Monday, September 29, 2014

stop and listen


When you have a large(ish) family, it's easy to get into efficiency mode, to snap out orders like a drill sergeant, to not really stop and listen to your children. I am guilty of cutting them off before they even finish a sentence. "Yeah, honey, that's have you brushed your teeth?"

Yesterday, Anwyn stood in the open doorway and just stared into the yard. We live in a small house cooled by window unit air conditioners and it takes approximately three minutes for all of the cool air to escape out the front door. I caught her in the corner of my eye and, slightly annoyed, started to call, "Anwyn, shut the door! You're letting all the cool air out!" But something in the way she stood, mesmerized, stopped me. In a moment, she shut the door and ran over to me with her eyes huge and shining.

"Mama, I saw a bird! There was a little baby bird in the yard!"

We see birds every day. I don't know why that particular one caught her attention, but I had almost killed the moment of child-wonder with my hasty words.

Bedtime can be craziness around here and often, exhausted from a long day and frazzled by the seemingly endless donning of pajamas, brushing of teeth, last drinks, story requests, food requests (really, you think we are going to let you eat graham crackers in bed at 10 p.m. ?) and other various and sundry stalling techniques, I am on a mission to get the lights OFF and collapse into a chair for a few moments of quiet.

But I've realized that bedtime is often when my children share their hearts. And if I rush the process, I miss that. When I stop, sit down on the bed for a moment and talk to them, listen to them, I learn things about them. Sometimes it is as simple as the fact that they would really like to watch Captain America tomorrow. But sometimes it's fears. Joys. Questions about their faith. Sometimes it's an unexpected "Mama, I just love you so much."

How many moments have I missed in the rush?

I'm re-resolving today to slow down. To stop. To listen. And to learn.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

fall flavors

Ok, I can't give you an exact recipe for this kale salad. I found the basic formula online somewhere...I think it was a vegan blog?...but I can't remember where. I wish that I could because I would like to give credit where credit is due and provide the link. Anyway, I never leave a recipe exactly as it is and I rarely measure ingredients when it comes to something as un-precise as a salad, so my version probably varies greatly from the original recipe. That doesn't change the fact that it is, bar none, the best kale salad you will ever eat.

Start with your fruits and veggies. Kale, of course, chopped or shredded. Carrots. Diced apples. Raisins or Craisins. Celery, which is optional but which adds a nice crunch.
Throw in a handful of chopped almonds or walnuts.
The dressing base is this, thrown into the blender:
1/2 c. raw almonds
2/3 c. water
To this, I add a little maple syrup or honey for sweetness, a clove of garlic, some powdered ginger, salt and pepper, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, a squirt of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste, adjust, add, experiment. You can't really go wrong with this flavor combination. Next time, I might throw in a dash of cayenne.
Pour over your fruits and veggies and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours to soften the kale and blend the flavors. If you can wait that long.
Try not to inhale the entire bowl in one sitting.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

autumn on the farm

mums from my incredible husband...he knows what I love!
It has happened at last: the brightness of summer has shifted to a warm, mellow golden light. On my morning walks, I am showered with falling leaves. I've even worn a hoodie and tall boots a time or two. 
feeding cornstalks to the cows
From now until the end of November (or maybe a bit longer, if I can stretch it out) is my very favorite time of year. Yes, I am one of those annoying people who puts pumpkin in everything from my coffee to my oatmeal and who dances under the harvest moon for the sheer joy of the season (ok, I don't really do that last thing, but it's an entertaining mental picture, yes?). I'm pretty sure that I experience seasonal affective disorder in reverse: instead of feeling blue during the cold, grey winter months, I feel that way in July and August. Summertime heat is just not my friend.
You just can't go wrong with homemade pizza in a cast iron pan.
Enter hearty, cheesy, hot meals. Enter hot cocoa and spiced cider. Enter glazed apple cookies and chili. Enter pumpkin pie.
Need I say more?

"the beast"
Enter long, dark evenings to read and crochet. See the progress on my mammoth afghan? I'm about a third of the way done and am thrilled with the way that it's turning out.

This is what she does when I say, "cozy".
Excuse the fuzzy picture, but I had to show you that it is toddler pre-approved.
There is something about these days, their brevity, their color, their crisp mornings and sleepy afternoons, something about the feeling that cold weather is just around the corner and that we must get everything tucked in and ready...that makes my heart sing. That makes me feel so incredibly thankful for my home, for my family, for life its self--and not just because Thanksgiving is almost here, but because every sense seems heightened at this time of year and I am more aware of the precious value of each moment.
Let us not waste a single one.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


I don't know about you, but when I think about great ethnic cuisine, Iceland doesn't immediately come to mind. However, the country as a whole fascinates me, so when I saw North, a new cookbook by Gunnar Karl Gislason and Jody Eddy, I very much wanted to read it. And I was blown away.

I love this cookbook for so many reasons. For starters, it is huge...a heavy, beautiful hardcover with a thick, glossy dust jacket. For another thing, it is far more than just a is a book that celebrates the landscape, the people and the traditions of Iceland. It includes stunning photography and a series of interviews with craftsmen and farmers who supply local, traditional foods, as well as travel tips, should you ever want to visit the country.

And then there are the recipes. If you are in the Weston A. Price traditional foods camp, you will love them. Fresh, homemade butter. Fish Roe. Kale. Homemade stock. Liver. To be perfectly honest, many of the recipes are far too involved for me to try (Buttermilk espuma, pickled and charred cucumbers and hay-smoked rye bread powder, for instance!), but some of them, like skyr, blueberries and cream, might actually find their way onto our table. If you don't know what skyr is (I didn't!), it's a thick, homemade cheese with a texture similar to Greek yogurt.

You can order North here.

I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for this review.

Friday, September 19, 2014

when i fail...and a few resources

This is my final post on a serious topic this week, one that has been an issue in my life and in the lives of countless other women that I know. My struggles with food and eating disorders have controlled me for years, and it is only in the last few months that I believe I have finally been able to begin to break free. I share my story in the hopes that it will help others who have travelled the same path.

Here you can read part one, part two, part three, part four and part five.

There are days when I fall back into old thought patterns and old behaviors. There are days that I turn to food for comfort. There are days that I have consumed half of the leftovers in the house before I come up for air and remember that I have just broken every guideline that I have set for myself. There are days that I feel insecure and I really couldn't care less about wholeness and victory and treating my body kindly and I just want to eat. Everything. There are days when ice cream wins over journaling.

So what do I do when I fail?

In the old days, I would stand in front of the mirror and rail on myself. "What is the matter with you? How could you be so weak? You will never win this battle. You're destined to be a slave to food forever." Then I would curl up in a fetal position in bed and fall asleep to the drumming of self-hatred in my soul. I would wake up the next morning and make myself pay. No sugar. No wheat. No dairy. Raw vegetables only. Maybe a disgusting greenish-brown juice. I would dress in frumpy clothes that matched my feeling of value (or lack thereof).

When one of my children fails, my goal is to gently point out where they have gone wrong and then to restore them. That's what I do with myself now. I acknowledge my fall, I trace my behavior back to the source and recognize where I fell prey to one of those ugly lies that rears its head now and then. I counter the lie with truth from God's Word.

Then I move on with kindness. Wear something that makes me feel pretty. Fix a cup of peppermint tea. Read a good book for a few minutes. Go on a walk outside with my family. Take a hot bath.

The next morning, I fix myself a nutritious breakfast, something that I especially love to eat (like oatmeal with banana, tahini and dark chocolate. It's my favorite weird flavor combination.) I put yesterday behind me, and I move on.


I have stumbled upon a few resources in my frantic, late-night searches for answers that have helped me tremendously and I list them here, not in any particular order, in the hopes that they will help others as well. These aren't affiliate links...I simply share them because I believe in them.

I am very hesitant to recommend some of these resources because they come from a decidedly non-Christian standpoint and I don't want anyone to think that I endorse the authors' views on other things. Unfortunately, I have found very few practical, helpful resources that deal with the issue from a Biblical perspective. So if you check these out, please, please do so with caution and discernment.

How to Break Free From Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth

Why Weight? A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth

Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

 Geneen's books do include a certain amount of her blend of Far Eastern religion and New Age, so I do not agree with her view of God and spirituality. Neither do I endorse her political/lifestyle/morality views, which are obviously far to the left of where I stand. You will occasionally find profanity in what she writes. But if you can get past that, her research and experience with food issues on a broader level are very helpful.

Can You Stay For Dinner?  This is actually a food blog, but the author, Andie Mitchell, lost over a hundred pounds,  fought emotional eating and won, and she tells her story in many of her posts. Her blog was my first clue that my experience was more common than I realized, that I wasn't crazy. She does focus a lot on weight loss, which I try not to do, but there's some good stuff there on the "whys" of turning to food for comfort. She has gone on to write a memoir, due to be published next year, and she has also done a TED talk where she addresses  some of her issues. Again, please don't come away with the idea that I endorse her views on life in general...but when it comes to food, she has a lot of insight.

Intuitive Eating I have not actually read this book, but it looks to be along the lines of everything else that I have read, and it has been endorsed by some people that I have read and liked.

I do want to say, in closing, that I don't believe all structured eating plans to be bad. There are people who have benefited hugely from eating  Paleo , or Vegan, or juicing, or going on the Trim Healthy Mama diet. I have gained valuable nutritional information from every diet that I have researched and tried, and I still implement aspects of them into the way that we eat. However, for people who are wired like me (not everyone is), food and dieting quickly become an obsession and get out of control, and I now believe that we must scale back in order to achieve balance.

This is the end of my series, but not the end of my story. To everyone who is in the trenches with me, let me say this: There is hope. There is always hope. Freedom is possible.

 If I can do it, then anyone can.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

embracing emotion

While I normally try to keep things light and cheerful here on this blog, I am tackling a more serious topic this week, one that has been an issue in my life and in the lives of countless other women that I know. My issues with food and eating disorders have controlled me for years, and it is only in the last few months that I believe I have finally been able to begin to break free. I share my story in the hopes that it will help others who have travelled the same path. I would be remiss if I don't mention that many of the concepts that I have learned have been through the work of Geneen Roth, a leading expert on eating disorders. While I don't endorse her views on spirituality, her insights on issues pertaining to emotional/compulsive eating have been invaluable to me on this journey.

Read part 1 here.

Read part 2 here.

Read part 3 here.

Read part 4 here.

It's a valid concern: If I binge eat to numb my emotions, to avoid feeling pain or anger or boredom or inadequacy...then if I stop bingeing, I have to feel those emotions. And I don't think I am strong enough to bear them.

Emotions, feelings--they are what make us fully alive. As a teen, I read Lois Lowry's book The Giver, in which a world had been crafted that was void of emotion. No love, no grief, no joy, no struggle...just dead, smooth, expressionless existence. It's a scary place.

True life, true freedom comes, not when we run from and numb our feelings but when we lean into them, when we embrace them, when we accept them as the glorious, terrible, incredible colors of our world.

Is it hard? One word: yes. Is it worth it? One word: yes.

When we start to experience sorrow or pain or frustration, our instinct for self-preservation causes us to immediately turn the other way. I am working to train myself to turn into the emotion rather than to turn away from it. To look it square in the eye, to let it wash over me, to immerse myself in it. And you know what? Often, it's not as bad as I initially thought it would be. I don't go crazy, often I find myself saying, "This is what I was so afraid of? I can handle this!"

There are big things, of course. Great loss. Great trauma. Terminal illness. Things that are every bit as bad as we would expect them to be, or worse. And in those cases, I believe that we often need a coping mechanism. But food is not a good one to choose. Food doesn't take away the pain, it adds another pain on top of what is already there. Surrounding ourselves with people who love us, journaling, walking in the woods, sitting in quiet meditation, music, a creative outlet--these are things that will help us to embrace and work through the reality of our situation, rather than causing us more grief. This summer, I lost someone who was very dear to me. There were times that I turned to food for comfort. But there were other times when I spent an hour in my garden, tending my plants while I cried and prayed and remembered. I never failed to feel better afterwards.

I have never felt better after a binge.

The flip side of embracing and working through negative emotions is that we are able to fully experience positive emotion. Great joy. Great love. An exuberant, unbounded zest for life that we never thought would be possible. A confidence in ourselves. A confidence in God. Without pain, without brokenness, there could not be joy. There could not be wholeness. To grieve deeply means that we have loved deeply.

At the end of my life, I want to know that I have lived, not that I have spent my years in escape. I want to know that I have sucked the marrow out of life, that I have felt everything that could be felt, that I have embraced all of it--the good, the bad and the ugly--with my whole heart.

I dreamed the other night that I was running. It wasn't the painful, vanity-induced exercise that I have experience in my adult years, but the full-on, effortless flight of childhood. I grew up in the high mountain desert of southeastern Arizona, and I would run and run and run for the sheer joy of it, for the wind in my hair. I felt winged. This was partly because I was in better physical shape than I am now (!), but I believe that the main difference in then and now is that then, I wasn't weighed down with the emotional baggage that I carry with me now. A child embraces emotion. She cries hard, she laughs hard, she feels deeply, she lets things go. When I woke up from my dream, I felt such disappointment that I still lay in bed, heavy and tired.

I want wings again. And I believe that they are within my grasp.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


While I normally try to keep things light and cheerful here on this blog, I am tackling a more serious topic this week, one that has been an issue in my life and in the lives of countless other women that I know. My issues with food and eating disorders have controlled me for years, and it is only in the last few months that I believe I have finally been able to begin to break free. I share my story in the hopes that it will help others who have travelled the same path. I would be remiss if I don't mention that many of the concepts that I have learned have been through the work of Geneen Roth, a leading expert on eating disorders. While I don't endorse her views on spirituality, her insights on issues pertaining to emotional/compulsive eating have been invaluable to me on this journey.

Read part 1 here.

Read part 2 here.

Read part 3 here.

Overcoming emotional eating doesn't happen overnight.

The steps that got me to this point took place over a matter of years, and re-training my heart, mind and body to new thought and behavior patterns requires effort and discipline. Some days it feels like two steps forward, three steps back, but I can look back now and see progress. It began with recognizing and accepting truth. Next I had to decide to treat myself kindly. The third step, at least for me, is to live mindfully. Intentionally. With awareness. To take myself off of cruise control and to think about what I do.

The thing about binge eating, or even emotional eating that doesn't go as far as a binge, is that you have to mentally "check out" to some degree. On the really bad days, it's not uncommon for a person to consume ten thousand calories in sugar and junk food and then to wake up, almost as if in a they were in a trance, and say "what in the world did I just do?" Haven't we all, in moments of stress, grabbed a bag of chips or nuts or crackers and taken our anxiety out in the crunching, without ever really tasting the food?

My days now are filled with questions. Sometimes I ask them out loud.

"Am I hungry?" If the answer is yes, then I eat. If the answer is no, then I ask myself, "Why do I want to eat when I am not hungry? The answer to this one varies. I'm bored. I'm tired. I'm worried about _________ (get specific). The baby won't stop crying and the kids won't stop asking questions and I feel like I'm going to lose my mind. I'm scared. I'm questioning myself. I'm angry.

Then I ask myself, "Is there something besides food that would help me deal with this emotion?"

Many times, just digging to the root of my desire to eat is enough to make me not want to eat any more. If it isn't, If I still feel that I simply must eat something, I may still let myself have food. But I am doing it as the result of a conscious choice, not because a stressed-out robot has taken control of my body.

I'm learning to pay attention to fullness as well, and training myself to usually stop when I reach a point of feeling satiated. This takes practice! So many times, I finish a meal or a snack and feel overly full and I say, "Rats, I forgot all about noticing my full cues!" But I remember to notice more and more often.

I am trying to eat sitting down, off of a plate, and without distraction. This means that I try not to eat out of boxes or bags, I try not to eat while I am fixing a meal or cleaning up afterwards, I try to not eat in front of the TV, computer, or with a book or magazine. I try to just focus on the food in front of me, on the meal that we are enjoying. Again, I don't do this perfectly. Old habits die hard, and I often forget until I have already grabbed some crackers out of a box or eaten leftovers off of the kids' plates.

I eat in front of people. It's amazing how hard this was at first...I was so used to hiding, to sneaking, to the guilt associated with food. Raise your hand if you have ever hidden in the bathroom with a piece of cake. And then quickly shoved the dirty plate in the dishwasher, wiped your mouth and practiced your nonchalant expression before your husband walked into the house. Yep, been there!

I can eat anything that I want, any time that I want it. But I must think about it before I do.

Not only must I think about hunger and fullness and about my reason for eating, but I also must think about what I eat, and decide whether or not it is really what I want, the kindest way to treat my body. I might think that I really want a piece of cake, but I know that when I eat it, I will instantly get a headache and feel sluggish and sleepy. So I pass. Another time, we might be celebrating a birthday and I know that having a piece of cake will not only taste good but make me feel happy and part of the celebration. So I try to make my decision based on what is the very best thing for me at that moment. One morning, I might crave something solid and comforting like oatmeal or toast. Another day, when I really stop and ask myself what I am wanting/needing, it might be something cool and light, like fruit. If I am really craving a chocolate brownie with icing and sprinkles for breakfast, I am allowed to eat it--as long as I think about what I am doing, as long as I don't simply react and scarf, as long as I believe it to be the kindest thing for my body.

I have found that if I crave the brownie but make myself eat eggs instead, I end up eating eggs and toast and fruit and leftover macaroni and cheese and banana bread and cereal and peanut butter off of a spoon...and then I end up eating the brownie anyway, because that's what I've wanted all along!

Sugar isn't the greatest thing from a nutritional standpoint and in general, I would say that it's best to limit it. But stress and rigidity is also unhealthy, and  there are times when I believe that socially, emotionally or experientially, the healthiest thing is to go ahead and have the dessert!

When I first gave myself permission to eat anything, I felt a little giddy, and I have probably gone overboard in trying things that I haven't been able to eat without guilt in years. I had a donut at church the other day. Me. A donut, people! And I didn't even hide in Stephen's office to do it! Overall though, I find that as time goes on and the "forbidden fruit" factor is gone, I don't want nearly as much junk food as I did at first. As I learn to care for myself, I realize that I want to eat in a way that makes me feel good.

I'm still figuring all of this out. But every day of eating with awareness is one more step toward food freedom.