turner in concert for years, so it was really amazing how it all played out for us.  For the last song, Charlie Daniels brought out, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and the entire crowd was on their feet!  It was the best -just the best!  We really lucked out with a great line-up on a Tuesday night.

Danny and I walked back to the resort with an extra bounce in our step and grabbed a root beer float on our way back to bed.  This root beer is the best I’ve ever had!
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We wanted to tour backstage, but tickets were sold out for Tuesday night.  I’m glad they were!  We were able to tour backstage the next day and we had the place almost to ourselves (we had to share with one other couple).  Those pictures are really fun to revisit, so I’ll save them for my next post save two:20160831_175807 20160831_180652

Wednesday morning, I took another Uber downtown and spent a few hours in The Country Music Hall of Fame.  Like I said, it wasn’t the most fun place to be alone.  I really wanted to share it with someone who would appreciate it like I did: the history, the quotes, the walls covered in records!20160831_135347 20160831_142431 20160831_142721

Elvis’ Caddy came with a tiny (but also huge and boxy) television.

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They also have Elvis’ gold piano.

20160831_151021All of the outfits from the different artists were fun to see. Most of them were fancy and decked out -or gaudy (I’m lookin’ at you, Shania), but King George kept it classy and casual.
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And putting them all to shame, Patsy made her own!

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Tacosperation

We could have left the kids’ room alone -because it is, after all, spook alley season. We sat together Monday night and went over our week. We penciled in meetings, volunteering at the school, piano lessons, scouts… and then we penciled in, “clean kids’ room” on Friday. We stuck to our guns, I’m proud to say.
As I picked them up from school, I asked them “What would you like as a reward for cleaning your room today? It’s going to be a big job, so is there a special treat you’d like? A movie you want to rent?”
They were all in agreement, “TACO BELL!”

My kids are so weird and so easy to please.

The room cleaning was a true job. At one point, Trenton wasn’t visible under his bed, but stuff was flying out in every direction.
“Found my scout book!” (lost after only having it one little week, I might add)
Leggos, papers, cars, kitchen toys blocks, you-name-its… everything was flying out from under those bunk beds. He came out sweaty and grinning, “I needa drink.”
Alice lost motivation really fast, but could quickly be persuaded to clean with one question, “Do you want Taco Bell?”
And Lacy was hard at work -putting equal amounts of effort in cleaning and arguing with her folks about WHY it is important to keep everything.
Danny and I kept a large trash bag in motion between the two of us, and I will say that WE CONQUERED.

It took 3 hours.
And the living room which was clean before the room cleaning began is no longer clean.
Thus it ever was.

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Also, Alice has had that outfit (pants with holes in their knees and a swimming suit top size 24 months) on for 4 days.  Prior to that, she changed her clothes 4 times a day.  Danny -the person who does most of the laundry in our house -got frustrated with this and said, “Alice.  Stop changing your clothes.”

Last night, Danny had had enough.  We were going out to A NICE PLACE for dinner and needed to dress appropriately.  He pulled out a fresh, clean pair of leggings (Alice calls them “easy pants”) and a new yellow shirt.

“Alice, let’s change for Taco Bell.”

“I DON’T WANT TO!”

“But these clothes are so nice and clean…”

“These clothes are so good!”

“Alice, come here.  We’re changing you out of those clothes.”

“BUT YOU TOLD ME TO NOT CHANGE ANYMORE!”

At this point, I mouthed, “I’m on her side” and Danny threw the leggings at yellow shirt at me.  Currently, Alice is wearing the same outfit.  You asked her not to change, you’ll get it.

 

We found this doll while cleaning.  That’s toothpaste on her head and a spike coming out of her head.  I wasn’t kidding about the spook alley stuff, friends.  And yes, that doll is now gone.  Mommy drove her to the farm.  She’ll be happy there with all the other… dolls.

 

 

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You know that old anecdote about kids climbing the curtains? I think it probably came about because one of Trent’s ancestors did it so much it became a thing.

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They were so excited with their spoils.  Soft tacos! Hard tacos! Burritos!  Mom didn’t have to cook!  Incidentally, Mom didn’t eat either…
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After The Bell, Danny stopped off at the grocery store and bought ice cream bars.  He had to take Alice in with him because from where she sat in the car, she could see the taxi.  Incidentally, Mom did eat ice cream bars for dinner.20161014_204349

A Book and a Flarpy Rose: Episode 1

Folks and Friends!

Today I debut my newest baby: a podcast! A few months ago, I felt compelled/prompted to research podcast shtuff. I figured it was because the non-profit I work for might benefit from podcasting, but a few days ago, Heavenly Father let me know that I should be making my own.

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Let’s see what He has in mind!

Today’s episode is about a book I read -a book I won’t tell you the name of because you might not listen to the podcast if I do, suffice to say it is clean.
And there were no vampires.
Or shades of grey.

I also toss in a story that takes place on the muggy, neon streets of downtown Nashville.

Secret Ingredients

Our story today starts almost a year ago -that time of year when grocery stores put things like canned cranberry on sale and offer free turkeys if you’ll spend a Benjamin or two with them. A friend of mine who hates turkey spent a Benjamin and gave her “free” turkey to me because she lives by me and sees all of the children running in and out of the trailer.
She’s intuitive.

I’ve held onto The Gift Turkey. It has lived (bad usage of the word “lived,” I’m afraid) in my freezer, waiting to come forth in “such a time as this” when we are
1) Out of food, even potatoes, because kids eat in a mind-boggling way: “revolving door” style.  I can’t keep up physically, financially or emotionally (“The dishes,” I tell my therapist, “I’m grateful, I try to be… but they just keep coming, and I’m not sure but I think I’m invisible and my purpose in life is to be the person DOING the stuff that the kids will UNDO… and I can’t… I just can’t…” -I’m 100% FOR paying someone to listen to this because they always says things like, “Alicia, your kids can do the dishes.” AH! Answers. Answers I can’t find when I’m in the trenches because I’m incredibly tired. She’s like Vanilla Ice -if you got a problem, yo she’ll solve it.)
2) Needing freezer space because our beef was slaughtered and waiting for a forever home. 20161004_100604 Picking up that meat from the butcher was so glorious. I felt like “The Taylor” from Fiddler on the Roof, “Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles!”

The Gift Turkey was removed from the freezer and put into the fridge. It would fill the gap between the end of our paycheck and moment the beef arrived. It was blessed. I borrowed a turkey roaster from my Mom, and I felt confident. I’ve cooked a turkey once, so how different could it be?

I feel like the word “foreboding” would be appropriate at this point because I remember having the same feeling when my second child was born. Oh, how quickly I learned.

As the turkey thawed (so are the days of our lives…), I found out that a friend of mine had been spending her days at the hospital -her son had been admitted with pneumonia. They were headed home the morning I was roasting The Gift Turkey, so I offered them half of it.
I’m a big supporter of anonymous service, but for the story to make sense, you need to understand that I was giving some of this turkey away. It had to be delicious and cooked well. IT HAD TO BE.
“SHE HAD TO BE!”
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I took the neck out of the bird, no fuss. But where was the rest of the innards? The ones that made me want to puke as a kid? The package said they were under the neck? Nope.
Maybe they forgot. It didn’t matter. I mean, it felt a little weird that The Gift Turkey was heartless, but whatever.
I wasn’t about to kick a Gift Turkey in the… well, if it had a mouth…

So I rinsed it and salted it and found all of the cuts in my hands (fun!), and then I slathered the whole bird in a really mouth-watering mixture of melted butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and chopped, fresh herbs. I stuffed her with all manner of citrus and herbs and garlic and onions!
When I turned to put it in the roaster, I found it NOT hot or even heating up. Google helped me with some very natural alternatives, like using an oven and a cake pan (novel!). But just as I was figuring out the best pan to use, I noticed that the roaster had taken pity and kicked on.
I put the turkey in it, put the lid on and then took a shower.
Because it was noon.

After washing off and eating lunch, I was a little bewildered that my house wasn’t filling with the aroma of roasting turkey… I checked on it only to find that the roaster had caused the breaker to flip! Not only was the turkey NOT COOKING but the melted butter was now UNMELTED.

I could flip the breaker, and I WOULD HAVE IF I HAD KNOWN WHICH ONE AND HOW AND EVEN WHERE. Usually the breakers flip when Danny has too much manly stuff on, so he flips them back and whatever! things work again!
But this?!

I went to the dining area, placed the cold roaster on a chair and plugged the turkey back in. If there’s one thing I really hate, it is playing chicken with salmonella. (Did you see what I did there?)

Forty five minutes later, the roaster oven was COLDER than it was before. Apparently the breaker flip was worse than originally thought. Time was of the essence, and suddenly everything I’m saying sounds like it was taken from an episode of E.R.

I cleared off my nightstand at the other end of the house and plugged the turkey in.
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An hour later, it was sizzling.
TOO much. Because -I suddenly remembered -there’s supposed to be a RACK in the insert pan, and there was no rack. I’m resourceful and creative, so I wadded up tinfoil and placed it under the bird in a few places to raise it up. As I did so, the innards fell out the OTHER end of the turkey. The FRONT end.

When did they start putting them there, people?

No matter. What counted is that I FOUND THEM AND REMOVED THEM.

At this point, I felt like a lost/rejected re-run of The Dick van Dyke show. Three hours later, I had no idea what I was going to find in the roaster. I was ready to make a pizza run, if necessary.
But do you know what I found?
A beautiful, plump, golden Gift Turkey. I set the roaster lid down and sang out.
“Bless your beautiful hide!”
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It was moist and luscious with hints of lemon, thyme and rosemary. Savory, delicious! Did it compare to the smoked turkeys my Dad makes every year for Thanksgiving? No. But was it dry? No! Was it raw? No! It was edible and I’m pretty sure I heard it begging to be devoured!
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After my friend had eaten some, she texted me to tell me she liked it and ask what I did to it.
Folks, what’s the short answer? How do I fit it into text form?
“I pushed the bounds of bacterial poisoning and sang show tunes at it.”
*BAM*

But you know, and I know, why the turkey really tasted so good.
It was The Gift Turkey -given to me in love and given by me with love. That blessed bird was sanctified by God to turn out and taste okay. Surely, if it was up to me, that bird would burn. or never cook. or worse: poison us all.
Thank heavens for Gift Turkeys and secret ingredients (I’m lookin’ at you, Love. And Gershwin, natch).

And here I must put in a plug for The Art of Manliness *dot* com. That site is where I learned how to carve a turkey. And in case you’re interested, it will teach you how to wrestle an alligator. It’s like an online cub scout manual for grown-ups.

The Red Dress

Earlier this year, Danny told me he’d be going to a week-long training in Tennessee at the end of August.
“Okay,” I replied, mechanically. I know all about these week-long training things. They aren’t new. They are code for, “gear up for a week of being the only parent to deal with all the fighting, but take heart! You don’t have to cook at all because kids love cold cereal and cheese and chips in all their varieties.”
“You should come,” he said.
“Come?”
“Yeah, come with me.”

Sweet of him to think I could leave the babe-lings for an entire week. He must think I’m made of sterner stuff than I am.
“When is it again?” I asked.
“Last week of August.”
“I can’t leave the kids right when they’re starting school… and I can’t leave Alice at all.”
“Just think about it.”
“Babe,” this is what we call each other when we’re frustrated, “I can’t even think about it. My brain explodes.”

A few weeks went by with him gently and teasingly nudging me, “you should come with me.”
“Babe.”

A few more weeks went by.
“So,” Danny said to me through the phone, “I just found out that when I’m in Tennessee, I’ll be staying at The Grand Ole Opry Resort and Convention Center.”
“The kids will be fine,” I said, “How much for a plane ticket?”

Because apparently I CAN BE MADE OF STERNER STUFF when The Opry is on the line. I started Googling and found out that Loretta Lynn’s Ranch was an hour away from the convention center, and I became more convinced than ever that I had to make this trip. I HAD TO.
I wrestled with money and time and schedules and heavy travel anxiety, and the next thing I knew, I was walking through the front doors of the biggest motel I’ve ever set eyes, ears, and feet in.
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There were gardens, shops, restaurants, a spa, pools, a gym, even a car rental place IN the resort. I woke up Monday morning to a quiet, dark motel room. I had a cold, but it turns out it is EASY to have a cold when you’re alone in a dark, cozy room.
It took me ages to get out of bed, get dressed and ready for the day. Danny and I took a shuttle to the nearby mall to eat lunch somewhere cheaper (because that resort food was NOT cheap!) and I stayed on at the mall while he went back to training.
I weaved in and out of shops, thinking of the kids and keeping my eye for treasures for them.
Clothing stores can be so daunting. Sometimes I don’t even bother because I’m overwhelmed.
What do I like?
What is shopping like without kids pulling on your underthings?
Do I even like clothes at all?

I walked into Forever 21 with the sole purposed of finding out the answers to all of these questions.
Did you know the clothes Rachel and Monica wore in season 1 of “Friends” are back in? I don’t understand this. I ran my fingers over the racks and wondered when I got to be too much of a mom to shop at clothing stores in the mall. I loved the floral patterns, but I hated the belly shirts. I loved the flowy dresses, but wished they had sleeves. My fingers stopped on a red, floral dress.
It had sleeves.
It was long-ish.
It was jersey and form fitting… I turned it over and saw the price tag: $10.

I threw it over my shoulder like a continental soldier and took it to the dressing room. I knew putting it on would be a trial experience. It would reveal EVERYTHING. I prefer clothes that hide, not clothes that hug. But I was determined, and for ten bucks, it was a risk I was willing to take.

Looking at myself in the mirror was a funny experience. As I looked over my 30 year old body that’s given life and birth to three babies I missed very much, I felt old. Too old to wear the dress. Outside my dressing room, I heard three girls giggling as they tried on outfits, their southern accents bouncing off the dressing room walls.
“Ya’ll this is perfect for church!”
“Don’t even think about it,” answered a mother, her voice equally as southern and equally as smooth.

I was too big for the dress, right? I looked like I’d had three kids, and isn’t that not allowed, or something?
Just then, my train of thought was interrupted by Me. The real Me, the real Me that has been coming back out to play. We used to hang out all the time until I buried her alive a few years ago.
“You know,” she said, “If you don’t buy this dress and wear it downtown tonight, you’re going to hate yourself when you’re 75.”
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She was right. She usually is. And I laughed at myself as I paid the steep $10 and felt like THE MOST DARING WOMAN since Joan of Arc.

I made my way to an Old Navy outlet store where I bought crisp new shirt for Danny because I knew if I was wearing a new dress, he’d want to wear a new shirt… otherwise he’d feel weird. I don’t know why. I just know he’s like that.

When he came in from training, I showed him his new shirt and put on my new dress.
“It works,” he said, “It isn’t you, not quite your style, but hey… go with it.”
I felt the same way. It wasn’t me or my style, but I wasn’t about to NOT go with it.

I put on all the make-up, not just the mascara. I even glued on some fake eyelashes and had painted my toe nails. It was all very BIG TIME business.
Danny was glad I’d picked a shirt up for him, “I wouldn’t have anything to go with your dress,” he said.
Did I pat myself on the back for my foresight? Yes, I did. It turns out when three kids aren’t pulling on your underthings, you can actually think rather clearly.
Speaking of that, at that point it was 5 pm and I wasn’t tired! Were the convention gardens infused with magic?

We hopped in an uber and went straight to the Johnny Cash Museum where I wore a red dress and didn’t care. My rolls came out to play, and I didn’t care. I had a great time. Love him or hate him, Johnny Cash is incredibly inspiring. There was a certain air to that museum that left you with a, “why am I not just going for what I want?”
We took half a million pictures.
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During picture-taking, I made a conscious pledge to myself to not suck in, not hunch over, not hide… just BE! It was liberating to just not care about what was going on with me and really be present in a place I’ll probably never go again. This was a once in a lifetime experience, and I wanted to enjoy as much of it as I could, and I wanted to do it in a red dress covered in a flowers. Not young enough? Not small enough? Bah. Who givza.

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We left the museum in awe, and really happy to be together in a new town. We rounded the corner and were met with the lights of downtown -lots of bars, lots of live music, and lots of street performers! I dropped dollar bills into instrument cases and took pictures of horse-drawn carriages with red velvet interiors.
Did we rent one?
Naw, Dad lets us drive his for free.

We parked ourselves on the top floor of a bar and ordered some nachos and fried pickles. Danny paid the band to play “9 to 5″ by Dolly Parton and they really did try very hard.
We looked out over downtown and saw the CMT building. Danny ate as many pickles as he could, and I ate nachos like there weren’t any more in the entire world. We took an uber back to the hotel, and the next day we wore our same outfits to The Grand Ole Opry.
Isn’t that some sort of fashion no-no?
Who givza.
I spent TEN BUCKS on a dress and I was going to wear TEN BUCKS WORTH, by jingo. Danny had spilled something on his shirt, so we sent it out for dry cleaning. It made it back home just in time.

Lately, I’ve had these glorious waves of self-acceptance come crashing at my Arizona door. They are serene and exciting, and when they come in, life feels crazy good.
The wildest part about them is… I did nothing to earn them. I don’t understand this. Do you? I’ve spent my entire life working for what I want. I’ve earned and worked and earned and worked and it has been SO incredibly satisfying! Is there anything better than a sweaty brow and a job well done?
I really thought that if I worked out and had a fit body, I’d love my body. If I just EARNED it, right?

But guess what? I quit earning it because honestly? I just got really, really tired. I couldn’t earn anymore. As I’ve sat in quiet and tried accepting my body AS IS instead of AS I FELT IT SHOULD BE TO BE LOVABLE… I found myself in tears a lot. Giving up earning it was not easy. There were times I’d give a half-hearted earning effort only to find myself giving up again, realizing that the self-acceptance that I wanted, that felt so out of reach, was something I wanted more than any work out could give me.
I stopped working out because I hated my body.
I started walking because I love walking. I jogged to get my heart rate up sometimes because I love my heart.
I started feeding my body stuff because I LOVE my body instead of NOT FEEDING to punish my body… or eating TO PUNISH.

There were some days I had to hide from it all. There were some days I couldn’t do housework because of the nasty voices that told me how awful I was.
Who lets their sink get to THIS point?
Who would eat from that table?

I would stop and do something loving. A movie, a bath, a book. I’d pray a lot and reach out to trusted friends and patient family a lot.

Last year, a wave of self-acceptance came crashing through my door and it was miraculous.
I didn’t EARN love, and it poured through every pore. I wanted to shout from the roof-top that I was an okay person with working body and cool trailer and cool used cars!
When the wave left, I was sad again. Since then, the wave has come and gone. Come and gone. Each time it stays a little longer, and I thank God for the miracle of His Grace -the lifeblood that conducts these waves.

At The Grand Ole Opry I wore my dress and didn’t fuss at all. I wasn’t self-aware -I was just THERE. I felt every downbeat, I cried when I felt like crying and I laughed out loud and yelled when they asked if anyone was celebrating an anniversary (ours was just a few days away). I sang loud even when the girl next to me looked at me like I shouldn’t. I didn’t give her much credo, since she cheered more for Dustin Lynch than Charlie Daniels.
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As the entire audience was brought to their feet by Charlie Daniels breaking into “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Danny and I decided that we had accomplished something really, truly memorable. The Grand Ole Opry will always hold a piece of our hearts, and every time I mention it, Danny mentions the red dress.

The Red Dress, which has hung out like a champ in my closet since we got home, has become a sort of victorious symbol of living -really living.

It was the right decision, just like going to Nashville was the right decision, just like putting down my earning boots was the right decision, just like sitting still and letting God’s Grace in was the right decision.

When I’m comfy in my own skin, everything seems to wear better on me. Funny. I thought for so long clothes would wear better if I was smaller.
Turns out, I’m good as-is, forever and always. There’s a bright life waiting for me on the other side of insecurity. I don’t always access it, but when those blessed waves roll in, it feels like coming home.

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At the end of the trip, Danny remarked, “You know, I really like that red dress on you. At first I wasn’t sure, but now it is my favorite.”
Learning to love myself is like that. It feels awkward and out of place when I try it out, but after I strut around with it for awhile, it wears like it belongs.

Will Work for Love

Recently, I was reminded of a guy who used to think I was something. Special? Pretty? Funny? I don’t know. Anyway, he bumped into a old friend of mine, and mentioned it and the old friend mentioned it to me and then I heard this awful thought:

If he saw you now, he would be horrified.

*sting*

At the very moment I had that thought, I was curled up in my pajamas and dealing with my super fun and unpredictable stomach issues. I was up at 3:30 this morning with them, and up I stayed. Up I stayed. It’s days like today where I feel grateful for the Internet and funny people. I found a light-hearted social media account of a father of 4 girls, and it made me smile so big my cheeks hurt even though I felt how I always imagined a cow’s udder feels after a morning milking: beaten, worn, and wrinkled.

While I grapple with all this stuff and go to THIS Doctor and try THIS supplement and battle the guilt of being someone who says, “Mommy is sick today” more often than not… I’m finding it really hard to just LOVE and accept myself.
Why?
Porque I can not earn it.

On the days where the stars align and I feel good, I LOVE MYSELF! On those days, I exercise and eat healthy, green food. My complexion is glowy, and when I catch a glimpse of myself, no matter what I’m dressed in (or not dressed in) or what make-up I’m wearing (or not wearing), I think, ‘It feels good to be me today. I love it.’

But today I can’t exercise. I can’t eat any foods, let alone green ones. I can’t make cookies for the neighbors or play games with my kids.

I don’t love myself today.
I look at pictures of myself before all this sickness hit, and I feel sad.

I realize there’s a purpose to this. I realize that when (because putting “if” right there just sucks toooooo much) my body heals up, it would be amazing to find that I understand self-compassion and love on a deeper, more profound level. God would be able to use me for more and more good. I will be able to love others better.

But for today, I’m stuck in the “I earn my own love” zone.
Ever been there?

Thanks to my mother-in-law who gave me a Jane Austen coloring book to assuage the bed resting going on.
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To Be Tested

When I was eight, my Mom fed the Mormon Missionaries dinner.  We often fed the missionaries, and my parents often went the extra mile to take care of the sets of two boys who walked through our doors.  Mom would sometimes do their laundry.  Dad always fired up the grill and made luscious steaks.  Feeding the missionaries was an exciting event.

But once, my mom forgot.  We pulled into our own driveway to find the missionaries patiently waiting on our porch.

“Oh, no.  Oh, no.  Ohnoohnoohno!” My Mom said, barreling out of the car, “Do you like pizza?”  That was the first great lesson I learned that night.  There’s ALWAYS choices and mistakes happen and everyone ends up happy.  Earlier this year, I had the Mormon Missionaries -FOUR growing boys -meet me at Subway where I picked up the tab.  I thought of my Mom, and I thought about how everything works out even if it doesn’t work out the way we planned it out in our heads.

The second lesson came after the pizza.  One of the elders began talking gospel with me, asking me questions.  It was weird.  I wasn’t at church, but he was asking me church questions.  Why was he asking me stuff I’d learned years ago?  Did he think I hadn’t listened in church?  I hadn’t listened to my parents?

When he finally quit talking and asking, he smiled and said, “Did you realize that you know more than most people about all this stuff?”

“What?” I asked, not really getting what he was driving at. I was EIGHT.  I knew some stuff, but definitely not more than “most people” (whoever they were).

“Most people don’t know why they’re here on earth.  You do.”  His answer kind of shocked me.  And then he started sniffing his own armpits which weirded me out so bad that though I can’t remember his name or face, I remember THAT.

Why am I here on earth?  The answer I’ve had all these years is simple, “to be tested.”

To be tested.

It makes sense.  I’m sent tests here on earth: spiritual, financial, emotional, physical, social.  These are the main subjects in the test packet.  I’ve known this answer for so long that I accepted it and all of the word-associations that go with it.

Tests are quiet, stressful things where a teacher stands at the front of the class and wears black and wonders out loud if you’ve LEARNED ANYTHING THIS YEAR AT ALL.  The clock ticks and minds spin.  I wondered why my score would rank.  Would I pass?  Would I score higher than the kid next to me?  Lower?  At the end of the day, I was a terrible test-taker.  I always scored lower than The Blessed Children who had AMAZING abilities to remember stuff they HEARD.  I had an amazing ability to remember stuff I could get my hands on.  Listening?  How could I wrap my hands around sound waves and put them to the test?

Somewhere between my time spent in a desk and my time spent spreading my own wings, I felt the full gravity of BEING TESTED.

God was that teacher, silent and indignant.  It was my job to show Him that I WAS GETTING IT.  I was racing against the clock and the folks next to me and myself in hateful, warped race.

My prayers were the best I could make them.  I went to church and I fulfilled my callings and I read my scriptures and I thought I had the “spiritual” section in the test all wrapped up.  I performed to the best of my ability, and I felt good.  I was earning a good grade.

I wasn’t the best financially, but I wasn’t the worst.  God would surely see that.

Emotionally, well.  If I kept busy enough, I didn’t have time or space to get TOO emotional.  It was my game plan, and it was successful.

Physical -here!  Here was a place I could REALLY work hard.  I was good at earning good grades, and I could earn more.  I definitely needed to be more fit, and I needed to eat better.

Social, I had lots of friends.  Whew!

 

I really was doing the best I possibly could with what I had.

I really, really was.  I feel compassion for myself -for the way I thought I had to work so incredibly hard.  I know God has compassion for That Alicia too because she still comes out to play, and when I realize She’s here… I stop, take a deep breath and stop earning.  And God is quietly with me.  I hear Him when I slow back down and give up trying to play my own Savior.

When it all came crashing down was when my game-plan of being so busy I wasn’t too emotional ran out.  Apparently, my body can only handle so much.  My marriage relationship was crumbling, my heart was broken -and it felt irreparable.

There’s no talking allowed during tests, I know. And I’ve always been very careful about rules.  But it turns out -this was a shocker to me -there’s someone inside of me who doesn’t care about the rules, and at that point in my life, I threw down my pencil and threw up my arm and asked the judging, silent, distant, Teacher for some desperate help.

That was a life-changing moment for me.  Everything began shifting.  And just as “to be tested” is a simple answer with complex issues, so is the phrase, “everything began shifting.”  This wasn’t a comfortable thing.  This wasn’t a, “ooh!  Let’s check out this word problem from a different perspective.”  This is shifting of tectonic plates, folks.  Rumbling, earth-shattering shifting.

The Teacher came to my aid.  I was in so much physical pain, I thought my heart was pouring out of my chest.  The Teacher put it back in and held me.  Everyone in the room vanished, and it was just me.  There was no earning, there was no score, and there was no clock ticking.

There was no silent distance between the teacher and I.  There wasn’t even a desk.

In that moment, things began changing.  Old patterns die hard, of course, so at first these moments were just that: moments.  They were fleeting and warm, balms of healing in a typhoon of confusion and torment.

That was 6 years ago.

I can’t believe it’s been that long.  God is so very patient -more patient than I am.  I wanting those fleeting moments to be my mainstay.  I wanted the old beliefs and patterns to just vanish forever -instantly!  But so very often the opposite was my reality.  I spent more time in my proverbial desk, relegating God to His cold, distant position at the front of the class.  I raced against my fellow brothers and sisters in a tormented frenzy of pencil lead and eraser dust.

Then I’d crash and burn, crumbled in tears.  And God would be there, keeping my heart in my chest.

Yesterday as I prayed, this all just clicked for me.  Six years after the fact, God revealed to me how I’d been living.  I didn’t see it as I was in it, but looking back…

As I prayed yesterday, I felt God asking me -or maybe it was ME asking ME in the silent confines of my still ponderings, “How can I be tested on material I know nothing about?”

For YEARS, I’d hated myself for “not passing” tests in a way I perceived my Teacher would find approving.  But why?  WHY did I punish myself for not handling things well?

In high school, I’d never dealt with depression until I did.  And then I hated myself for not handling it perfectly.

In college, I’d never dealt with outrageous amounts of credit hours.  I hated myself for not passing everything with flying colors.

Life got heavier and harder from there: addiction, mental illness, financial stuff, relationship stuff!  NONE of which I’d ever been given course material on.  None of which I’d ever dreamed would be in my test packet.  That alone was a huge learning experience for me: I’m not exempt.  Miscarriage isn’t something that happens to other people.  Unhealthy relationship dynamics aren’t something that happen to people who aren’t smart enough to “just leave.” Chronic health issues aren’t things that happen to people who can’t “just get over it.”

And with all the self-help books out there, there is NO SPECIFIC PREP COURSE MATERIAL.  In school, the teacher says, “There’s going to be a test on this,” and she hands you papers and books and information and study partners.  In life, the test comes first.  The studying comes after.

That’s why I don’t hate myself anymore.  Because HOW can I handle life beautifully and flawlessly if I don’t know what the hell I’m doing?

Am I messing up?  YES.  That’s why I need a teacher!  Do I know the answers?  NO.  That’s why I need a teacher.

Life isn’t confined to a neat room with desks and clocks.  Life is a really muddy thing, and my Teacher is right there with me.  Sometimes I’m too numbed out on TV or food or social media to pay attention.  Sometimes I’m silently sitting with Him, basking in His life-giving light.  I vacillate, and I’m infinitely a work in progress.

Spiritually, I still go to church and fulfill my callings -but for different reasons now.  I’m not earning anything.  I just love God, and I want to help out.  My time here is on loan anyway.  God gives it to me daily, so I want to give back.  Do I always do it?  Do I always roll out of bed right into prayers and meditation?  No.  This morning, I rolled right out of bed and into facebook and then I ate a leftover waffle because I’d just woken up from a nightmare of a dream where my food was constantly being taken away before I could eat it.  I’m not perfect at all this stuff which is why I need Teacher, self-compassion, humility, and courage to keep trying.

Emotionally, I’m a rat mess of crazy.  Anxiety has been with me since I was a little kid, terrified of the house burning down.  I’m not earning anything here anymore.  I’m just in daily need of help.  This is why I need Teacher, self-compassion, humility, and courage to keep trying.

Physically, all the years of keeping busy caught up.  I’m sick pretty much daily.  And I can’t just get over it -I used to believe that was a legitimate thing.  What I can do is move into acceptance, “Alicia, you’re sick.  You’re going to slow down now.”  This is why I need Teacher, self-compassion, humility and courage to keep trying.

Socially, I see every One.  They’re like me.  I’m not always kind or thoughtful.  I don’t remember every birthday or event.  I can be flaky and awkward.  I judge and repent and judge and repent.  But everyone around me isn’t scoring higher or lower than I am.  I’m not racing against them.  I’m covered in the same mud they’re covered in, we just wear it differently.  You’d think that would be enough for me to just… LOVE them.  But I can’t because I don’t fully understand how to love myself the right way yet.  This is why I need Teacher, self-compassion, humility, and courage to just keep trying.

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So why AM I here?

To be tested, hands-on.  It ever was so, from Adam and Eve.

I find beautiful roots in my trials -my ancestors dealt with the same daily test questions I do: preparing food that doesn’t quite turn out, washing dishes only to have the dirtied again.  They have loved ones pass away or quit speaking to them.  They lived through sickness, vanity, distress, hunger, whining children, nosy neighbors!  It ever was so.

And it never was not.

I take comfort in the constancy.  I know My Teacher was their Teacher, and I know My Teacher is Your Teacher.  I don’t understand it fully, but I understand that I’m not required to.  I’m only required to keep trying, understanding that trying means failing sometimes and winning sometimes -a humbling tight-rope practice of sorts.

Most importantly: I understand that my Teacher isn’t distant unless I decide so.

 

Religion is My Vehicle

This weekend, someone irritated me. Pretty straightforward sentence, amiright? We all irritate each other, this I know. This I know. I prolly bugged some people with my repetition of “this I know.” and prolly bugged some more by using the word, “prolly” and prolly bugged some more with my sudden devil-may-care attitude about punctuation.
You get my drift.

But really, this weekend, someone BUGGED me. I couldn’t get over it! And then I hated myself for being irritated at someone else, for not only being uncharitable but also? The fact that one person can get to me SO MUCH proves that I’m somehow emotionally immature.
I feel shame for feeling irritated. And shame always has PERFECTIONISM riding on it’s back, and there I was… chopping green onions in my kitchen in a warped emotional spin cycle of irritation, shame, perfection, irritation, shame, perfection….

Those poor green onions caught the brunt, I tell ya.

The next day, I was talking with my counselor over the phone. At the end of my session, I brought my Spin Cycle up… and then I said these revealing words, “It’s just that this woman reminds me SO MUCH of who I was 7 years ago and I just have absolutely no compassion for the way I used to be. I look back on the way I lived and the choices I made and all I can think is, ‘What a royal screw-up.’…. … … Oh my gosh.”
Right there.
Right there was the realization, the heavy moment where I understood just how much acceptance and compassion I DON’T HAVE for My Past Self.
And you know what she said in reply?
“Okay, Alicia. I’ve got another client right now, so let’s schedule our next session…”

It felt like a hug, guys. Ha!

I hung up the phone and blinked for awhile.

I accept myself now. I LOVE myself now. I feel good about the future before me. But you know where I keep getting stuck? In the past, and all I can hear is that wise line from The Lion King that goes, “You’ve got to put your past behind you” because right now, my jittery behind is just IN THE PAST. There’s so many resentments I hold that I don’t know how to let go of, and the truth is that MOST of the resentments I hold are toward myself, My Past Self.

My Past Self blogged a lot more, right? Because she needed it. She needed the validation. She did Jillian Michael’s shred stuff. She baked on Tuesdays and cleaned on Mondays and Wednesdays were for laundry and she wore her tiny pants and curled her hair and kneaded bread dough wearing homemade aprons and pulled freshly baked bread out of a clean oven using her homemade hot pads.
I freaking HATE that girl!

She was so caught up in it all -working to earn love, her own love and love from everyone else, including God.

In those days, I really thought I was living a life with God at the helm, but I wasn’t. I was at the helm, pretending to be God. I was like those 3 year old toddlers who slip on their mother’s high heels and slips and feel very much Matron of the Home about it all. The wise saying, “There is only one God, and it is not me” comes to mind.  I went to church every Sunday and I paid tithes and offerings. I signed up for service projects and prayed when I should.

Spirituality was my vehicle in my Religious world… Spirituality carted me around through My Religious Life.

Seven therapy-filled, tear-filled, and support-group filled years later, I just have to say:

I don’t wear my tiny pants anymore. I don’t bake like that anymore. My house looks like it is undergoing renovations, and it really isn’t. I promise. I don’t blog as much.

Something huge happened inside of me… a seed cracked open and grew -it sounds simple, but lemme tell you: simple things aren’t always EASY THINGS or PAIN-FREE things. The seed growing in me now is spiritual. In the last seven years, I have found God. The biggest thing I’ve learned about Him is that I know close to nothing about Him. I thought I did! I thought I did!! But I was incredibly wrong.
Religion isn’t where I live.
Spirituality isn’t my vehicle.

It is ENTIRELY THE OTHER WAY ‘ROUND.

Religion is my vehicle as I road-trip through this spiritual life. And guess what? I still pay my tithes and I still go to church, but I do it for different reasons now. I really thought I was doing it for the right reasons before, but I wasn’t.

Is God in the center of my life now? Ah, sometimes. I’ve learned now that God is in the center SOMETIMES. But each day, something takes over… something scoots God over and I find I’ve teetered off course.
That text.
That phone call.
That bill.
That person.

I find my center being taken up with something circumstantial, and I have to re-center and say, “Woah, God. My mind is spinning on this. I’m obsessing. Please, just… here.”
And I hand it over. God has this huge capacity for holding stuff. I don’t know where He puts it all.
Christ handles it, so I’m told.

In the past, I just thought because I DID ALL THE RELIGIOUS STUFF that God was naturally at the center of my life.  But now I see that putting God in the center is a daily exercise that requires grace.

In this state, I find I still exercise, but not with Jillian Michaels. She went the way of the burn pile. I couldn’t handle being yelled at. Seven years ago I could! Seven years ago, I hated my fat just as much as Jillian did! But now?
Gosh, stop the yelling.

I have found myself getting my heart rate up for the health of my brain, and I take a short walk every morning with my arthritic pup. We breathe in the morning together, and the farm road we walk on is currently housing horses which is lucky because it is monsoon season and really, NOTHING smells as satisfyingly earthy and wholesome as a freshly washed horse.
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Even if they want to eat your hair.
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In short: I exercise because I LOVE and ACCEPT myself now. I stretch out in yoga, drink freshly-juiced green juices, eat protein and fruit because it feels so incredible! The more I settle into this new, spiritually-based way of living, the more it feels like I’m coming home. It’s the craziest feeling! As the competition and hustle falls by the wayside, I feel exactly like I’m coming home. In the words of the irresistible Tom Hanks as he reads the lines written by the irresistible Nora Ephron in the irresistible classic Sleepless in Seattle, “It was like coming home, only to no home I’d ever known.”
Plato puts it:
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The era of self-punishment and earning my own love has ended. It’s through: fork-stuck DONE.

How do I bridge this? How do I send the acceptance and love I feel for myself and others NOW to the past?
It is my new mission, my new adventure.

I’m sure I’ll figure it out on my morning walks with Bronco and God.
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Here’s a few pictures I’ve snapped to remind me of the changes going on in my life right now:

My go-to lunch these days!  Salads made with lots of colors and some chicken and some EVOO and some of my latest favorite: coconut balsamic vinegar. I refuse to eat leaves without my coconut balsamic vinegar.  I found it in Utah and LUCKILY just found a store in Flagstaff, AZ that sells the exact same stuff.  Praises, folks.  So many praises.
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breakfastSundayGet a load of these babies!  Loving WHERE I am and practicing gratitude for it has been a big part of what I’m building here.  Reminds me of the quote, “The prize is the process.”  Loving where I am isn’t just an emotional practice where I practice acceptance for the fact that I’m not ready to forgive or apologize or whatever… it’s about just walking outside and loving it!  I live next to a Navajo Rez and this is me: loving it!  A friend gifted these to me and they don’t really leave my feet at all ever.

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This is the view on my morning walk.  I know we need a house.  We are growing out of this space.  Three kids in one room.  I KNOW.  But can I leave this space? I DON’T KNOW.
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Morning include meditation in the grass.  Sometimes guided, sometimes silent, sometimes both.  Usually both.

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Late-night snack cravings can usually be satisfied with my roasted dandelion root herbal tea.  I can’t get enough of it A

ND the bags keep saying smart stuff.

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After work, I make time for yoga.  I love going outside and guiding myself through a session while this goes on next to me.  I don’t love it when the sprinkler nails me… but Trent does.
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I’m finding that hiking is something I really LOVE!  I live in the high desert, and there isn’t too much hiking around here, but we just found a great almost 3-mile (kid friendly) hike in Flagstaff.  We’ve gone twice now, and I feel so at home in that forest dirt.  Lovely!

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Those of you who know me know that I’ve been struggling with health stuff like crazy.  For over two years, I’ve been battling stomach stuff.  I can’t believe it has been that long.  I’ve been in and out of docs, and nothings seems wrong.  So the ball is in my court, and I’m not very athletic… so I want to pass it.  But God says, “No.”

My routine is really important, and I have to be diligent.  God is teaching me something here.  Patience?  Acceptance?  I don’t know.

I drink clay in the morning and take glucosamine (am I spelling that right?) with my breakfast (for my inflammation).  I drink my milk kefir every morning. I make sure my breakfast is nourishing.  Each morning, I meditate.  I pray and I really try to read or listen to scriptures.  After work, I do my yoga.  I eat a nourishing lunch with greeeeeeeens.  I eat a good dinner.  I pray and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Probiotics are really important to what I’m doing here.  So I’m making my own sauerkraut.

 

Sometimes I sorta pinch myself.  When did this become my life?  Meditation, yoga, fermented food?  And how come it all feels like second nature?  It is surreal. homemadekraut

 

I’m looking to build my herbal tea collection and hiking destinations, so pass any suggestions along!

Marriage -Crystal Ball Style

I was online recently and noticed a significant lack of posts full of advice on marriage. Seriously, if you are getting married and google, “What can I expect when I get married?” Nothing comes up, not a million pages filled with what to do and what not to do and when to do it and how and stuff. Nothing like that at all!
{insert sarcasm emoticon}

So I thought I’d take one for the team.

On September 4th, 2016, Danny and I will celebrate 12 years of marriage. We are marriage babies, but I also feel like because I’m 12 years into it, I can provide a “crystal ball” for engaged couples.
Not ALL engaged couples. Because all engaged couples are different. But some. Some will read this and it will save their marriage
OR
break up their engagement.

When I was expecting my first baby, I read through, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” like it was THE BIBLE. Oh wait, actually lemme fix that… I SHOULD read my Bible the way I read that book because I wore that book out. I followed the advice and my belly followed the book and it was all gross and bliss and binkies. I just wish someone had written a “What To Expect When You’re Getting Married” book.
All marriages are different, but there are a few common threads that I wish someone would have revealed to me.
Such as!

1) Your spouse will, in fact, and does, in fact, poop.
Because Danny and I didn’t live together before we were married, this one shook our dynamic up a bit. Getting married to someone is essentially signing up to buy toilet paper with and for ONE person for as long as you both shall stand it (hopefully forever). It goes deeper than just poop, though (and I’m tactfully trying to step around puns, but even in saying “stepping around” I feel like I crossed a line). The bathroom is going to be a much bigger deal than you realize. You’re going to clean up stuff you aren’t considering right now, and you’re going to be totally okay with it. You find that more love is built “in sickness” than it is “in health.” While you’re running to the gas station for Gatorade and Sprite, you’ll feel a scary level of concern and connection that can only mean one thing: you’re really in love. In fact, you will find your love sinking deeper not so much when your spouse is spruced up and smelling amazing, but when they’re at their most vulnerable and smelling um, not-so-amazing. So while you may believe that love is built on date nights and late nights (*ahem*), I’m here to tell you: don’t discount the bathroom. Also, be willing to compromise on toilet paper styles, toothpaste squeezing methods, and soap scents.

2) Compliments change.
When we were dating and first married, Danny showered me with compliments about my hair and clothes and body. He loved the way I smelled. But that was 12 short years ago. Yesterday -and I’m not kidding -Danny came into the kitchen where I was trying to amp myself up to bleach the dishes that had mold growing in them, pulled me close… so close I could smell his sweat from the morning he’d spent chopping down rouge trees in the yard… and said, “Hey, good job on getting the nail polish out of the kids’ tub.”
And you know what? That felt good. Compliments change because we are ever-changing. I hope that in 30 years, he’ll still be lucid enough to compliment me on the way I peddle my stationary bike. Ten years from now, I hope he compliments me on my ability to stay calm amidst kids leaving home… but I don’t think that will be the case.

3) The person you marry will be the person you take supplements with.
There’s something comforting and wholesome about slamming back vitamins with a spouse. It’s a sort of silent pact where I say without saying, “I love me and am taking care of me” and he echoes, silently, the sentiment. Love grows stronger when I put my oxygen mask on first, and all that… but really. I can’t fully love Danny or anyone unless I love myself. A few nights ago, I was up late with Danny and we stood in the kitchen. He threw back something for his body and I mixed up my clay so it could sit overnight (for me to drink in the morning) and it was this incredible vulnerable moment… we were in our pajamas, our hair was wrecked, our skin looks like it’s been married for 12 years and we were both blinking really hard because our contacts had gone dry. I let him see me like that… undone (not in a sexy way, sorry), needing any shred of health-in-a-bottle I can get, and utterly exhausted after a day spent working, washing, cooking, and (honesty please) watching Netflix to regroup between snack times.

4) The kids thing will be difficult.
This means trying for them, not getting them, getting them, losing them (both mortally and temporarily), raising them, not raising them… it is all going to be hard. Comparing your kid stuff to the kid stuff other people deal with makes it A LOT harder.

5) You will argue about money.
Danny knows where every penny is. I trust The Good Lord to provide and sometimes don’t know what I bought for $100 at Wal-Mart because WE STILL DON’T HAVE FOOD BUT SOMEHOW HAVE 6 SKEINS OF YARD AND 3 PACKAGES OF SILLY PUTTY. Danny loves my free spirit, just not when it shops. I have no advice for you, I’m just giving you a fair warning: you’re going to fight about money. Probably a lot.

6) Your spouse has been hurt in life. At some point, it will get taken out on you.
In 11th grade, Suzy ditched your husband for someone named Blitz, and someday -when you forget a lunch date, or something similar -your husband will REACT, man. And as he reacts and you will feel the injustice. The lack of compassion on your spouse’s part will anger you, hurt you and put you immediately on the defensive. His, “HOW COULD YOU?” will become your, “How could YOU?!” and you’ll begin to play catch with this brilliant little ball I call “drama.” In these moments, fight, fight, fight YOURSELF to drop the damn ball and hug your spouse. Because, as much as they are trying to make the situation your fault, it is NOT about you. You can apologize and you can hug them and you can buy them ice cream just as easily as you can throw a ball back. Be advised that most of the time, you’ll probably end up throwing the ball back. But the times you don’t will be incredibly healing and awesome.

7) Sex isn’t as big of a deal as you thought.
If sex is the primary way to express love, things will get really tricky really fast. Sex doesn’t fix anything. It’s a bandage, a pretty strong one, but it isn’t a healer. Your sexuality will become less about the physical act of sex, and you will find a richer, deeper life that will include but not revolve around sex. You might even be surprised to find your marriage leaving what we call “copper sex” behind altogether. Copper sex is the stuff movies are sold on, wild and weird and hide-the-baby’s-eyes. Copper sex is fleeting and honestly? Kinda boring. But when you’re taking supplements and cleaning bathrooms of one other person and you SEE them, really see them -when you pay bills and hold hands through hospital bedding and share milkshakes and swap scriptures, when you walk with them and talk about your hopes and dreams and laugh with them at 4 am because not only do spouses poop BUT SO DO DOGS AND THEY POOP IN HALLWAYS, and you cook with them and feed them and buy thoughtful gifts and pick up socks even though you’d rather burn the socks… and then decide to make love, it is what a marriage counselor I love calls, “Gold sex.” And you know what? If one or the other of us were to be in an accident that would render us incapable of having sex, that would be okay. Because we have access to the kind of intimacy that matters. And it isn’t purely physical. Surprise!
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8) Your spouse will stop being the most important thing in the world to you, and that’s okay.

No one, sociopaths excluded, wants to be heralded as anyone’s God. No one wants that burden, that pedestal. In fact, what we really want is ROOM TO MESS UP because WE KNOW WE WILL and we need the space to lose our minds, to get mad, to curse, spend more than we meant to, clean less, take a sabbatical from flossing! Our marriage was never better than when Danny quit being the center of my universe and I quit being the center of his, and we both moved -independently but in a rough, parallel fashion toward putting GOD in the center of our individual lives.

9) Your argument about the right way to fold socks will cause panic, “Will this be the end of our hero?”
This kind of stuff calls for a TRANSLATOR. You can hire one, but in the Yellow Pages they call them, “Marriage Counselors.” They’re helpful because your spouse was raised one way and wounded by Suzy and cares about things you haven’t thought twice about, and in a lot of ways, they speak a dialect you don’t understand. I PROMISE. And guess what? They feel the same way about you. They hear you, but they don’t understand. They want to, and a marriage counselor sits on the other side and says, “Ah!” right before they repeat back to your spouse what you ACTUALLY said. It’s like there’s this invisible, annoying wall between you and your spouse. It pops up when you fight. And as you talk, your words go through that wall and come out the other side 100% garbled. A counselor will un-garble. Just be sure you find one that specializes in what you’re dealing with, “Laundry & Marriage Counselor!”

10) Your spouse will hurt you.
For the first few years after we were married, I would go to weddings and feel sad that our newlywed stage was over. I’d see the way the groom would beam at the bride and I wondered where Danny’s beaming eyes had gone? Was it my fault? Was it because I’d aged a little, had a couple kids? I would cry about that a lot. I wanted to not go to weddings at all. Now I go to weddings and give as much money as I’m capable of giving because I know -I KNOW -they are going to cross rough waters together and money -like sex and ice cream -doesn’t fix anything but can provide a bandage or cushion. Marriage is really a cool and amazing thing, but like most cool and amazing things, it requires work and sacrifice, honesty and compromise. Things are going to come up that you won’t expect AT ALL. You’ll be blind-sided by loss, health issues, financial travesty, addictions, mental health concerns -the list is endless! And it is all not just okay but incredibly good. You will make it through each day, and you’re lucky enough to have someone who is willing to sign up for the same thing you are! My advice here is short: Just clean your side of the street. Only yours. When you feel angry at them, hurt by them, turn around and find one of your own windows to clean. This is a hard way to live, but it is a better way to live. As you clean your own side of the street, you’ll have clarity and peace of mind to move forward. And guess what? There’s no Drama Ball Courts on clean streets.

That’s my TOP TEN IN TWELVE YEARS, and in 12 years I’m open to the possibility of it looking drastically different… and if I could add just one ironic little afterthought:

Marital advice is most often total bunk and ought to be taken carefully and very prayerfully. And the best news is that you will figure it all out -mostly likely the hard way.
“That’s the most effective way anyway!” she said, from experience.

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