Measuring Our Success

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“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston S. Churchill

How do you measure success?  I was asked this last week as I sat in church and listened to the sermon.  Our pastor probed the congregation to think about our lives and how we feel it measures against success when we meet our Creator.  I have to admit, it made me think a bit about success, all it encompasses, and what I feel is a good measure.  Look around you and you will find all kinds of “measurements” in our daily life.  We measure ourselves by numbers.  The size of clothes, numbers on a scale, level of IQ; we all get caught up in the enormity of a number.  But does this really measure our worth and value in the world?

For example, take the common household scale.  I hate scales, by the way, for many reasons, and I hardly ever step on one unless my doctor makes me do it.  First off, people tend to focus too hard on a scale and live and breathe by the very number they see each morning when they weigh.  I did this once upon a time in my life and swore I would never do it again after it nearly destroyed me.  Now, I do know scales have a time and place in everyone’s world, but why do we feel the need to put so much emphasis on them? Why do we see the number that pops up on a tiny dial merits our success for that particular day?  For the severely overweight or the person struggling to overcome starving their bodies, a scale can be seen as the devil himself.  Each time they step upon the two footpads, panic can rise in the throat, or dread and shame will pull its dark curtain down.  Scales, another way to measure how well we are doing or how much we are failing for the day.

The same goes with clothing sizes.  I am sure I am not the first person, man or woman, who has cringed when trying on clothes in a store, hoping the size we hold is actually the size that fits. That magic number we strive for, whatever it may be for the day, sits in our hands like Cinderella’s glass slipper.  And when it doesn’t fit, we knock ourselves down as we humbly ask the store’s employee for a different, perhaps larger size.  Or we completely skip that part and just forget the entire article of clothing and walk sullenly away from the dressing room empty-handed.  Why can’t companies figure out a way to label clothing, not by a number, but by phrases like “fabulous” or “savvy?”  How amazing would it be to yell out to the woman tending the dressing rooms that you needed to exchange your size “bombshell” for a size “stunning?”  Am I crazy for wanting to do this?

As I get older and begin to become more comfortable with who I am as a person, I find my measurement of success changes too.  I also feel having kids has helped me take a long, hard look at measuring success.  How do I measure up as a mom?  How am I measuring up spiritually?  Am I hitting the mark as a wife and friend?  Gone are the days when I constantly see success as the size of my jeans or the score on an exam.  It is now measured upon how I interact with the world, and what kind of physical and spiritual mark I am leaving on this side of Heaven.

My goal is to measure success by what I see looking back in the mirror and the values that one face holds for the day.  I strive to remember that our success in life is not based on a slew of various numbers, but instead focuses on the kind of footprint I have the opportunity to leave behind.  My success will be raising two children who are healthy, happy, and spiritually sound in their lives.  My success will hopefully be to show love, to show compassion, and to show respect towards the world and towards the ones I love.  I know failure is inevitable, and human fallacy will take hold more often than I care to admit.  But if I can keep my eye on the “prize” and have the courage to know my mistakes are not final, then surely I have the upper hand in this battle to shatter the things in this world that attempt to pull me down.  In the meantime, I challenge anyone who reads this to rethink the way you measure success and pay it forward to the next person.  All it takes is just a spark of change to turn the world on its head.

Until next time,

Cheers

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The Shadow of Control

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I read an amazing book by a woman named Susan Jaramillo titled “How God Rewrote My Heart.” Jaramillo is a strong woman to have endured the trials and tribulations she experienced throughout life. The book focuses on how God helped her heal from all these experiences. Short, sweet and to the point, I could relate to how she felt in certain life situations, even if our experiences were completely opposite.  Susan hit upon how control ruled her life and how her spirit was broken because of the lack of self-worth she felt.

I guess it brings me to finally put onto paper my own story of struggle and of defeat. It is nothing earth shattering, especially if you think about the struggles others in the world can deal with each day. But none-the-less my story is about a point in my life when I hit my own rock bottom and how control and lack of self-worth engulfed every aspect of my world.

I have written previously about women and our self-worth in a post a few years ago, but my own personal vendetta did not get included in the article. Now I feel like it is time to get the demons out on paper. It is time to come to grip with my own personal failures and mishaps.

It is hard, when you are young and naïve, to really see how one’s own decisions impact the people around you. I never gave much thought to this notion, mainly because I never really believed enough people cared what I did in this world. It was my own Demon in my head telling me how worthless I was to everyone. If I had to really think when this all began I would pin it around young adolescence. Growing up is so hard for any kid, and throw in insecurity, the mix becomes a toxic concoction of self-hatred and self-doubt. I always felt extremely inadequate when it came to friendships or finding my own niche in school. The only place I felt safe and secure was my academic life and knowing my teachers respected my efforts in the classroom. I was a shy kid, kind of a loaner in school with just a few close friends. I would never have labeled myself as popular. I avoided trying out for the cheerleading squad or dance squad. I stuck to more “academic” pursuits because I felt comfortable there. So as I hit high school, I stayed out of parties for the most part and skimmed the parameter of all the “in crowds.” I just didn’t ever feel “good enough” to be a part of those groups, and I was afraid of rejection. I never saw myself as pretty or savvy enough to be included in things they did. I didn’t really date anyone either because I knew I was not the one guys wanted in our high school. I was awkward, felt a tad overweight and had crazy curly hair. But I was smart, and for some reason that was a comfort to me. I knew I could do anything that required the use of my brain. My close friends included me in social things and tried to help me come out of my shell. I loved them, and still do, for their loyalty to me as a friend and “personal cheerleader” in high school.

What pre-teen or teenage girl doesn’t feel this way? Like the entire world is looking at her with a magnifying glass, just waiting for one wrong step. My own feelings of self-worth didn’t have a thing to do with the amount of love my parents showed me. I grew up in a good household where my parents lived lovingly under the same roof, my dad had a good job and my mom stayed at home to care for me. I did not have any brothers and sisters in my home to make me share things or deal with the daily annoyances I find my own kids struggling with today. It was a great childhood, but for some reason I became the left out play dough, unable to form into something flexible and easy to mold. I was always opinionated at home because that was where I felt safe and secure. Aside from that you would always find me amicable and easy-going because I didn’t want to cause disturbance or annoyance. I chose what situations I wanted to be in, and stayed far away from areas I felt unsafe or uncertain.

I lost myself in books and movies, anything to pull me out of my own head and my own thoughts. By the time I reached the end of my high school career I was deciding on how the hell to get out of my small town upbringing and try to create my own persona, my own identity. I wanted to be away from any stereotype and discover how the world really lived outside “Peyton Place.” Going off to college seemed to be the best thing, moving away from home and attending a good school that gave me the academic challenges I so craved.

My senior year was an exciting time because by December I knew where I was going to college and I saw this light at the end of the tunnel. Freedom to make my own way, meet people from other states and really find what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I think I worked a little harder on appearances that year too, and I even became interested in a boy. Perhaps by that point I could relax a bit and “sail” my way through the rest of the most awkward and uncertain time in my life: high school.

I only saw one side of leaving home, my side, and it was invigorating. I didn’t consider the other side my parents experienced. The fear of letting your only child go out on her own and praying everything you did while she/he was growing up would come to fruition. That is what my mom and dad experienced after dropping me off at school, looking back in the review mirror as I proudly waved good-bye to them. They were lost to the battles that lay ahead of me. They were lacking proper ammunition to deal with the struggles I would soon face in college.

The beginning of freshman year was an adjustment. Being a kid who loved routines, I had to take some time before figuring out my own. Once I did, it was also very hard for me to let go and have fun. I felt I had this immense responsibility to myself, to my parents and to the world when it came to my grades. I needed to show everyone that I could do this—move away from home, attend a prestigious university on a public school education and blow the world away. I realized then my days of breezy afternoons by the pool were over. It was go-time and I needed to pull up my bootstraps to get the grades. So I did, but in the meantime, my failures I received in the classroom knocked down the fragile self-confidence I had developed my senior year in high school. I was back to square one, surrounded by exceptionally smart people who went to private schools in large cities or boarding schools on the coasts. They were also beautiful, thin, well-groomed individuals, especially the girls. I had no idea where I fit in on this campus. What I held so dear in high school, which was my intelligence, became completely challenged and my lack of self-esteem did not help the situation.

My parents often talked about things they saw me doing after school. Would she be a doctor? Would she be a lawyer (maybe because I was so argumentative), or would she be something else? My parents were in the medical field, so that is all they knew. But they never shied away from the idea of me doing something different. I just could never gain the self-confidence I needed to get out from under their shadow of successes. I never felt independent enough to make mistakes and be okay with it. For us, mistakes were bad and for me mistakes were irreversible. I couldn’t live with irreversible. So when it came to earning good grades and succeeding in my college courses, I wanted to blow the damn world away. Yet, the pressure that is placed on someone’s shoulders can be excruciating. When that pressure is personally put there, the effects can be life changing and severely damaging.

Freshman year wasn’t a complete bust. Don’t get me wrong at all here because I did meet some girls I felt a strong connection to and enjoyed being around. We all became pretty close that year after living in the same hall, and we ended up staying together until the end of our college career. But as life ebbs and flows, mistakes are made and life-lessons are learned, the relationships began to change. In the beginning, we felt the same about the environment around us. We had come to the school because we knew the education would be outstanding but I don’t think we were expecting the rest of it. As I contemplate on this time in my life now, as a 37-year-old adult with a family and life experiences under my belt, I realize how much we had on the ball if we had just recognized it. But college is so hard for adolescent kids. Everyone is trying to fit into this perfect mold and also discover who he or she really is as individuals. Some people find it right off the bat, others it takes years to develop. But my college experience was not full of fraternity parties or sorority socials. I had chosen not to pledge after going through rush during my freshman year. I remember being so nervous around all the other girls; they were so perfect. I just didn’t see myself fitting into their perfect world. Perhaps it was good I did not join because I struggled enough with control as each semester passed and I placed more and more expectations on myself with my classes.

Those expectations grew into something bigger and more dangerous and suddenly I found myself in the rabbit hole of self-control and restrictions. I destroyed the relationships I had built around me during my college career because of my reckless obsession to become perfect. We, as a group of girls, did not know how to handle it, and I let it go too far. Who can ever be around someone who never smiles, who is stressed out all the time and feels such a lack of self-worth? It is depressing and sour, and relationships won’t last a single minute longer than necessary. I take all the blame on losing my friendships from college. I can’t blame those girls for not wanting to be around my crazy-mindedness and me. I was so intense and self-imploding; I didn’t even want to be around me.

Here we go on the journey of an eating disorder. It is an ugly journey that completely engulfs every being of your mind. It is a disease about control; at least that is what mine became centered on in college. I loved my coursework, in spite of the occasional boring required class. My professors listened to my viewpoints during lectures and I never felt awkward when I visited office hours. My brain was there in front of my face and body. It was the first thing someone saw when I entered the room. But placing intelligence in one basket entirely can be dangerous for someone of my nature. I wanted perfection in my classrooms, especially when it came to grades and my budding passion for becoming a writer of some kind. It fed the Demon that told me to portion out servings and live on a fat-free regiment. I could tell you how many calories and fat constituted normal “pantry” foods. At meals, I would count in my head how many calories I ingested during one meal. I controlled how much I ate, what I put in my mouth and how long I stayed awake to study. It was an endless cycle of self-destruction. It blew away my body, and it engulfed my friendships in flames. It was an awful way to live, and I have only myself to blame for it all.

College was the time when I started running every day and when I really began working out. I was trying to make my body match my brain so when I walked into a social setting outside of classroom professors and students I could feel strong and empowered. Running allowed me to break out of the ironclad determination I slipped on every day I attended class. I could breath easier and loose myself in the natural high running can give a person. I competed with myself on how fast I could run at times or how long I could last if I didn’t count the miles. When you are living on a diet of low-fat carbohydrates and little protein, your body starts to shrink. For me, it was a visual affirmation to how well I was running my life. Yes, I could do this all on my own. I could earn the grades, be my own self away from my family and begin to fit into the beauty I saw all around me on campus.

It makes me sad when I sit and write about this because I see now what a waste it all was for me, and for my parents. I blew away four years of my life and missed out on fun times and everlasting friendships because of my self-destructive, obsessive behaviors. It can make a person become so humble to fully accept such a verdict. To know that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to my actions. I am the one to blame.

This inner competition sticks with me today, although sometimes I have to squelch that Demon and make it behave. The self-competitive me became the anorexic me after freshman year. Finally, it is out and in the open. The ugly, nasty “A” word that every parent fears will label their child. My parents lived that fear when I came home for that first summer after finals. I had ended the relationship with the boy from my high school senior year and my heart was broken, my spirit demolished but my intellect was intact. I had earned high grades that year. I had also lost 15 pounds since Christmas break, and I really didn’t have 15 to lose.

I changed, and not for the better. My grades kept going higher as my weight went lower during each semester. I watched relationships become damaged and endangered during the rest of my college career. All because I was trying to fit into this mold I believed I needed to fill. I placed that expectation on myself, despite the pleadings of my parents and my closest friends. The latter part of my Junior year was when I hit my lowest weight, under 100 lbs. I had not had a menstrual cycle in months. My roommates and my parents had an intervention one night before midterms. It still makes me tear up after all this time when I remember those conversations. The anger and despair we all felt at one time, in one tiny dorm room, now floats across my mind. I knew I needed to change, but I didn’t know how to do it. I was tightly wound, rigid as steel and I wasn’t sure I would ever become the person I was before I came to college.

But I fought, and I fought hard, to find myself on my own. I knew I had to change and that I had to be the one to do it, but it would not be overnight. I lost a roommate after junior year because she could not live with it all anymore. I wouldn’t have blamed the others if they had moved out too. No one can survive around someone who is hard as stone and driven to a point of madness about academic responsibilities. I dug deep in my soul to find strength to let go of my inner demons. I needed to relinquish the control I was trying to have on every single aspect of my life. I needed to learn to breathe again like I did before I turned into this crazy monster that forgot how to have fun and relax.

I know now, with time and wisdom, my lack of self-worth brought me down the path of self-destruction. It got to the point when my parents wanted to bring me home to them. They threatened to pull me out of school and move me home if I didn’t start to eat more and put on some weight. My hair was beginning to fall out and bones began to protrude in places. So I agreed to eat, and my mom would drive down to school every so often hauling a load of my favorite treats and goodies. Doing anything she could to make me eat. But what is ironic is how that was the last thing I needed. I get that now as a parent because parents will do anything to protect their children. All my parents wanted to do was protect me and help me find myself again. My parents and roommates did the best they could in that situation. But my mom’s brownie truffle was not the answer to the problems at hand. It was a Band-Aid to a very large sore.  I remember my mom stopping in Nashville one weekend, bringing me yet another bucket of brownie truffle. As she placed the bucket on the counter she proceeded to tell me how proud she was that she didn’t even “lick the spoon” while making it. That statement was a slit to my anorexic wrist. You don’t tell someone suffering from an eating disorder how excited you are for restricting your own self from something. The anorexic (me in this case) will take that to the next level. It just goes to show how intricate this disease can be to someone not suffering from its claws. When she left that afternoon I threw the entire container in the trash completely untouched.

My parents tried to find a psychiatrist on campus for me to see. I met with some old-school psychology guru who had published a few books through the university’s press. It appeased my parents and kept me enrolled in school. I was now surviving on two fronts. As a student wanting to earn the grades and as an anorexic hiding her dirty secret from the world. He was a nice man, and we only met for about an hour. He told me how worried my parents were for me and talked to me about why I didn’t need to put so much stress on myself. The honest truth here is I could not remember one thing the man said to me during that visit. There was no personal connection. He was just a means to an end for my mom and dad. I appeased it all so I could pretend I was getting better and able to change. Again it is the intricate workings of a mind whittled with self-doubt. I just wanted to get out of there so I could hit the library again and continue preparing for exams. He gave me one of his books to read and told me to call if I needed more help. I left that office knowing I would never see his face again. I lied to my parents when they called to ask how it went. I said the man really helped me and I could already feel myself getting better. Again, another Band-Aid to a huge ulcerated sore. It made my parents feel better, especially with them feeling helpless and lost as to how to handle my situation. I did end up reading this guy’s book he signed and gave to me. It wasn’t bad, just not what I needed at the time.

This was how I lived the remainder of my years in college. Trying to put up a good front of being “healthy” and eating better, yet compensating for all the additives in my life. I ran longer, worked out harder trying to “adjust” for what I put in my mouth in front of friends and my parents. I was fighting a constant battle in my head that said I needed to get my shit together, but also not to cave to weakness. I was the one in control here, nobody else. I called the shots when it came to my lifestyle. It was a slow beginning to the process of retraining my brain for anything close to normalcy.

Before my senior year of college, I took an internship in Washington, D.C. That was a great summer. I lived in a city full of energy and fun people who were like the “old” me. I found a bit of myself that summer, making new routines and reminding myself that what I did with my body was for health and happiness and nothing else. My brain led me through it all, keeping me focused and grounded. My heart began to heal from a long and exhausting point in my life. I turned 21 that summer in France with my parents, and I learned on that trip how to develop a healthy relationship with food. I also became in love with wine and it introduced a new level of connection with my mom and dad. I know this is why I have such a big heart for wine and all it encompasses. That summer was a time of healing for me and again I was finding myself opening up to a new point in my life. I had decided to move to Dallas, Texas with my dear friend from high school. She was graduating from Texas A & M the same time I was graduating from Vanderbilt. My life was finally coming together, and it was in a good way.

Changing was not easy, but slowly, with time and a lot of perseverance I prevailed. My friends helped me, as did my parents. But the biggest help to me was myself. My ability to see reality for what it was and take slow and steady steps away from the muck of anorexia. I never did see anyone professionally for my disease. I worked through it myself with books, strong friendships and a passion for learning how to eat the healthy way.

I had to completely re-wire my entire relationship with food after college and post-college. It took a good ten years to really discover living with a nutritious diet. I continued to read books, find videos and television shows on cooking and create my own perspective on how food should taste and what I wanted to eat every day. Gone were days of frozen vegetables for dinner or saltines and honey for lunch. I was now discovering an entirely new lifestyle, and I was beginning to fall in love with wholesome food. I knew what I cooked and ate was going to be good for my body. I lost the fear of putting something in my mouth. I lost the fear of relinquishing control over something because I was completely involved in my diet.

Unless you have walked the footsteps of an anorexic or bulimic, it is hard to understand what goes through the mind of someone suffering from these diseases. The issues are real and ugly and completely opaque to the rest of the world. One little word or a phrase can turn someone’s sphere upside down. And now that I am older and have worked through my own issues with my eating disorder, I have become so very sensitive to what the rest of the world discusses. I know that word or phrase which destroys a girl’s (or boy’s) self-esteem and self-worth.

My eating disorder led me down a new path with food. I am to the point now where I love knowing how beneficial healthy foods can be for the body, and I am not scared to sit down and eat full meals. I no longer count calories when making meals. I just simply assess what I feel hungry for and what I think my body may need. I let go and started letting healthy food rule my diet. I was finally becoming free of my Demon. And I also learned to enjoy wine with my meals, and discover the beauty and potential it has on one’s life.

I ended up graduating from Vanderbilt with honors, and they were earned with blood, sweat, and tears. I poured my heart and soul into my education and desire to become a writer of some kind. Thanks to my professors and my parents I had a new kind of boost and it was that I could write and do it well. My dad always told me writing is something that can never be taken away from me. A person doesn’t forget to write if it is a talent that comes naturally to them. Something completely inherent in my soul, this is what writing is for me. I had battled dragons of control and self-worth in college, but I had come out the victor. I had bruises and scars that would take many years to heal, but they are also reminders of what I know I can do to make myself better. I know I have the strength in me to put up a good fight, and my experience as an anorexic showed me how to put my dukes up.

Age is not a bad thing because it also gives you wisdom. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about finally getting comfortable in my own skin. It took time to figure that out, and it wasn’t an easy discovery. I am not saying life is always peaches and cream, just the opposite in fact. But I have read enough books about how negative society can be, how all kinds of media can prey on men and women and how such unrealistic expectations are completely worthless. Each page I turned made me realize how much easier my own battle would have been with these recitations and realizations about body image and health. I know my experience with an eating disorder led me to the path of learning to love food, to learn how it nourishes our bodies and what I can do to make myself stay vibrant from the inside out. It led me to develop a stable relationship with exercise and listen to my body. I know when to reach for goals and when it’s time to back off. God allowed the failures of my early twenties to open the door and discover happiness and confidence. How poetic His pathways can be for us when we are simply still, listening unfiltered to His words.

I have often wondered if my experience would ever help prevent someone from going down the path of destruction as I did in college. I was one of the lucky ones who made the turn before real damage was done to my body and my mind. Yes, it took some time to heal physically and mentally from my experiences, but it was peanuts compared to what some boys and girls go through with an eating disorder. And unfortunately, it all starts at such a young age, often before kids hit double digits. Coming back to the town I grew up in to raise my own family, I see small glimpses of destruction and I want to reach out and stop the train wreck I know will happen in a few years to these individuals. How sad is that? Our children are finding out at such an early age what self-worth is and isn’t in life. It makes my stomach flip and is why I am so protective of my own children, especially my daughter. I will fight for her and fight hard to keep her on the path I wished I had stayed on years ago. I have my ammunition ready for whatever battle I face. I just wish I could protect all the soldiers out there who will succumb to the unrealistic expectations lurking out in the real world.

Thank you, Susan Jaramillo, for being brave enough to share your story with the world. It gave me the strength to share my own story in hopes it might touch someone.   Perhaps it will permit someone feeling lost and forgotten to stop and smell the roses. Allow someone to realize they are shining stars amongst a sea of darkness called Reality.

If you know someone suffering or if you are suffering from an eating disorder, please have the strength to get help.   Find a friend or loved one to confide in. There is no shame in what you are experiencing. The shame comes from ignoring the problem and letting it fester like an open wound. Power comes with knowing how to heal oneself, and that power lies within you. Although I was able to work through my issues alone, there are some out there that may need the love and support of outside help. It can be hard for the friends and family of someone suffering from eating disorder to disassociate their feeling and emotions from the problem at hand. They are too connected to the person suffering from the disease. If this is where you find yourself, there are also countless third-party resources available, like the National Eating Disorder Awareness website (www.nedawarness.org), to provide direction. Counselors and therapists are specialized to help people heal from this disease and can hold an individual’s hand through the walk of recovery. Or simply talking to someone recovering from his or her own disorder, such as myself, could be a great place to begin the pathway to freedom. If you know someone suffering from an eating disorder, reach out to that person; give them the confidence they need to find a way out of those invisible chains of destruction. You never know what people really need unless you first open up your heart to them. Eating disorders are a silent disease that can be cured, treated and overcome.

For anyone who needs an anonymous ear to listen, I can be reached at sbrhodes@sbcglobal.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspirations 

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The last couple of days I have been home with a sick kiddo, so I had a few minutes to let my kitchen take over my brain.  One of my favorite go-to proteins is ground turkey.  It is easy to prepare and you can add just about any spice to it for a tasty outcome.  I usually buy a one pound package of organic turkey meat to give me a few meals to eat during the week.

This week I dediced to make my turkey more “Korean” inspired by adding my favorite condiment in the world, Go-Chu-Jang.  Although it is impossible for me to actually say aloud, this sweet and spicy pepper paste will make you turn away from any barbeque sauce on the market! You can marinade with it, toss it in ground meats, or use it in dips and dressings.  So this is what I poured over my turkey as it was sizzling on the stove, along with a little sea salt, cracked pepper, cumin and onion powder.  I would say a hearty pinch or two of each spice and at least an oversized tablespoon of the paste.


My ultimate goal was to make a Korean Taco Salad for lunch, so after I sautéed some onions and a little lacinato kale in the turkey I started on the salad.  Salads are great because you can tailor them to whatever your dietary needs may encompass.  For mine I did an organic mixed greens with spinach, baby bok choy, and sweet baby kale.  For my “add-ins” I threw in some roasted macadamia nuts, half a diced avocado and some goat cheese crumbles.

I wanted the dressing to mimic a fiesta ranch, but minus the dairy.  So I used two tablespoons of paleo mayonnaise, 1/2 to one teaspoon of Harissa, a good dash of onion powder, basil, parsley and cumin.  Then I whisked it together with some coconut vinegar and fresh lime juice (about a teaspoon).  I adjusted the taste with salt and pepper, but the outcome was exactly what I wanted! Spicy and creamy, it made the perfect dressing.  All I had to do after mixing the salad was top it with my turkey meat. I will definitely be making this salad again because it was so yummy and healthy! Plus it was filling, leaving me completely satisfied when I finished.

Day two of being home I decided to go a different direction, and it was super quick and easy.  I hulled out five Baby Bella mushrooms and topped each with Daiya mozzarella cheese (non-dairy cheese that melts like real cheese!).  Placing the mushrooms in a dish, I broiled them in the oven on high for about 3 to 5 minutes.  Long enough to warm the mushrooms and melt the cheese.  Once they were finished I topped each mushroom with my remaining turkey mixture and part of a diced avocado.  Round two was just as tasty as yesterday’s salad!

So the next time you find yourself staring blankly at the contents of your refrigerator, maybe these two little inspirations of mine will lead you to your own creation in the kitchen.

Until next time,

Cheers!

Reworking Breakfast

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Mornings at my house are hectic and fast-paced.  The minute I open my eyes, and hit snooze for the sixth time, I roll myself out of bed to start the process.  Kids up, kids fed, kids dressed, lunches packed and off they go to school.  

The last thing I seem to have time for is making breakfast for myself.  Some people are not big eaters in the morning, but for this busy mom I need some fuel to keep me going.  Yesterday my family ate breakfast at a local chain restaurant after church.  One item on the menu was called “Eggs in a Basket.” It consisted of an egg cooked in the middle of a piece of bread, then toasted.  It sounded good-but I wanted to see if I could make it a bit healthier. 

So this morning I had a few extra minutes and thought I would give something a whirl.  Here is what I did to make my own version of this restaurant’s “Egg in a Basket.”

I started off using some good olive oil in a small skillet.  I let this heat up a bit on medium-high heat while I tore a couple of leaves of lacinato kale up into tiny pieces. Lacinato kale is not as bitter as traditional curly leaf kale, so I like to use this in my recipes.  I let the leaves crisp up in the olive oil for a minute or two, threw a dash of salt and pepper on it and finished it with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.  

Once the kale was crispy around the edges I pushed it to the sides of the skillet and then cracked one cage-free egg in the middle.  You may need to add more olive oil, depending on how much you started off with and what the kale soaked up.  I let the egg cook to “over medium,” with the whites fully done and the yellow slightly runny.  Then I took the crispy kale and put it on top of my egg. That part of the recipe was finished!

While my egg was cooking, I toasted a piece of brown rice bread.  You can use any bread you like here.  I chose brown rice because of my gluten intolerance.  I used a small section of an avocado to spread on the bread like you would jelly.  Then I placed my cooked egg/kale mixture on top and suddenly had a healthy breakfast cooked in under 10 minutes! 

It was a slightly different version of what I saw on the menu yesterday, but it was definitely just as delicious and a lot healthier! If you are a vegetarian, or have an egg intolerance, you could use some cubed tofu and crisp that up with the kale.  It would make more of a “hash” than using an egg, but it would take the same amount of time and be just as yummy. 

However your morning may begin, taking time to fuel your body for a busy day is a definite priority.  Not only will your tummy be satisfied, but your body will benefit too.  

Cheers and Happy Monday! 

Back in the Saddle Again

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The second day of January reminds me a little of Ash Wednesday after a gluttonous Fat Tuesday.  New Year’s Day usually involves trying to remember resolutions and finding the jar of aspirin to calm that raging Champagne headache.  But the second day of January usually entails gym memberships and healthy diet plans.  Today I was thinking as I start this new year how I need to get back in the saddle on things, especially my diet.  I don’t really worry too much about the holiday season, especially the two weeks my children are home from school because staying on track with a body-healthy diet takes up time and energy I don’t have to spare. Perhaps you are “Supermom” or “Superdad” and can do this, but this mom is realistic and knows where to pick her battles.  Kale smoothies and beet juices are not going to be one of them.  And thankfully the gym stays in my normal routine because it is the only place in town with a kid-friendly “parental reprieve” for stressed-out moms and dads.  So I know when the walls are crashing down at home I can always turn to my window of “free” time at my gym.

Now that the holidays are officially over I decided today would be the perfect opportunity to work my way back into cooking the foods I love because in a couple of days my kids will be back in a routine and life will calm down for a while.  One of my dear friends gave me a cookbook for my birthday.  Now I love a new cookbook, especially one that involves mind, body and soul.  It just makes me want to go home and start whipping up dish after dish.  This cookbook, entitled “Eat Yourself Calm,” by Gill Paul, teaches what foods are considered calming to the human body based on whatever ailment you may be suffering.  It explains what superfoods, minerals and vitamins are great to help with issues ranging anywhere from depression to headaches.  When I first got the book I flagged several recipes to try and tonight I cooked the lamb stew.  According to the cookbook (co-written with a nutritionist), the ingredients in this recipe are linked with easing depression, sleeplessness, headaches and low energy.  There are definitely a few of those I have experienced recently and on a rainy night, the stew sounded comforting.

The recipe called for lean lamb stew meat, lamb stock (which I used homemade beef broth), beans, canned tomatoes, garlic, shallots, bouquet garni, flour (which I swapped for brown rice flour), sea salt, black pepper and cherry tomatoes.  One thing you need to do when you cook stew meat, especially lamb, is to simmer it for a while on a low heat.  This is where the stock or broth came in because I used it to help tenderize the meat after browning it in the skillet for a few minutes. Although the recipe called for beans, I decided to omit them for the simple fact I did not have any at home.  I also swapped out the green beans for Brussels sprouts for the very same reason.  The lamb is supposed to aide in breathlessness, the sprouts handle concentration and forgetfulness and the tomatoes help relieve headaches.  I poured the finished product over some brown basmati rice and was really surprised how light the stew was, considering how thick and hearty it appeared to be in the end.  The brown rice I used is supposed to help with several factors, including low energy, mood swings, depression and even sleep problems.

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I am excited to try out a few more recipes in this cookbook and to maybe gain a few ideas for making up my own meals to get myself back on track with a calm and healthy lifestyle (or at least aim for that most days!).  Whatever your resolution may be this year, I highly recommend buying a cookbook to help jump start your goals or to give you some inspiration in the kitchen.  And remember you can always change up ingredients in a recipe to make it fit your lifestyle, so don’t be scared to experiment!

Cheers to a healthy and happy 2017!

 

Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas

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Driving home tonight on a December evening, the night is so clear and beautiful, I notice the stars above. Looking quickly through my windshield, since the road I am driving is a two-lane highway, it makes me remember days I stood outside at night with my dad and surveyed the different constellations in the sky. My father loved the stars and when we stood outside at night to let the dogs outside for one last potty break he would tell me different names for each one in the sky. Now when I look at the sky I always think of him. I know the Big Dipper is part of Orion’s belt and where to find Venus on a clear evening. I didn’t know the stars like he did, and in actuality, he probably didn’t know that many. But he was my dad and he knew the world. It didn’t matter if what my dad told me was wrong because he was there with me sharing something new and wonderful about my environment.

December is a wonderful time of the year. Everyone seems to be hopped up on the holiday cheer. I try and remember what it means to be a part of the holidays because the people around me love it so much. But inwardly this time of year is a bit hard. Just for the simple fact that my family is so different and there are huge chunks missing at our Christmas tables. But I know now I have to think on a bigger scale when it comes to Christmas and the holiday spirit. There is something greater in the world than my heartache and happiness. Is that not what this time of year means? To think outside of oneself and focus on others because no matter how awful things might seem to us, there is always something far worse and far harsher.

I looked at those stars tonight on the way home and realized my daughter sleeping soundly in the backseat deserved more than my own heartache. She deserved the belief I still have inside for a great Christmas. She deserves to know the love and friendship I grew up with around the holidays. Wrapping gifts, gathering to laugh and reminisce, those are memories my children need to have in their hearts. They need to experience the joy and love that comes from serving and helping others that need a lift in life. I suddenly realized tonight while driving how important it is for my own children to see me enjoy the holidays. They don’t know the true hurt that can come from an ugly world. Their family is intact and safe. Their life is still pretty sheltered in the idea that a large guy in a red suit is going to fulfill their every wish on Christmas morning. But is that really the true meaning of Christmas? Finding the perfect gift? I have already stressed about what to buy whom this year and it boggles my mind that I need to focus so much on the material aspect of the Christmas season when I really need to be focused on something much bigger. Christmas was not designed around the largest gift under the tree. It was created thanks to the birth of a sweet baby boy who saved the world from itself.

Thanks to those stars in the sky tonight, I realized while driving my daughter home that I need to open my mind and heart up to something more. I will always miss those holes in my heart, but the ones I loved and lost wouldn’t want their absence to take away from anyone’s happiness. I need to realize that Christmas is not about finding the perfect gift or fulfilling a quota. It is about finding a person to love and help. It is about being kind and understanding to one another. The holidays can be stressful enough without all the added materialistic and narcissistic aspects of today’s world. Think about Zu Zu’s petals in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and what they meant to George. It was a representation of how good life can be without all the fluff. So go focus on YOUR stars in the night sky and find what YOU believe in to make this holiday season a memorable one for yourself and for your family.

Merry Christmas and Holiday Cheers!

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Discovering the Essence of Time

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I have not had much time to post on my blog lately.  The holidays are starting and I find myself using up my spare moments getting ready for turkey dinners and holiday parties.  It’s a great time of year, but a very hectic one and the stress levels can often rise higher than a person desires.  Today I have been thinking about time, but not time in the sense of business meetings and various appointments.  No, the time I have contemplated on today has been God’s time.  I don’t usually write about my religion or my love for God on my blog  for the simple fact my thoughts are very personal.  But today I can’t seem to get Him out of my head, so it must mean I need to get Him onto paper and in this blog.

As a planner, having someone remind me that God’s timing in life is not going to coincide with what I want can be a little annoying.  Why can’t it all just work out and fit into a nice clean mold?  It won’t do that, and unfortunately, life takes an exuberant amount of patience (something I seriously lack!).  With events that have taken place recently in my life, I find myself amazed how God can put people directly into my path just when I need them.  I may not recognize it at the moment, but eventually, I get the “ah, well what do you know” kind of realization.  And He does this on His own timing after I have come to Him for help.  I feel like I had that recently, His timing on some things I didn’t even see coming.

The holidays are not always the happiest of times for people, including myself.  I miss those who are not longer with me, but I love to see the joy of the Season on my children’s faces.  If things in your life seem bumpy or uncertain, just remember we are not working on a typical schedule.  Life does not pan out according to our timing.  What we need and when we get it are not decided by us but are laid out in a delicate pattern by something greater than ourselves.  We are not supposed to understand the “whys” or “whats” of a situation.  It is easy to go through the motions and disassociate ourselves from what really matters.  I am just as guilty of doing this as the person next to me in line at the grocery store.  But every once in a while we get a smack upside the head and a gentle voice whispers to us, “I am here, and you are truly loved by Me.”

Until next “time,”

Cheers!

Finding Your Zen Moment

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If you are a fan of 90’s comedy, you may recall the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray.  The entire premise behind this film is repeating the same day over and over again.  As a mom of two, I feel like I LIVE this movie.  The alarm goes off, run downstairs to get liquid fuel (STRONG coffee), kids dressed, kids’ breakfast served, lunches made, kids’ teeth brushed, shoes on then out the door.  Wait, I just locked the door and realized I still am wearing pajamas-what the?!?

How easy it is to find ourselves in a rut that has us doing the same thing over and over again without stopping to smell the roses.  I find it can be the quickest way to drain the happiness tank no matter how positive a person you may be in life.  Going back to my new “journal” on happiness (see previous posts), a couple of lists involved naming things I am really good at and what gets me out of my head.  What gets me out of my head?  My goodness, just going to the bathroom without two children, two dogs and a cat would be a “get me out of my head” moment! But I did contemplate these two things and made myself step outside of my comfort box and really evaluate what I feel I do best and how that helps me “get out of my head.”  Basically, I discovered how many of the things I felt I was really good at doing also helped me find that zen moment.

What really constitutes finding your “zen moment?”  I thought about things that help me find inner peace and calmness.  Yoga, writing, listening to calming music, those are just a few things I listed that help me become relaxed.  You don’t have to sit and meditate to find  zen.  I really think the list was trying to make me realize what I do to find peace and quiet throughout my day.  Tonight it was typing on my computer, drinking a nice glass of wine and burning a candle that smelled of sea salt and jasmine.  There are a million things we could list on paper to help us find inner calm and sanctity.  But why do we forgo such a necessity?  Do we feel guilty for simply discovering what helps us become the best version of ourselves?

I also started thinking about how important it is for women (okay, men too) who work, raise kids or both, to find those moments that have us step outside of our crazy, busy heads and find a moment.  Because doing so will help us be able to focus on and accomplish those things we are considered “good at doing.”  Besides putting down writing as one of my better qualities, I listed being a mom as something I feel good about.  Am I perfect, well, absolutely not!  But I do try hard each day I open my eyes and see the faces of my kids.  I don’t wake up thinking “man, I am going to yell and scream today at every stinking thing my kids do.  Yeah!” No, I really do make a conscious effort to be the best that I can be at whatever role I find myself in for the day.  Always a mom, but perhaps I need to be the friend who listens or the person to give someone a friendly “hello” at the grocery store.  I feel by finding what gets us out of our head and helps make us realize what we are good at can bless the rest of the people we encounter throughout the day.  It creates a sense of positivity and elation, something to be passed along to others around us.  I never really thought about that until I was forced to write it down on paper.

I like the fact I had to sit down and really think about the things which make me who I am without someone else having to point it out for me.  I don’t feel like I am being narcissistic or vain.  I am simply recognizing the gifts God has given me as a human being on this earth and what I can do to help others around me who have other talents I definitely lack.    It creates a sense of how we interact with one another in this world, no matter what role we have in it.  Finding that zen in your day, no matter how short or long it may take, also helps you discover the inner self to make you smile and show the world who you really are in life.  I challenge you to list things you feel you are good at and find things to help you get outside of your head.  And remember to take the time to zen yourself out during a typical busy day or week.  You never know, maybe it will be the key to your own happiness.

Cheers to you all today!

 

 

 

A Soup with No Name

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We all have that moment when we open our freezer, fridge or pantry and realize it is time to clean house.  Just like a closet, your food needs to be inspected and weeded out every six months or so.  It is good to check your expiration dates, move items around that need to be  cooked sooner and make a note of what you don’t need the next time you find yourself wandering the aisles of the grocery store.  And this means saying no to the “10 for 10” deal on items your local grocery is trying to clean off THEIR shelves.

For some reason today I found myself trying to come up with something for lunch and the only thing that sounded good was soup.  Fall just lends itself to soups, chilis, and stews to warm the belly when the temperature starts to fall outside.  Today was no exception, and I knew I needed to clean out the pantry.  Of course, I found a plethora of items that needed to be used before going bad.  So I pulled several out of the pantry and came up with an idea for soup as a way to use them up.  The great thing I love about making soups is you can throw just about anything together and make it taste good, so long as your ingredients are wholesome.

Today I had cannellini beans, dried porcini mushrooms, canned tomatoes, some frozen greens, a frozen bag of onions/peppers/celery, and some frozen “meatless” crumbles.  I was feeling an Italian inspiration coming on with this one, considering the tomatoes, mushrooms, and beans were from Italy.

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Basically, when you are making a soup from scratch you just cook each item in layers.  So I started with the onion blend and some good olive oil on a medium-high heat.  Once that was defrosted and sauteed a bit I added the meatless crumbles.  I let that cook up a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, beans and then the vegetable broth.  I had to let the dried mushrooms soak a bit in warm water before throwing in just a handful to the liquid.  My seasonings were an Italian blend, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  I used roughly a teaspoon of the blend, 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic and a pinch of the remaining two.  With soups, you need to let all the ingredients cook down a bit and simmer before adjusting your spices.  My last go-to spice I use, thanks to my Mom, is Beau Monde seasoning.  This is the best little gem to having in your cabinet, especially when it comes to soups and sauces.  I can’t tell you what it is, but it really can pull all your seasonings together in the end of the cooking process.  I use it all the time in my cooking.

With soups, you need to let all the ingredients cook down a bit and simmer before adjusting your spices.  My last go-to spice I use, thanks to my Mom, is Beau Monde seasoning.  This is the best little gem to having in your cabinet, especially when it comes to soups and sauces.  My mom used this all the time in her recipes and passed this little secret on to me.  A mixture made of salt, onion, and celery, can really pull all your seasonings together in the end of the cooking process.  I am currently trying to use up my current jar so I can find an all natural version.  The one I have used for years has a couple of hard-to-pronounce names in the ingredient list.  I tend to steer clear of those when grocery shopping.  I may try and make my own Beau Monde blend when I find the time!

For a soup with no name, it turned out pretty tasty and gave me a healthy lunch without spending a dime.  Now I have some leftovers to get me through the weekend rush of activities.  I am trying my best to stay healthy and true to myself and making soups from some great ingredients is a sure way to fill your belly while saving on excess calories and unhealthy fillers.

Now, the only thing to make it better is a good glass of wine…but that would be ringing Friday in a little too soon for this mom.  If I had the chance, I would open up a nice Italian Chianti or Montepulciano.  No need to worry about a specific year or vineyard.  I would just find something that fits your budget but gives you a great punch on the tongue with the robust earthiness typically found in your Italian reds.  At least that is what I often taste when presented with one, others may have a different viewpoint (which is perfectly fine in my wine-tasting opinion).

So I hope your next adventure in the kitchen whips up something tasty while cleaning out the shelves.

Until my next inspiration,

Cheers!

Binging and Purging Social Media

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On a recent trip, I stumbled across a journal. Titled “52 Lists for Happiness,” I purchased it thinking it would help give me inspiration for my writings. I have to admit, much to my own chagrin, that I have enjoyed filling out these lists each week. It gives me small doses to help get my mind going and to hold me responsible for what I think and feel about the world around me. I enjoy engaging my mind on things that make me get out of my comfort zone and stare hard at myself in the mirror. It is a way for me to hold my thoughts and actions accountable.

One list I completed, asking “what makes me happy right now,” forced me to step back and really contemplate what things make me smile. It all involved interacting with friends or family, or doing something hands-on like journaling on this blog. Not once did I write “scroll the newsfeed on Facebook” or “see the latest pictures on Instagram.” Don’t get me wrong here because I use these sites often, especially when it comes to sharing the things I choose to write and publish for the world (A.K.A. my social media friends) to see and hopefully read. But I also think social media has a very dark and convoluted side to it.

As a mom, I often wonder what the impact, both positive and negative, social media will have on my own kids. The benefits are quite obvious, such as connecting to family members from across the country or even across continents. It can be a way to share news and spread viewpoints or ideas. Take this year’s election as an example of how social media can impact viewpoints and leadership roles. A click of a button can send a message for millions to see in an instant. But is there something frightening about the kind of power that simple act can evoke? Do we become so immune to the images displayed across social media that we turn a cheek away from something that could be vitally important to someone else?

I have young kids who are easily influenced by the technologies our society offers. iPads, iPhones, and other devices become habitual in nature instead of picking up a book or grabbing a favorite toy as a form of entertainment. You hear of health implications from so much exposure to technology, ranging from eyesight problems to sleep disturbances. Then you run into the entire genre of cyberbullying, which affects kids of all ages. Did you ever think one day the image of a single eyeball would represent someone tearing down another individual? The power social media can allow a person who enjoys belittling others is astronomical and it is something we will have to battle and endure for decades to come. In the “old days,” that kind of bullying was done in person or on the school bus.

Another side of social media that may not cross many minds is the loss of arts like letter writing and phone conversations. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and texting all have left a void for the younger generations when it comes to communicating with other people. Think about all the different texting lingos we use now that shorten words or phrases. How are we to teach our youth the proper way to write, speak and talk to other individuals when it is so much easier to simply send a “LOL” via smartphone? As a writer, this saddens me to see the beauty of the English languish demolished and destroyed and I wonder if we will continue to produce award-winning poets, authors, and essayists now that we are so dependent on a form of virtual language.

Binging and purging myself of social media the last several months has been therapeutic and liberating. Who knew simply not clicking on an icon could bring such peace and happiness? Do I completely stay off? Of course not because I do like connecting with people I don’t get to see on a regular basis. But I am definitely more conscientious of how much time I devote to my favorite social media applications. And I also am greatly aware of how it can and does already affect my children. I am trying to be more consistent with this mindset and not worry so much about who is doing what on a daily basis. Instead, I just need to focus on my family, make time for my friends and really enjoy the beauty life has to offer through relationships that don’t involve a newsfeed.