hold onto love.

Friday I’m in love. With Bangkok. With Thailand. With my family. With new adventures. With pushing myself beyond what I used to think I was capable of doing. With knowing that inner growth has been inspired by motherhood.

IMG_7544

Ten and a half years ago, Collin and I came here to Thailand for our honeymoon. We spent one month traveling, backpacking, hitch-hiking, rafting down rivers. We stayed in thatched-roof bungalows with (harmless) (but HUGE) coconut snakes living inside in the rafters, and venomous cobras dwelling underneath. One of our first days here during that trip, we were on Khao San Road (an international, backpacker scene) and we, newlyweds that we were, spotted a young family of four. The parents looked to be in their early thirties, the kids both under the age of 4; I remember it so vividly. Coldplay’s “Clocks” was blasting on the street, and life felt magical, infinite. Time stood still for a moment. The smells, the sounds, and that little family sparked something inside of me. I wanted that to be us in 10 years. And now it is.

IMG_7463

During that same trip, we traveled south to a tiny island named Koh Jum for our last week in Thailand. A woman named Delia gave me something and called it my lucky bean. I never knew exactly what it was; a bean, a seed, a shell, or otherwise. I kept it these ten years, and I brought it back here on this trip for sentimental reasons.

 

Last week, on our last morning at that beautiful beach where we stayed, I had about an hour to myself. I walked the shores and decided in my heart that I wanted to find something significant. “It seems like the kind of thing that should happen on my last morning at this beach” I distinctly thought to myself. “Send me something God, please, that will give me direction for my life.” Within moments, I heard tiny, little footsteps getting closer and closer behind me. It was Senya. My eyes filled with tears. Yes, this was something special indeed. And yes, this is what I’m doing with my life right now.

Photo on 1-22-14 at 12.30 PM #2

Senya and I combed the shores together for beautiful shells and coral. Guess what I found? Another lucky bean. A bigger one.

 

I may not know where we will live in a year from now. I may not know what ten more years from now will look like. But I do know this; I have been blessed beyond all fathomable belief with true love. Love that brings life. Love that has, at times, cost us everything. Literally, we lost all our dollars (and more) at one point pursuing dreams that didn’t quite work out as planned.

We moved from our cozy, dreamy cabin on our 2.8 acres of wooded property to live in a rustic 450 square foot cabin in Topanga for a year. I drove a crappy car that I had to fill up with water every ten minutes so it didn’t overheat in hot weather. On cold mornings, I had to open the hood and bang the starter with a hammer to get the engine going…in one of the wealthiest places in the USA.

I quit my job and finished my Master’s and traded it all to be a stay at home mom in a culture that considers that Nanny’s work. I learned to drive and navigate my own way for the first time in a land of 5-lane highways that all warrant an article before their names because of how intense they are (THE 101, THE 405, etc).

And THEN. I moved to Arkansas.

That’s love, folks.

No, just kidding. Northwest Arkansas isn’t bad at all.

Here in Thailand, I’ve realized how strong all that has made me. I navigated my way all over this place with Senya and Juniper while Collin worked in Bangkok each day. I took public transportation–the Skytrain–and even used a map to figure out the route and everything. What? Who am I? I’m a mom; that’s who. A mom who would rather get lost in a city where I can’t speak the language than sit around bored in a place full of opportunity for my kids to live, experience, and fall in love with traveling.

IMG_7109

 

IMG_7545

And I’m a soul mate. A soul mate promised to my true love forever, whatever that looks like.

 

I guess all those little anecdotes I noted above are bragging rights now…scars of which I’m proud. I’ve always liked scars; they tell stories of what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve survived, what we’ve overcome. I’ve gotten my most impressive ones living. Truly living. I won’t get any new ones when I’m dead, probably.

IMG_2036

Collin’s got his own story of the past ten years of sacrifice, facing fears, digging deeper for meaning and truth than he formerly knew how. He’s worked on himself, on his life, on his career, and in every way possible. He has worked extremely hard. For what? For love.

IMG_1264

We are probably some of the happiest people on the planet. We truly love our life. But it would be dishonest if I didn’t say that we’ve worked for it. It would be like presenting a photoshopped image of a magazine model as reality for me to pretend that happiness doesn’t take effort. Happiness and love take work, take strength, and perseverance.

 

I had this dream once right before we were married. Collin and I stood hand in hand facing the ocean. Others were there, standing in the water scattered around. We were watching, waiting for a tidal wave to come. We could see it coming in the distance. We were bracing ourselves, but not terrified. It came; it crashed over all of us. I saw Collin and me together, under the water…the power of the water above thrashing us violently underneath. Yet our hands remained clasped together securely, and we were okay. It felt so real and so deep. The memory of that dream is as vivid today as it was the morning I woke from it.

 

Hold onto love, folks. It’s our best gift. It’s a gift that’s meant for more than keeping in a glass case. It’s meant to be used, spent, and allowed to work its magic. The magic is it never fails, it never runs out, it never ultimately disappoints us as long as we Keep. On. Going. It’s strength. It’s life. It’s inspiration.

 

Believe in Love. Fight for it. Sacrifice for it. Follow the road wherever that love takes you. And don’t be afraid. Oh, and enjoy the adventure…because this is life.

 

 

Why it’s worth a difficult day of traveling…

Two days ago was a doozy. Picture violent fits on a tiny airplane. Picture little pals screaming and spitting and yelling at well-meaning strangers (flight attendants, taxi drivers, and anyone who looked in our direction, generally). Picture a long day of traveling and waiting to travel and being out of our hotel room hours before our flight, a delayed flight, and then taxi drivers who insist on driving you even when they have absolutely no idea where to go (and yet they just start driving).

IMG_7203

IMG_7211

Imagine after all that wanting desperately to just arrive at a comfy hotel where you can all fall asleep only to find that the room is approximately 90 degrees and there’s no baby crib; there’s just a dingy sofa mattress on the floor for your baby. And thank GOD that you decide you’re definitely NOT going to put your precious baby on that dingy mattress because mere moments after you resolve not to do so, a SPIDER THE SIZE OF YOUR HAND (not exaggerating. I promise.) runs across the dingy mattress. Imagine both kids screaming (mostly because *their mother* is screaming) and a desperate dad/husband running around chasing that large animal-esque spider with a random, large umbrella (circa 1975) that he grabbed from the corner of the room. Imagine that the spider is now jumping. JUMPING. At everyone. And landing on dedicated dad/husband from time to time causing more screaming. More screaming from everyone. It was more terrifying than any scene from Arachnophobia. Comical now for sure, but at the time…it was less than awesome.

giant-crab-spider

I did not sleep much more than a few uncomfortable winks that night. I clutched Juniper in my arms all night, and Collin held Senya. As I was lying in bed, I was wondering why we do this…why Collin and I always choose the path that is inevitably less easy, less comfortable, less normal. I was questioning my decision making skills and my wisdom as a mom.

 

And then.

IMG_7217

After a taxi and a boat ride the next morning…

 

We arrived to Railay Beach.

IMG_7249

This beach is amazing. It has gem-colored water, a wide, sandy beach with lots of space to play. It’s surrounded by large, limestone cliffs and tropical jungle. The ocean has a silky, soft sandy bottom, and the water is shallow, calm, and bath-temperature. It’s perfect for our family.

IMG_7220

Senya wears her awesome shark floaty vest (my friend Katie is a genius for introducing me to this kind of floaty suit for kids that makes them entirely water-independent) and can splash and run and swim in the water like it’s her own, personal ocean. Junes floats around in her floaty or crawls at the waters’ edge. She plays in the white, soft sand. The sun is warm and strong. Our private cottage is clean and comfortable with every amenity we could want. And as Senya observed on her own, “it’s just footsteps to the beach. Like no stairs or anything.”

This is awesome. It’s a life highlight. A dream come true. And today is just the beginning of a 9 day stretch here.

IMG_7254

And this is why, I remember again and again in my life with one Collin Russell Palkovitz, we seldom choose the easier path. It’s because the path with one or two giant spiders along the way may lead to a tropical paradise. A day full of fits accidentally making a plane-full of enemies is worth limestone cliffs that plunge into tropical waters. It’s worth hearing your daughter cheer again and again in the water “this is the BEST time I’ve EVER had!!! This is AMAZING!!!!”

IMG_7259

In other news, our Bangkok week last week was also really fun. We got to see Shane a couple of days, chase large monitor lizards that were wandering in a park, paddle in swan boats across a pond, have ice cream every day, and swim in the pool for hours at a time.

 

So far, so good, Thailand.

 

The Quest for the Funarium

Today I woke up a tad nervous. Here we were in Bangkok with a week sprawled out in front of us during which Collin would be working all day every day. I started thinking, “I’ve got two tiny pals, and I want to do more than just bide our time swimming in the hotel pool and playing on the hotel playground.” Sure, that stuff is fun, but I’d like it to be what we’re choosing to do; I don’t want to feel like it’s our fishbowl of activities that we can handle.

So, today was a day of venturing. First, Sen and I headed to Starbucks at 0′dark thirty. She woke up at 4:30 am and by 5:50, I realized that our day had begun. So, we threw on some clothes and got some drinks. Then we headed to a city park.

IMG_7007

Collin and Junes met us there; Collin showed up just in time to witness his little Sen chasing rainbows.

IMG_7025

 

We walked back to the hotel by way of a fruit stand. We put the girls down for naps, Collin went to work, and I researched what Sen, Junes, and I were going to do for the day.

When they awoke, I informed them that we were going to the Funarium. Yes, like a planetarium but instead it’s a Funarium. They were pumped.

IMG_7046

I googled the place and then took a screen shot of it on my iphone. I had the phone number and the address. I was set.

IMG_7042

I gave the cab driver the address: 111 Sukumvit 33 Soi, Bangkok, Thailand.

 

About ten minutes in, I had this feeling that we weren’t actually headed in the right direction. It felt like we were headed really far outside of town. So, I tried to use my Thai cell phone to call the number. It didn’t work. I asked the driver to call it for me because I was sure I was doing something wrong.

He assured me that he knew where he was going and that the phone call was unnecessary.

We arrived at 111th street about an hour later after fighting our way through stand still traffic.

There was definitely no Funarium at that address.

So, I asked him to try 33rd street.

About another hour later, we arrived to another non-Funarium address.

Finally, he called the phone number, and they told us that they had changed addresses. The Funarium is on 26th street now, in case you’re ever in Bangkok with a 31/2 year old who is hell bent on finding it (despite your low-moment attempt about 2 hours in when you may try bribing her with ice cream to forego the funarium).

About two and half hours later, we finally found it. Thank God it actually was fun. Sen and Junes were troopers, and they deserved all the fun that they had there.

IMG_7056

IMG_7050

We played and played and ate dinner and then took a cab back to our hotel. I felt victorious! It’s so exhilarating to feel like we can do this. Sure, we got lost for a while. But I won’t make those same mistakes again, and our experience at the Funarium was so worth it all. I’m sure I’ll make new mistakes, but I’ll have even more confidence by then that it really does all work out in the end.

IMG_7074

It’s so empowering to travel my way around a busy, huge city with my two tiny pals where no one really speaks my language and vice versa.

I learned today that an address that reads 111 Sukumvit 33 Soi, Bangkok, Thailand is actually described to the driver as “Sukumvit 33.” Forget everything else in there.

So, when I gave the driver the address “111 Sukumvit 33 Soi” he took us up to 111th street, when in fact, we should’ve been going to 33rd street. But really, it wasn’t the right address at all because that info was outdated. So, the ultimate lesson is: learn how to use my Thai cell phone. Call the destination. Put them on the phone with the taxi driver.

 

But really what I learned today is: it’s an adventure. And people are just people wherever you go. And usually, there are enough kind souls along the way that you’ll get the help you need to eventually get where you’re trying to go.

Senya and Juniper in Thailand

Having Senya and Juniper along for this trip is extremely fun. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to have Senya in a developing country. Junes, I knew, would be fine. She’s so laid back, friendly, and small enough that we define her world just as much or more than her environment does.

IMG_6964

Senya isn’t quite as laid back. She’s got a lot of strong opinions, is very sensitive to her environment, shy, and completely offended by bad smells and overly friendly people. I wasn’t sure how those traits were going to translate to this kind of travel.

Senya with groceries

So far, she and Juniper both seem to just be completely fine with the cultural differences. They don’t seem at all shocked or overstimulated by the city traffic, the different smells, the pervasive noise of the city on the streets. They both seem to be just enjoying the trip as much as we are. By day, we have a sweet, little routine going.

 

So there’s been a lot of this:

IMG_6971

IMG_6991

IMG_6977

And there’s also a little playground with dubious safety standards, but still. It’s a good time.

IMG_6986

IMG_6988

By night, we look for fun experiences to have together.

IMG_6877

I’m so happy to report that we got to visit a floating market last night. Amphawa, a tiny town about 70 kilometers outside of the city (an hour and a half by taxi), holds its floating market during the evenings on the weekend. When I suggested this as our plan b for a fun night out (our plan a was not possible by taxi due to the protesters), I didn’t realize that it would be quite that distance.

Fortunately, Sen is starting to adapt to what it’s like to travel in a developing country. She was fine with the first half of the Thai version of “The Prince of Egypt” on repeat for a good hour. Then she watched “Tangled” without any sound. She’s learning to roll with it.

Once we arrived (about two hours later) we went out on our own little boat to have a tour of the market from the water. We also got to see the fireflies sparkling in the trees once it was dark.

IMG_6926

IMG_6905

We then ordered three vegetarian Pad Thai entrees cooked over an open flame on a boat. All for the low, low price of 90 baht ($3.00). A regular drip coffee (Venti) at Starbucks in Sukumvit costs almost twice that.

IMG_6943

It was a magical night, really, and it made my heart full to see these little people that I love so much taking it all in. I wonder sometimes what their making of it all, how it’s becoming part of their psyches and shaping their reality. I feel incredibly grateful to be here and with these people that I love so much.

IMG_6939

We still have had the occasional rough patch with defiance and a battle of the wills (name(s) omitted deliberately to preserve a pretense of anonymity), but such trials are related to this phase of life and aren’t specific to being in a developing country. In fact, it’s liberating to get out and do this and see that we CAN still travel with small children. And while it’s different than our travels used to be when we were just the two of us, it’s wonderful and rich in its own rite.

IMG_6916

Live from Bangkok, it’s Saturday morning!

Collin gave me the gift of a few hours to myself to roam Sukumvit (the neighborhood of Bangkok where we are staying). Sukumvit is the perfect little place for us. It’s quieter than Lumpini or the other parts of the city that are pulsing with nightlife. We have everything we need, though, and more.

IMG_6822

 

Our serviced apartment is located inside one of these tall pink buildings (below). It’s a hotel room in the sense that every morning someone cleans it for us and gives us all the basics that we need; it’s an apartment in the sense that we have a kitchenette and a washing machine. It’s a nice combo, if you ask me.

president park hotel

So back to my morning out–I knew exactly what I wanted to do with at least one of my hours: get a traditional Thai massage. After a 30+ hour journey from my parents’ house in Middletown, Delaware to Bangkok, Thailand, I was ready to be pampered. The traditional Thai massage did not disappoint me.

 

Our little neighborhood here is pretty family friendly, so I wasn’t too concerned with selecting my spa. I’ve heard stories of people going for a massage in Bangkok and getting something a little different than expected. So, just to be sure, I chose a really nice-looking spa that boasted all of their treatments and explained them in detail in the brochure.

inside refresh24 spa

For a mere 350 baht (approximately $12.00), I got a full hour massage. The massage included “passive yoga” which means that the massage therapist put me in all kinds of yoga positions and then massaged me. It felt amazing. It was like an incredible hour long stretch combined with a massage. Afterward, I felt so incredibly relaxed. This is me sipping my lemongrass-infused water at the end.

feeling good again

Then I found my way to a little tea house. It was tucked away a tad off the street, but I saw it’s cute pink storefront peeking out beckoning me to come have a tea party for one.

cute pink tea house

I probably wouldn’t ever go out for a tea party for one back in Arkansas or on the east coast. But this morning, it was just what I wanted to do.

tea party

Now I’m back to our tidy little abode and the kids are napping while Collin reads our Lonely Planet guide to find something fun to do when they wake up.

 

In other news, there’s a revolution going on here. I knew that, but I wasn’t really sure what that meant. I’m still trying to piece it all together, but the basics are that there are protesters who are very unhappy with the current Prime Minister and the majority party dominating the government.

 

Tomorrow the protesters plan on marching through these city streets encouraging people to join them. On the 13th (one week from tomorrow) they will shut down the city for at least three days and perhaps up to twenty (per the Bangkok Post). We plan to leave the city on the 11th to head either north to Chiang Mai (a hip city full of art and amazing cuisine) or down south to the islands. Either way, it should be fun!

 

For this week, I’m enjoying the comfort of getting the kids back into a routine, albeit a new one in a new (to them) land. We are still dealing with jetlag (little heads that pop off the pillow at 1:00 am ready to party and want to sleep all day long), but the routine is helping with that too.

jet lagged sensai

Both Senya and Juniper are doing exceptionally well here. They seem happy and not overwhelmed at the cultural difference. They are little celebrities, though, and everyone smiles at them. Senya is a bit shy, so she sometimes doesn’t enjoy the attention. Junes eats it up like it’s her mealtime.

 

Bugs and me in a taxi

I miss Zuri; everytime we get back to our little apartment, I half expect her to be waiting and guiltily trying to snuggle me into oblivion about her napping whereabouts (always on some forbidden piece of furniture). I know she’s in good care with my parents, though.

 

That’s the update for now~

my clean(ish) food journey continues (with recipes!)

I haven’t posted in too long. I haven’t slept more than 3 consecutive hours in too long too. There is a correlation there; I’m sure.

So what am I eating these days? Lots of people wonder what I DO eat when they find out that I’m not eating gluten, dairy, or meat.

I am eating whole plant-based foods as the majority of my diet. This means that I consume LOTS of vegetables and fruits. So much that the check out people at the grocery store pretty much cringe when they see me in their line…what with all those PLUs they need to consult from that plastic binder and all that.

So, I eat all plants. I guess some would call that a vegan. Though, I eat honey. So, no dice on the vegan title. Also, the label “vegan” conjures up a lot more conceptually than just dietary habits in my opinion. So, I think I will just say that I eat food made from plants.

Taco Tuesday is a standing thing in our family now. We use tempeh instead of meat and then change up the toppings week by week to keep it interesting. Last week I made tofu sour cream and vegan melty white cheeze; this week I made black bean and corn salsa.

I never feel deprived; in fact, I think because my body is getting everything it needs, I feel really great. For example, I’m the only one in our little family who somehow didn’t get terribly sick this past month. Also, I’m averaging about 5 hours of broken sleep a night and feeling fine. Go team plant foods!

Some upcoming new changes in our family dietary habits are that Senya will now be consuming only milk and eggs obtained straight from a local, small farm.  It’s called Summer Kitchen Farms, and they sell raw milk and eggs and all kinds of non vegetarian food, too. She seems healthier already, and I don’t have guilty conscience about contributing to all those dead baby boy chicks.

The modifications that have kept me from feeling deprived and abandoning the wagon for fluffy loaves of white bread or dollops of cream or whatever it is I crave when feeling too restricted…are as follows:

 

  • coffee every morning
  • one or two (alcoholic but gluten free) drinks one or two nights a week
  • incorporating a few gluten free, dairy free items that substitute for their wheat or non-vegan counterparts (gluten free tortillas on taco Tuesday, making things from tofu that satisfy that need for creaminess)
  • having treats that meet the criteria (I made a pumpkin pie last week,  chocolate pudding, and raw chocolate truffles over the past month or so).

 

Tips from my journey so far:

Variety is KEY. If I get bored eating the same thing again and again (I was in a protein shake rut for a while) then I’m going to feel restricted and freak out. I love trying new foods from the produce aisle.

Finding new recipes and learning how to use new foods or create new foods from scratch has been both helpful (so I know what to do with those new thing I just bought from the produce aisle) and fun.

Staying stocked is crucial. If I open my fridge and see an assortment of fruits and vegetables or snacks/meals that meet my dietary criteria, I’m going to more often than not satiate that hunger AND that appetite with healthful foods. If I don’t have options, I’m going to go into survival/freak out mode and eat whatever is easy or tasty and available (cereal, snack foods, etc).

Reading about the healing and nutritional properties of foods has kept me informed and interested in what I’m putting into my body. Raising my awareness about food makes it so that I am mindful more often about my food choices.

Do what you can. Don’t stress if it feels like not much. Just keep trying and be patient with yourself. 

 

Here are a few excerpts from my food life (aka: recipes):

 

Caramelized Fennel

Take anywhere from 1-4 fennel bulbs, trim off the fronds (save a few for flavoring) and trim of a little of the bottom part. Discard or trim off any less than perfect part of the bulb.

Quarter the fennel bulbs.

Take anywhere from 1-4 Tbs of extra virgin coconut oil and heat in a big pot.

Braise fennel bulbs on medium high heat until a little golden or brown. Then cover the pot, turn the heat down to medium low or low (depending on whether you can attend to it at all or not…mine stays on low because I have little pals who wouldn’t love it if I stirred a pot for 45 minutes straight). Stir whenever you remember over the course of anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes (longer will result in a softer bulb…I prefer mine super soft but they’re good with a little more tug and crunch too).

Either eat solo with a few of the feathery fennel fronds for flavor or serve over brown rice or quinoa or something. Delicious.

 

The Best Frozen Margarita Ever in the Whole, Wide World

Here’s one of those aforementioned modifications, and it is amazing. Hitherto I’ve always thought of myself as a shaken drink kinda girl when it comes to cocktails (and typically have only really gone for quality red wine or microbrew beer) but upon ownership of a vitamix, we decided to try our hand at a few homemade frozen cocktails.

The limeade is the only part that takes a bit of work, but if you like perfection it’s worth it. (Tip: we make the limemade base in a large quantity and then keep it frozen in our fridge for future use. If you have the limemade base ready, then the prep is a snap).

 

Limeade Base:

2 1/2 cups of filtered water

1 1/4 cups of fine raw cane sugar

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1 1/4 cups fresh (don’t skimp here; fresh is best) lime juice

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. If you’ve got time, let it cool. If you’re making the drink all at once, don’t worry about it. Add lime zest and juice and pour into a jar. Keeps in fridge for 3 days; keeps in freezer for a few weeks at least).

Frozen Margarita

12 ounces of limeade base (if you made it previously and froze it, you’re in luck. Use it in as much of a frozen state as you can. If it’s not frozen, no problem. Just use it as is.).

2/3 cup silver tequila (Milagro is the brand of choice for us. Personally, I like it better than Patron).

1/2 cup Grand Marnier

3 cups ice cubes

limes for garnish if you’re into that sort of thing

salt for the rim if that tickles your fancy

If you have a strong and powerful blender such as the vita mix, then throw everything in there and blend until it looks almost frothy. I always think, “shoot, I blended it too long because it looks melty,” but it never is.

If you have another kind of blender, I’m guessing it’s the same dealo. You may need to work it in several batches to get the ice super smooth. I’m not sure. I can only guarantee perfection with a vitamix.

 

Lentil Paté

1 cup lentils (we prefer red, but you can use brown or green)

2 cups of filtered water

1 cup walnut pieces

olive oil

1-2 onion(s)

garlic

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/8 teaspoon red pepper

juice of 1/2 a lemon

salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the lentils and place them and the 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast walnut pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the oven for 12 minutes.

Sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Press one or more garlic cloves and add that. Sauté for another minute or two.

Place everything in a vitamix or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add olive oil if needed to make it a nice, smooth consistency. It should be thick, though.

Fridge.

Eat as you would a dip or spread.

 

 

 

 

To measure or not to measure…

To measure or not to measure. That has been the question I’ve had on this intervention. On the one hand, measures are useful indicators. On the other hand, for some of us, they come with a whole lot of feelings. So much emphasis can be put on our weight or our jean size that we can lose sight of wellbeing as a lifestyle in exchange for “why can’t I just be skinnier?!”

 

Sometimes I can get too preoccupied with these measures and view them as a kind of “grade.” I get really frustrated when the results don’t match how hard I feel like I’m working. So, sometimes I avoid obsessing over these measures so that I can recalibrate my intentions. I want to live a life of wellbeing that reflects my values. The rest should follow that. The lifestyle of living well should come first; the measures should be used appropriately as mere indicators of how well that quest is going. Too often I start with the measures, working backwards, trying to live my life in a way that will produce certain numbers (weight, jeans size, inches lost, running pace).

 

Stepping back even further, health per se isn’t where I want to start. I want to examine my values and begin there. What matters to me? Being a good mom, for example. I want to be active, fun, and free of the preoccupation that comes with not feeling fit or good in my own skin. I want to be able to just fix it and forget it, so to speak. I want to live well in all areas of my life so that I can focus on loving my children in meaningful ways that require LOTS of attention and energy.

 

Likewise, I want to be attractive and know that I still look good to Collin. He’s a fine looking fellow, and he still catches the ladies’ eyes. I like knowing that he still finds me attractive…and while he says he always would (gotta love that guy), I also would like to feel attractive. I also want to be able to climb more mountains and have more adventures with him my whole life. So, even when I am older and greyer, he will still have flutters in his heart because I am his favorite mountain climbing companion (a definite love language for him).

 

And also, I love climbing mountains just because I do (even apart from the fact that I’d follow Collin up any peak to have all that time with him), and I love running because it syncs my mind and body, relieves stress, and gives me an amazing endorphin rush. I love being strong so I can do the kinds of activities that require fitness and strength.

 

So, all that to say, getting my priorities set with my internal compass properly calibrated has been a struggle at times.

I do love seeing my progress; don’t get me wrong. I am one of THE most goal oriented people on the planet. It’s precisely because of that that I’ve had to set the measures on the back burner from time to time because I want to learn to appreciate the journey. It’s just like when I’m hiking. I can sometimes get so caught up on getting to my destination that I miss the spectacular beauty during the hike. Collin will have taken hundreds of photos and I’m like, “wow. Those glaciers were pretty, huh? Hmm. Kinda wish I would’ve looked around a little more.” I’ve worked really hard at correcting that through the years.

So, while I do love seeing my progress over time in terms of performance, for example, I have had to set my runkeeper to the private settings because I was getting too preoccupied with my stats. I wanted to get back to the heart of running because I love it. So, I spent some time not using runkeeper, using runkeeper on private, going at a really comfortable pace even when I could’ve gone faster…all this to remember that I love running. And I have really fallen in love with running all over again. It had been a while since I used runkeeper and checked my stats, so I decided to do so last night. It turns out that ever since going off runkeeper grid, my running has improved significantly. I’ve shaved a minute per mile off my running pace in the last month.

And likewise, I had to physically put the scale in a cabinet and not weigh myself for a while because I’d get frustrated when I wasn’t seeing what I wanted to see. After taking some time to stop obsessing on the number and instead focusing on living intentionally, eating well, and enjoying my life, I got out the scale this morning. I was happy to see that this was another measure indicating that my intervention is going well.

 

So, while I do love my measures (when they are giving me A+’s especially), I try to remember that they are not everything. And they are not where I want to start.

 

 

About my clean foods intervention.

For the next one hundred and twenty something days…until January 1 (midnight–New Year’s Eve) I will be adhering to this clean foods intervention that I designed for myself. Why? Here are a few of my reasons (in no particular order):

 

  1. It’s interesting, and I wanted something health-related to blog about on a regular basis.
  2. It’s a challenge; I love challenges. It will make me dig deep and find meaning and strength in God and myself as all good challenges do.
  3. I want to learn all about clean, whole foods and practice making meals that are comprised of these ingredients.
  4. Because I can. Having healthful foods accessible and being able to eat however I want is a privilege. I want to honor that privilege by eating well and being mindful of what I put in my body for a focused period of time.

 

My intervention strategy includes the following:

a dietary plan: clean, whole foods as defined in this book I have called “Clean Foods.” If the food or recipe is listed in that book, then I will consider it fair game. This isn’t monkish-type eating; it has all kinds of seasonal recipes even including some desserts made with whole, natural ingredients. For the first two weeks, I am not including any sweeteners. Just fruits, veggies, and foods from fruits and veggies (i.e., three grain tempeh, hemp protein, etc.). (Confession: I also include cacao (aka chocolate in it’s non-processed and/or non-sweetened form.)

a calorie range: I’ve determined a range for how many calories I should eat per day to meet my body’s needs without excess, and that’s how many I’m going to eat.

food journaling: I keep track of the food that goes into my body as I eat it. I use the “calorie count” app on my iPhone for this; it has a great database that logs my food and caloric values. It’s very helpful. Additionally, I will be blogging here about my progress, my struggles, my reflections, and my response in general to this who experiment.

There is a modification clause. That means this: if I am feeling out of my mind and like I need a certain food that isn’t on the clean foods dietary plan, then I can write it down in my journal the day before I consume it. So, this eliminates impulsivity but it also will hopefully keep me from burning out. So, if I’m ever just dying for a cup of coffee, for example, then maybe a Friday I’d write: I’m having a cup of coffee tomorrow morning and no one can stop me. And so, then Saturday, I’d have that but keep everything else clean as per usual.

And of course, I’m drinking my daily water quota (health professionals now recommend that you determine your water needs by dividing your weight in two and then having that many ounces. You’ll need more if you’re working out and sweating a lot, obviously.)

I’m also starting to work running into my routine again after a little hiatus due to everything and nothing in particular.

These guidelines are all part of my self-contract until New Year’s Eve. I do have a plan to extend my calorie limits on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas; I will still be eating clean foods as defined in “Clean Foods.”

So, that’s the general plan.

 

Now for an update:

I am doing well. It was really difficult that my blog was down all week, actually. I was kind of counting on this as a part of my social support, even if just perceived. I mean, even if no one reads…it’s still the idea that I publicly committed myself to this thing and I’m publicly accountable for an update. So, having my blog stop working all week was a bit dicey, but I hung on.

Confession. I DID have to use the modification clause (and by the way, I wrote the above guidelines before beginning and would have posted them at the beginning of the week had my blog been working).

My modification? Coffee. I got through til Friday without coffee. That might not sound like a lot, but listen: it is. Here’s what happened. Remember all my awesome reasons for drinking green tea vs. coffee? You don’t? Refresher: my kids sleep better, I sleep better, and I feel better. So, none of this happened. For some reason, Junesie didn’t sleep a wink all week while I was drinking green tea. Consequently neither did I. Consequently, I couldn’t think straight during the day. Consequently I burned my new teapot Collin got me for my birthday (I let it boil until all the water was gone for a very, very long time and it melted itself). And so on and so forth until finally, I just decided that this really wasn’t adding to the quality of my life. It’s just hot water strained through roasted berries. I’m not too worried about it.

So, black coffee really is going to have to become incorporated into my clean eating experiment. And, where this has in the past been a slippery slope (black coffee, then coffee with cream, then all hell breaks loose), the use of the modification clause sanctioned it so that it stayed very organized and planned. (Confession: actually, as evening approached, I casually mentioned that I might add a glass of wine to the end of my day; Collin laughed and said, “Oh, really?” and then I sheepishly realized I was headed down the slippery slope. I quickly collected my dignity and scrambled back up aforementioned slope.)

Well, that’s all for now, folks. Barring anymore technical blog failures, I shall resume my plan of posting twice per week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wellness is a complex, holistic and lifelong pursuit.

DAY ONE of my intervention. It’s going well. I plan to write here regularly over the next few months to take time to reflect. I plan on writing at least twice a week. Next time I post, I will include more practical details of my intervention. For now, here are my reflections about the complex nature of health behaviors and how knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes motivate us to do what we do.

 

“Calories in; calories out. It’s really not that hard.”

 

I’ve heard that said more than once. And it drives me crazy every time. Even apart from  eating and food choices specifically, health behaviors in general are complex to understand.

 

There are cultural level factors like our American obsession with excess and pleasure seeking. Our American idea that we should be able to have what we want when we want it and as much of it as we want definitely runs deep.

 

There are individual level factors that go beyond just the biological; for example, psychological factors (thoughts, feelings, behaviors) that motivate our behaviors either consciously or subconsciously.

 

And of course social factors contribute to someone’s behavioral choices too. Friends don’t always want to let friends eat what you want to eat. Sometimes friends want you to eat what they’re eating. Or, maybe your friends are a strong support for your life choices. That will definitely make a positive difference in the choices you make and your perception of what choices are even viable.

 

Often there is not one, easy answer for why we do what we do. Yet the biomedical model still prevails among some doctors and health professionals. There’s a single source to the problem in their minds: you’re eating too much. So stop.

 

It would be just lovely if doing was as easy as knowing. Actually developing and practicing the skills to be a healthy person is a lifelong quest. It takes effort and diligence to gain mastery over our life choices.

 

Taking a moment to consider my knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes can help me reset my inner GPS. I examine what I know, for example, if am eating something and feeling gross afterward; I take some time to raise my awareness about certain foods. A little research about processed snacks, dairy, gluten, GMOs, refined sugar, etc. (whatever I want to cut out of my life in my most enlightened moments) empowers me with the knowledge I need to hold a candle against the impulses to make decisions I’ll regret later.

 

Likewise, I examine what I believe. Are my beliefs healthy and supportive to my overall wellbeing? Analyzing my beliefs and recalibrating them when necessary has been particularly helpful for me in the aftermath of my failures. Those moments in the aftermath failure are intense and difficult to endure. But they are also some of the most important to embrace. What am I going to do? How am I going to respond? Do I shake it off and get back on the wagon? Do I beat myself up? Do I go down a rabbit trail of downward spiraling health choices until the damage is oh-so-much worse than it would have been had I just tried again?

 

Believing that I am loved (by people, by God), for example, gave me the inner strength that I needed to turn away from that feeling of self-loathing that used to creep in when I’d fall short of who I thought I should be, and instead turn toward love, acceptance, and the truth. We are all flawed. We must learn to love ourselves, even with those flaws. We must believe that we are indeed lovable. And we must LET others love us. That last part is harder to do than some might think. That means letting others love us when we feel the reality of our imperfections. That takes humility, unselfishness, and a true sacrifice of our pride. Letting trusted others see and love the parts of ourselves that aren’t quite what we want them to be can be so healing. And truthfully, until you know yourself and love yourself, it might be difficult to ever actually feel loved.

 

Attitudes toward topics will affect the way we behave too. How you evaluate something and your opinion about it will influence the choices that you make. If you are someone who cares deeply about the environment, care about the social impact of foods you consume, and feel that you have a responsibility to make sound food choices, it will probably be easier for you to come up with reasons why you shouldn’t eat at fast food restaurants and henceforth avoid doing so. If your attitude toward all that is one that evokes an eye roll or a chortle of annoyance, then you probably aren’t going to see it as a big deal to frequent McDonald’s.

 

In sum, as we work to develop health skills, we really need to consider the whole truth (biopsychosocial factors contributing to our choices), not just one piece of it (calories in and calories out).

 

I am of the mind that there’s a huge space between knowing and doing. In that vastness  there are many biopsychosocial factors motivating the choices that we make. Know yourself. Be kind to yourself. Work on yourself. Love others. Let others love you. It’s all part of it, in my humble opinion.

 

the battle between my inner food junkie and my inner health coach

There are two personalities dueling inside of me. I’m speaking metaphorically, to be clear. Apart from the fact that there are not two people fencing inside my body, I also do not mean to imply that I honestly do have multiple personalities as diagnosed in the DSM-IV. But sometimes, I still shock myself after 32 years of being me with just how much incongruence I have.

 

Specifically, I’m referring to my eating and culinary habits. One day I’m sprouting quinoa, brewing kombucha, and craving dandelion greens. That’s when I feel my best. During these golden days of health, I’m mostly decaffeinated with the exception of my green tea and I’m feeling Zen about life. I wake up feeling calm and happy to greet my day, and I have a genuine sense of well being and vitality.

 

The greek word εὐδαιμονία is what comes to mind; living well, well-being, a good life…impossible to universally define, but in these golden eras I’ve found it for myself. And not just because my jeans fit better. Not just because I have a heightened sense of self-efficacy that I can set out to do something difficult and stick to it and do it well. Not just because my teeth look whiter when I smile and I’m smiling more often because I just feel better.

 

It’s also because I’m more mindful. I consider my choices–food and otherwise–with a more steady spirit and mind. My mind is also better able to screen and filter the thoughts that scroll across the space in my thoughts–accepting the good and throwing out the bad. And one huge factor–my sleep quality improves like nobody’s biz. And for some reason I still don’t understand, so does that of my children. Maybe because I tend to pass out with them during their nap and then this co-sleeping nap helps them experience a deeper, more restorative sleep (that’s my off-the-cuff speculation, but  who knows?).

 

So, you see, there is a lot to LOVE about these golden eras of enlightened eating. It’s like a personal renaissance every time I go into one of these personal clean eating commitments.

 

But then…something derails me. It starts with something like a severe craving for a cup of strong, dark coffee. “I’ll have it black. No cream. I can work that in to a healthy lifestyle.” This is the voice of the food junkie that lives within.

 

“But it’s too soon!” My inner holistic health coach tries to tell my inner food junkie. “You’ll fall right off the clean foods wagon if you go back to something like that now. In time. In good time, maybe you could have black coffee without it snagging your health habits and unraveling them like Weezer’s sweater. But not yet. Not YET! DON’T DO IT!”

 

And usually that’s when the food junkie part of me plugs her fingers in her ears and starts singing the sweater song at top voice volume until the holistic health coach—the trained MS level health promotion graduate—part of myself wistfully sits down and just waits for certain ruin.

 

Then I tap into this hedonistic part of myself. And BOY! Does that part of me know how to bake! I have all sorts of signature recipes from these lapses of clean eating. Sticky buns, cheesecakes, home made donuts with a variety of custards (vanilla, chocolate, coconut) and topped with ganache or cream fondant. Decadent, rich layer cakes with frostings and fillings that range from lemon curd to true buttercream frosting. It’s just insane. It’s hedonistic madness turned into something edible, and it’s sensational.

 

So then I bake these things, and no. I can’t just “work it in” to an otherwise healthy lifestyle. Some people can and do. And oh, how I admire them. The food junkie says, “Oh, it’s such a work of art, this cake. Come on, let’s just have a little cake. And a little more cake. And just some more frosting now. And more frosting…” And then next thing I know, there’s been a food homicide and I’m staring at a cake carcass, with the fork still in my hand. Aw, shoot.

 

How did I go from dandelion greens to THIS?

 

Anyway, then there’s this educated part of me that thinks…this is just clean foods yo-yo dieting. And this is the worst thing you can do to your self efficacy. It disempowers you and leaves you feeling like a failure. The food junkie usually says this and has her head in her hands and is apologizing and promising change, blah, blah, blah.

 

And the inner health coach kindly offers the suggestion that this is probably somewhat of a brain chemical thing. Just like an alcoholic. The carbohydrates, sugars, fats…these types of foods have been known to allow the serotonin in the brain to pool…causing an effect of actually feeling high. Dopamine too. Not everyone actually responds this way, but some of us do. Some of us actually do get high from food. That really makes the war against obesity a LOT more difficult (the obesity threat level has moved from “fight” to full-on “war” please note).

 

If I could just keep the trigger foods out of my life, then I wouldn’t be overdosing on them. My whole brain chemistry changes. I feel it. It’s Zen and mindful when I’m eating clean. It’s maniacally food-obsessed when I’m not. So, moderation doesn’t really seem to be a feasible answer in terms of the kinds of foods that I eat. I think I’m going to have to switch out the trigger foods. But maybe I can work moderation in on some other levels so that it doesn’t feel so restrictive or entirely disinhibited into crazy town. I’m determined to figure it out.

 

So, here I am. Stating this all here. Because I’m going to write about this journey toward well being. It’s not about jean size. It’s not about weight. It’s not about whether I’m loved or valuable. I am. I know that through and through. This is about finding true health and well being. This is about practicing what I learned in my Master’s program on my most difficult client: myself. So, beginning Sunday, September 1, I will set out to do a clean foods intervention that I am going to design for myself. The intervention will begin on September 1 and run until January 1. I will post about that journey here.