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.


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:




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



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


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.



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.


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.


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.


Posted in family, travel | 9 Comments

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.



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~

Posted in family, personal reflection | 10 Comments

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)


1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/8 teaspoon red pepper

juice of 1/2 a lemon


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.


Eat as you would a dip or spread.





Posted in behavior change, health | 7 Comments

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.



Posted in behavior change, fitness, health, personal reflection | 6 Comments

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.










Posted in behavior change, health | 6 Comments

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.


Posted in behavior change, health, personal reflection | 15 Comments

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.


Posted in health | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

The days of Sen

2 years ago, I was a mom, but my role was extremely different than it is now. I was working full-time, in graduate school full-time, and then trying to be an involved mother whenever possible. Collin was the primary caregiver in our family, and he was the one who cooked all the food and kept the home fires burning. He changed the majority of diapers (all cloth, to his credit); he put her down for her naps and for bed a lot of nights while I was at work or at class. He knew all her favorite songs and books and toys. He knew what her favorite foods were and how to get her calm down when she was fussy. He entertained and cared for our baby girl almost all day every day.


Then we switched roles. And moved to California. And I remember that first day he drove off on his motorcycle to work in Marina Del Rey for a cut-throat marketing firm and I stayed home with Sen all day for the first time ever. As the sound of his motorcycle faded into the distance, the realization that it was just me and Sen (and Zuri, of course) crystallized.


“So. What do you want to do today?” I asked my 15 month old friend. I had so much to learn about her, about our relationship, and about myself as a mother.


My motherhood looks so vastly different now; I spend my days (and honestly still a good chunk of my nights) with my tiny pal, Sen. Besides the fact that my role changed from being a full-time working mom to being a primary caregiver, Senya herself has changed so drastically since that first day we spent together in Topanga, California. She’s quite the conversationalist now, and she has a lot of excellent opinions. She has a highly developed will, a fantastic sense of humor, is unbelievably emotionally intelligent and expressive, and she is extremely physically active. It takes everything I’ve got to keep up with this little package of tremendous person.


I have always loved hard work with a good pay off. I love climbing mountains, backpacking, running (all of which are on hold at this point of almost full-term pregnancy). I loved both undergrad and my master’s program, and my favorite professors were the ones who pushed me the most to do my best work.


And that is what it’s like for me to parent. It’s intense. It’s challenging. It takes everything I’ve got. And it’s rewarding. It’s meaningful. It’s beautiful beyond words to know another human being so well, to care so closely and so intricately for someone that they feel as familiar as another being can. To be wanted and loved so innately by someone is sacred; to be so needed by someone else is something I don’t take lightly. As my good friend Sarah once said to me about the business of raising kids, “It’s their SOULS [that we’re shaping, that we’re influencing, that we’re in charge of nurturing]!” That’s an enormous responsibility.


Anyway, all this to say, I think from time to time while I’m in the midst of being with Sen during the day, “I should blog about this; I should write a paper on that.” By the time I sit down with my computer at night, though, I can’t remember a darn thing. I know I wanted to expound on our recent switch back to eating a whole foods and plant based diet. I wanted to get really specific and make it interesting and attainable yet factual and science based why we have been adhering to a vegan diet again.


And now after my day is done, I’m finally sitting here trying to compose a blog post. And when I think of the topic of being vegan, the only mental note I took that I remember is to say, “freeze your bananas.” You won’t regret it.


I’ll make it back here sometime soon(ish) to report on the plant based eating. But until then, I’ll just say that I’m happy to give my resources to my tiny friend. Last night as she was drifting to sleep she said to me, “Because I am only 2, tomorrow I will run and jump and play. But one day, I’ll have to go to school.”


And she’s right. This is her moment to be free and wild. These are the days I will always remember and I will never regret.

sledding 155k1jp85oi87 1hqnhxs6cohgl 1hkllbzl8me36 rainy days

**Really, though, if you’re making a protein shake, a smoothie, or anything blended…adding frozen banana will make it so much better. I keep bananas sliced and in a container in the freezer so that they are ready to just blend anytime I’m making a protein shake (which is at least once a day).

Posted in family | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

resolutely happy.

For the past month or perhaps a little less (I’ve lost track), it felt like all signs were pointing towards an imminent move back to our house in West Grove. It was like we were on a plane that was getting lower and lower as it approached it’s runway for landing in Philly; the plane started doing all those weird noises when you know its getting its landing gear ready. The flight attendants were telling us to put our seats in upright position. They were taking all our trash one more time. Then at the last minute, this plane shot back up in the air and announced it would be heading several states over to Arkansas. Or something.


This sudden twist and the resulting realization that we don’t have a foreseeable move home in our future has made me resolved to appreciate what we do have here in California. We’ve got each other. We’ve got some really close family members besides just our little nucleus. We’ve got mountains and beaches and world-class national parks within a relatively short driving distance. We’ve got as much entertainment as we could ever want at our disposal with the city revolving around the movie industry and basically fun in general. You can always wear jeans anywhere and be appropriately dressed. It’s sunny almost always which is good for a family that loves to be outside and camp a lot. It’s metropolitan; there’s plenty of diversity. There are progressive churches that make those of us who tend towards being a bit more liberal feel at ease and accepted.


I know that if some of our family and friends back east read this, they might be sad to read the above paragraph because it’s about me adjusting to life here; that could be interpreted as threatening our desire to move home. The two aren’t mutually exclusive—keeping my heart fond of home and allowing myself to love it here. It’s important for me to not live like I’m somewhere else when I’m really here. I need to be present, and I need to be grateful. I was present for the first 6 or so months that we were out here, and then I decided right around March that it was time to move back east. I wouldn’t accept the possibility of being here much longer. And that’s not healthy. It’s not reality. If I do that here, wouldn’t I do that back east, too? Probably. If I can’t master being present and content and grateful when I live somewhere that actually does have so much of what I always whined that I didn’t have when I did live back east, then I don’t think I’d move back east and be grateful either.


Life is what we are doing now. Home is where this little family is together. Yes, my heart feels torn to be away from so many people that I love. But, I’m here right now, and there is a lot for which I am thankful.

Posted in faith, family, personal reflection | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

I’ve been blogging–just not here.

Sorry for the long hiatus in Twirling Leaf posts. I still love writing; it’s just that my recent blogging has been as a guest writer on Body Inspired Fitness’ website and not here. For anyone interested in catching up on the posts I’ve written, here are the links:

Oxygen Mask

Game Changer 


Happiness Part I

Happiness Part II


The Body Inspired Fitness Blog site has many great posts, if you want to check them out. It’s a great website in general for workout videos and lots of other resources for health and fitness.

Posted in behavior change, fitness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments