Enjoy this Life

These last six months for me have just been a whole mess of emotions and thoughts and musings and wonderings and questions and seeking. My stress and anxiety have been through the ROOF. I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately.

A. LOT.

enjoy“What does living a healthy life truly look like for ME?” – I’m trying to break the terrible habit of comparison, that bitch.

“What do I really believe, deep down in my heart and soul?” – Both De- and Re-Construction can wreak havoc on one’s spirit.

“Who am I?” – Surely I’m more than a stay at home mom and a full time housewife, right?

“What is/are my passion(s)?” – That answer used to be easy and concise – yoga. Now it’s a bit fuzzier.

“What do I want out of my life?” – What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino? Elephino!

Any of you who’ve been in my life in some form or another have heard me talk about living a life of mindfulness. I believe so deeply in listening to my own body, my own soul, my own spirit; being watchful for cues and needs. When I was living that way, all the time, I was so much more at peace, even despite turmoil in my personal life, in the nation, in my relationships. I’ve lost sight of that. This is going to change.

Those closest to me know how hard I am on myself. It could even be argued that I enjoy punishing myself – mentally, emotionally, etc. I don’t enjoy it, by they way. I’ve just somehow gotten so confused along the way of my adult life that I feel like I deserve it. That’s a whole other saga for another time, but regardless, clearly not a healthy or enjoyable way to live, right?

I’m also a big list maker. And I’m always convinced that with each new list I write – each new plan I form, my life will be changed forever. I’ll lose weight and everything will be great again. I’ll find a creative outlet and everything will be great again. I’ll buy clothes and beauty products and essential oils and everything will be great again. Constantly exhausting myself by searching searching searching for the next thing I’m sure will heal all of my brokenness and make life peachy.

Today I had kind of a breaking point. One of those ugly cry sob-fests that builds and builds and builds until you just kind of implode. I had just finished a yoga practice focused around self care (you don’t say!) and I decided to meditate for a bit. I opened up my meditation app on my phone, sprawled into a wide legged child’s pose and sobbed for about ten minutes. Divine Love showed up there. I was ever so gently reminded of my value, of how my I am loved, and of how much more credit I need to give my own God given intuition.

wineIt’s been…not an easy year so far. I’ve lost friendships that had appeared to be lifers. I’ve mourned over the discord in our nation. I’ve struggled with finances, with HAVING A TODDLER FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, with my self esteem, with my marriage, with my dreams and hopes and faith and future.

But today. Today I was rescued. Today I was loved. Today I was rejuvenated (enough for a jumpstart at least) and given hope again. Today I remembered that my life, here and now, is only one small part. Nora being a two year old WILL NOT LAST FOREVER. And dammit, we will get that girl potty trained one day. My role as full time housewife and SAHM will not last forever. And all things considered, this is a time I want to be present for. So I resolved to enjoy this life. The here and now. I will get back to living and loving mindfully; to trusting my God given intuition; to appreciating the innocent pleasures and little joys that each day brings, even if I have to look really hard to find them; even if I have to create them myself.

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I will appreciate my cool, crisp glass of Rosè on a warm summer evening. I will relish the sacred time spent on my yoga mat and in meditation. I will make time for own mental and physical health; I’ll take detox baths and continue dry brushing and I will reach out to those who have gone before me and created a soft place for me to land when I crash in a pile of doubt. I will soften my soul and make my heart tender. I will soak up each sweet exchange between my daughter and myself. I will love my husband well.

I will enjoy this life.

I Have Something to Say

A quick note before I get started:
I am in the slow process of bringing my personal blog back to life, which includes transferring all of my old posts to this site, as well as slowly editing the page to get the look I want. I appreciate your patience as all of these changes occur.
So, hello! It’s been a while.
Someone recently queried as to why I wasn’t writing anymore. I told them simply that I didn’t have anything to say. I supposed that’s changed now. I love writing (when there’s no deadline). Those of you who’ve followed along with me throughout the years know how much I love words. I’ve missed this.
Those of you who’ve followed along with me throughout the years have also seen me create and destroy this blog a handful of times. Over the past several months, I had lots to say and I said it loudly. It’s been a very tumultuous season for our nation and I felt compelled to speak up and out about a myriad of issues. While I stand firmly by my own beliefs, it was around the beginning of April or so that I felt compelled to quiet down a bit. I took a short break from Instagram (the only social media I will be a part of) and I got quiet. I meditated, I mulled, I considered, I talked with my sister and husband, I even prayed some.
I had a really tough day (okay like six weeks but we’ll start with this particular day) earlier this week, and I’d had a little wine and teensy emotional breakdown and decided to spill my guts all over Instagram. I wrote about the stress I was under, impending decisions that were making me anxious, my insecurities about my body, and then I took a wide turn and began spewing words of disdain towards the western evangelical church and the Bible and on and on. The next day I re-read what I’d written and took the post down immediately. You see sometimes I get it in my head that if I don’t yell, I won’t be heard. But the thing is, when you (I) start yelling, people stop listening. All anyone wants is to be understood, right?
Balance is not one of my strong suits. It’s this elusive thing I have been furiously chasing for most of my life and never quite landing there, at least not for long. I am naturally an extremist and I DO NOT LIKE THIS about myself. I swing so far to opposite ends of the pendulum that I make myself sick and dizzy. I want balance. I need balance. I (we) was (were) made for a balanced life. Balance is good and it’s healthy. Balance helps me love others better. Balance helps me to be a better friend, a better wife, a better mom, a better person. Balance helps keep me sane. And yet I have so much trouble getting myself to that place.
I have a friend who is heavily involved in her church. When I say heavily involved, I mean she and her husband are the lead pastors. She recently asked me basically why she and I had a good relationship (although she was glad for it!) when she felt she represented an institution that I have so much tension with. I answered her as thoughtfully as I could in the moment, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what she said. I talked with Shawn for a while, just sort of getting all my thoughts out into the air. That’s how I solve a lot of problems actually – I speak them out loud, sort through the pieces, and put together a solution.
Anyways, as I was talking and my mind was racing a thousand different thoughts a minutes, I realized how out of balance I’d become. If my friend had to ask me that question, I’ve clearly been yelling a lot about that subject; my feelings about the church and the Bible and so forth. I’ve clearly been yelling about a lot of things. I told Shawn that I don’t want my life to be remembered for everything I’m against, I don’t want to be remembered for what I’ve yelled about. I want to leave a legacy, for lack of a better word, of love, of kindness, of patience, of listening, of being respectful and honoring other people simply because they are people, regardless of any difference of opinion or belief or faith.
So now I have something to say. Not something to yell. I am a very passionate person and I care very deeply about what I believe to be right and true and good. I believe that all people, regardless of gender, of race, of ethnicity, of sexual orientation, of political standing, of status, are very much equal in every way, as humans, and should be respected and loved as such. I believe that God is BIG (big enough to be He or She or anything else, but that’s another thought for another time) and loves us all so much, in a way we can’t begin to imagine. I believe that when God looks at us, humankind, that what is seen is only Love. I believe that we aren’t seen by our flaws or “sins” or what anyone else might consider to be wrong. We are only seen through Love.
I love God very, very much. Because I love God so much, I want to see humankind through Love. There is, of course, a difference in seeing all people through Love, and not standing against blatant evil. Love fights against evil and it stands up for the rights of the defenseless, the oppressed and the marginalized. I’m headed towards a tangent so I’ll get to my main point now. Forgive me for taking the long way to get here.
I have been in a process of “spiritual deconstruction” for about four years now. What that means is that I took a step back from everything I was taught or learned or came up with growing up regarding God and Love and Jesus and the church and the Bible, and I pulled it apart. I broke it down, I threw it out, I started from scratch. I did this because I began to notice a lot of actions, words, and beliefs from this particular people group that I could no longer reconcile with Love. I began to notice hypocrisy (I mean, I’m not immune to it, don’t get me wrong). I began to notice bigotry, sexism, even hate at times. I removed myself from anything and everything related to western Christianity and the western church and even Scripture. The Bible has been translated so many times into so many different languages that I have trouble believing it to be “infallible” (something I was taught at a very young age).
However, it isn’t fair or even correct for me to throw all Scripture away and deem it irrelevant, which I have said before. The Bible, while not perfect, still carries a lot of wisdom, perspective, and even comfort when needed. It is not irrelevant. Not everyone involved in a church somehow is a hypocrite, or a bigot, or a misogynist. I don’t hate all pastors (I don’t hate anyone…well, I work hard not to ::coughDonaldTrumpcough::) and I don’t think all the good has gone out of the hearts of Christians. It was unfair for me to lump every person into a pile like that, and for that I apologize and I ask that you forgive me.
I’m still sorting through many of my broken pieces. While I may still disagree with a lot of things involved in “Christian Culture”, I’m going to work hard at looking through the eyes of Love and speaking kindly about the good and healthy, rather than yelling about the rotten. Another thing my friend said to me was that she’d been battered by the church a lot, so she understood where I was coming from. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that either, because despite the battering, she is a pastor! She keeps moving forward in Love. I want to live like that. Despite the hurt and confusion and anger, despite the battering, I want to move forward in Love.
I like to consider myself an open minded person, mostly because I’m a liberal. But I read a quote a few weeks ago that punched me right in the gut. It said that an open minded person isn’t just someone with a liberal perspective, but someone who is always willing to listen and understand and learn.
So, I’m done yelling. I lost my voice because of it. The Bible mentions that the Holy Spirit whispers to us gently. Well, I do believe in the Spirit, and now I want to follow suit and whisper gently. Divine Love is loud and big on it’s own; I don’t need to raise my voice for it. I just need to live it.

Meals! Meals! Meals!

A few days ago, after this post on my various social media accounts, I had several of you ask me to consider writing a “meal planning” post. So here we are!

Now, truthfully, you should know that I don’t technically plan my meals out for the week. For the most part, I just keep specific foods on hand and a bevy of various meals already in my arsenal. So I thought I’d share with you the foods we keep on hand regularly, the foods we buy occasionally, and the meals that occupy my rotation. If you’ve found yourself stuck in a food rut, I hope you find this helpful and maybe even inspiring!

groceries

 

My “Keep on Hand” Foods:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries (raspberries are my personal favorite)
  • Cheese (sliced and shredded)
  • Green Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Russet Potatoes
  • Ground Beef
  • Chicken Breasts
  • Brown Eggs
  • Avocados
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Baby Carrots
  • Salsa
  • Green Onions
  • Red Onions
  • Minced Garlic
  • Olive 0il
  • Coconut Oil
  • Spinach
  • Frozen Fruits and Veggies (to make Nora’s food/my green drinks)
  • Bread (also for Nora)
  • Almond Milk
  • Whole Milk
  • Raw Nuts
  • Bell Peppers
  • Forbidden (black) Rice
  • Hot Sauce
  • Romaine Hearts
  • Dark Chocolate (70% or higher)
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Turkey Bacon
  • Turkey Kielbasa
  • Real Butter
  • Guacamole
  • Black Beans
  • Chicken Broth
  • Aidell’s Chicken Apple Sausage
  • Fair Trade Coffee
  • Hot Tea

My “Less Common” Foods:

*A note about my less common foods: these are less common for us due to the season, cost, amount of sugar, or I just forget about them.berriesWe do our best to buy grass fed, organic, non GMO foods with the cleanest ingredients. However, unfortunately sometimes our budget just doesn’t allow for it, so we do the best we can with what we have. For example, I’d much rather buy Applegate Turkey Bacon, but right now we have to use Jennie-O because that’s what works for our budget. We try to keep our meals full of protein and veggies, and sparse on grains. I’m not against grains, per se, but since I’m personally trying to lose some extra weight, making grains a rarity in our meals helps me a lot. I also use herbs and spices in everything. They add so much flare and flavor to meals and make them so much more enjoyable.

Now onto the meals I keep in our regular rotation. I like these meals the most because they’re delicious, first of all, but also because their prep doesn’t tend to drain what little energy I have left at the end of the day. eggs and avo

 

  • Fried Eggs (in olive oil spray): paired with sliced avocado or leftover potatoes (sweet or russet). For “Southwest Style”, I add cumin, chili powder, paprika, cilantro, green onions and hot sauce. Or you can have them all by themselves with just some sea salt and pepper!
  • Scramble Bowls: eggs scrambled with a mix of any of the following: minced garlic, fresh spinach, chicken apple sausage, avocado, green onions, sliced cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, shredded cheese, goat cheese, salsa, hot sauce. Possibilities are limitless, be creative!Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
  • Baked Drumsticks with Oven Roasted Green Beans: chicken legs seasoned with seasoned salt or sea salt, garlic powder, paprika, topped with pats of butter or ghee; green beans tossed in olive oil and seasoned with s&p. I personally like to bake my chicken legs until the outside is nice and crispy! burritobowl
  • Burrito Bowls: our version of Chipotle’s Naked Burrito; grilled chicken or southwest style seasoned ground beef or ground chicken, chopped romaine hearts, cooked black beans, chopped green onions, sauteed veggies of choice (we like bell peppers and zucchini/squash), and forbidden rice topped with a sprinkle of monterey jack or cheddar cheese and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
  • Turkey Kielbasa, Bell Pepper and Potato Skillet: pretty much exactly that; I pull out my big electric skillet and cook those three ingredients (sometimes four, if I add red onions) in real butter and minced garlic, season with s&p, and it’s good to go! greendrink
  • Green Drink: two handfuls of spinach, a cup or so of coconut water, two handfuls of frozen tropical fruit, two or three tablespoons of pure lime juice, a sprinkle of unsweetened shredded coconut, blended to perfection.
  • Bunless Burgers with Fries: ground beef seasoned with s&p, ground sage, and minced garlic, topped with either a slice of cheese or a dollop of guacamole (or both if you like), with a side of either baked sweet or russet potato fries. Sometimes if I’m feeling too tired, instead of hand slicing the fries, I’ll use a bag of Alexia fries because they have a pretty clean list of ingredients. salad
  • Salads: chopped romaine hearts or spinach, topped with whatever the hell you want; turkey bacon, cherry tomatoes, hardboiled egg, sunflower seeds, goat cheese, shredded cheese, red onions, green onions, bell peppers, berries, nuts, grilled chicken, dressing (but not too much now), oil and vinegar. We don’t eat salads for dinner a whole lot during the winter because we usually want something nice and hot, but they’re a big hit during the summer! Occasionally if I’m craving the green crunch, I’ll make a nice, big salad for lunch.Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset
  • Hearty Vegetable Stoup: you can actually find the entire recipe in this recent post of mine.
  • Chili: I make a version of Ree Drummond’s recipe; I use all dark red kidney beans.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
  • Grilled Chicken with Juli Bauer’s Spicy Sweet Potatoes: that pretty much sums it up; simple and delicious!
  • Baked Potatoes: we don’t have them terribly often, but if we’re in need of something easy and filling; baked russet potatoes topped with a reasonable amount of real butter or ghee, green onions, s&p, shredded cheese and Greek yogurt.
  • Chicken Fajitas: sliced chicken, bell peppers and red onions, either cooked in the skillet or baked in the oven; topped with a little shredded cheese and a bit of Greek yogurt, no tortillas needed!
  • pancakesBreakfast or Brinner: also a very diverse meal; eggs any way you like, turkey bacon, potatoes, chicken apple sausage, fresh fruit, pancakes – take your pick! We keep pancakes as a very special treat, but when I make them, I either use an almond flour recipe, or Kodiak Cakes because I also trust their ingredients, and just a drizzle of real maple syrup.charcuterie
  • Charcuterie: another special occasion meal (i.e. we are having this tonight while we watch the Golden Globes), because putting a great charcuterie tray together can get expensive, but totally worth it; choose from any of the following (or all of it!): sliced cheese (my favorites are havarti, sharp cheddar, provolone and muenster), sliced deli meats (turkey breast, hard salami, pepperoni, pastrami, etc), a variety of crackers (water crackers wth cracked pepper are my fave), dips or spreads including sweet and spicy mustard, goat cheese, yellow mustard or sriracha, maybe some fruits (I love Granny Smith apples on my platter), but some stone fruits such as plums or peaches would work also. You can always add some fun extras like raw nuts, baby pickles, or olives.

I’m sure I could think of so many more meals to share with you, but I’ll keep it to these for now. My list of “keep on hand” foods provides me with such a wide variety of options and ideas, that I almost don’t have to write out a weekly menu, which I don’t do anyway. Because the ingredients are fresh and simple, they also provide me with lovely, healthy snack when the mood strikes me. I love having a nice snack of fresh raspberries. I eat one small piece of dark chocolate each night, you know, “for the antioxidants”.

I hope that this was helpful to you and maybe you’ll be inspired to try some new meals! I’d love to hear your thoughts or any of your recipe ideas as well!

 

Mud

I am not a film critic. Not professionally, anyways. I am deeply passionate about the art of storytelling through film.  I try not to express more than a few sentences about the films I see unless specifically asked. I will, however, make an exception when I come across something that I simply cannot keep quiet about. Mud is one of those films.

Mud is a story told from the perspective of a fourteen year old boy from Dewitt, Arkansas named Ellis (Tye Sheridan). Ellis lives with his mother and father on a houseboat on the banks of what we assume is the Mississippi River. It is clear that the boy’s family is not wealthy as the houseboat is makeshift and rickety. Senior, Ellis’ father, makes a living by selling and delivering the fish he catches.

One morning, Ellis sneaks out early, before dawn, to meet up with his best friend Neckbone to travel up river to a small island on the Mississippi. The purpose of the boys’ endeavor is to procure an abandoned boat that was washed up into the trees on the island after a flood.

As the young boys examine the corroded remains of the boat, they stumble across a bag of groceries and discover that someone has been living in the boat. Enter Mud (Matthew McConaughey).  mud

Mud is a mysterious, sun stained, handsomely disheveled fugitive with a penchant for exaggeration and superstition. Ellis is drawn to Mud, his curiosity piqued and heart strings tugged. Ellis wants to help Mud. He continues to make his way to the island, day after day to visit Mud. He arrives one day with his backpack full of canned goods he pillaged from his mother’s cupboard. Mud is gracious and thankful for Ellis’ friendship and generosity.

Mud begins to feel more comfortable with Ellis and begins asking him for help to communicate with his (Mud’s) estranged girlfriend, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Ellis is happy to oblige, after all, Mud says the crimes he committed were done so in the name of undying love.

After a violent encounter with a dangerous stranger while trying to covertly deliver Mud’s message to Juniper, Ellis begins to realize the gravity of the situation he has allowed himself to be thrown into. Despite the ever-present looming threat of peril, Ellis persists with this love fueled mission. He continues to clandestinely deliver messages to Juniper and acts as accomplice in a failed attempt to bring Juniper and Mud together.

In the story of Mud, Ellis is the picture of pure hearted self-sacrifice. The child is mature and strong beyond his years, yet balanced with an innocent, boyish charm. The hope and desperation he carries in his own heart for love to survive and conquer all is compelling and brave.

I so love this story because of the raw emotion it evokes. It is heartbreaking and hopeful in one breath.

Mud is a beautifully poignant film, and easily one of the greatest I have seen yet.

You can view the trailer here: