Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mirror, Mirror

object mirror object by Emilie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I've never been a fan of the mirror. Even at my thinnest, I wasn't one to spend much time checking my reflection. But in the last few weeks I've realized that for months (maybe even years) I've been avoiding the mirror.

I don't know when I stopped looking in the mirror. It wasn't a conscious decision. It just happened. My mirror avoidance developed as quickly and quietly as the pounds packed on.

Of course I glance at my face as I wash or apply lotion. I sometimes check my outfit to make sure there aren't any hand prints or stains on my clothes. But I won't linger. I won't really LOOK at my reflection.

Why? What am I afraid of?

I'm afraid of the thoughts that might arise as I scan my body, recognizing curves that have become rounder and fuller than they were a few years ago. I'm ashamed and embarrassed by what my body has become.

I know that's not what I'm supposed to think. I know it's not how I'm supposed to feel about this body that has created life, that has carried me through challenges and adventures and tragedies alike. I know I'm supposed to love my body just as it is. But right now, I just can't. Or at least until now, I haven't been able to.

Today, I stood in front of the mirror before I got into the shower. I looked--really looked--at my body. This is what I saw: a round face that looks tired but happy; shoulders that keep creeping up toward my ears instead of relaxing down my back; a chest that is rounder and hangs lower than ever before; a belly that droops over a long scar, hiding the evidence that babies formed and grew inside me; thighs that overlap and rub against one another; ankles that are like tree trunks and feet that are wide and flat from years of bearing the weight above them.

This is all what IS. I'm doing my best not to judge it. It is my body after growing two healthy boys. It is my body after several years of stress, overwhelm, poor eating, lack of exercise and minimal self-care. This is where I am now. It does not have to be where I end up.

I worry, though, that I've let things go too far. I fear I've forgotten how to be healthy. I wonder if there's really time and energy to take care of myself, to plan healthy meals (and cook them), to exercise and practice yoga on more than an occasional basis.

I still have to try. My body is begging me. I feel so heavy and uncomfortable. I lack energy and I'm irritable. I realize I can't change what has already happened. I can only change what I do and feel from here forward.

And so today I choose to go to the gym. Today I choose to eat healthier than yesterday. Today I choose to stand in front of the mirror and look at my body without judgement.

With each day, hopefully, I can rebuild those healthier habits. I can do one thing to take care of myself. I can learn to look in the mirror and see my body through a lens of appreciation again, no matter what the scale says and no matter what size my pants are.

I will do my best today. That's all I can do.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Things have started getting pretty blurry. It happened slowly, so I didn't really even notice. Then one day, after cussing out my contacts for not working, it occurred to me that my vision just might have changed over the last...has it really been 5 years since my last eye exam???

I sat in the chair while the eye doctor prepared to check my vision, and without my contacts in I couldn't even read the lowest line of letters projected onto the wall in front of me. I'd been living my life with blurry vision for YEARS without even noticing. Or rather, without paying any attention.

As the doctor flipped through the levels of correction and answered "Better or worse?" over and over again, things began to get clearer. I could again see the clean edges of the letters in front of me. I could identify all the letters on the smallest of lines.

When he was finished, the doctor rolled his chair to his desk and began typing notes into his computer. Then he turned to me and said, "Well, you need bifocals."

I must have had a shocked look on my face, because he quickly added, "It usually happens around 40. You only need a very low magnification. Look for +1.00 reading glasses to use when you're wearing your contacts. You can get them at any drug store these days."

As I ordered my new frames and lenses, the salesman asked if I'd like "progressives" or traditional lenses with the line. "No line, please. I'd like to at least pretend I don't need bifocals."

He gave me an obligatory chuckle and wrote up my order. I obviously wasn't the first one to say such a thing.

A week later, wearing my new progressive (ha!) glasses, things are a little wobbly. I'm adjusting to a visual field that changes magnification with the movement of my eyes. I almost fell down the stairs the other day, because my depth perception was a bit off as I looked down through the "reading" portion of my lenses.

If I forget I'm wearing them and tip my head up as I'm looking toward the distance, things become blurry and distorted and my head begins to hurt. But if I tip my head down and gaze through the tops of the lenses, things become clear again, better defined. I can't help wondering if getting these progressive lenses is a reminder that there are different ways to look at the world. Maybe they're reteaching me that what we see in front of us varies depending on what angle we use to look at it.

Maybe wearing bifocals isn't such a bad thing after all. Maybe it's just the vision adjustment I needed to start seeing things clearly again.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Starbucks Kindness

Coffee by Cheryl Foong is licensed under CC BY 2.0
This morning, I dropped my oldest at school and headed to the nearby Starbucks, where I’ve started setting up my mobile office for a couple of hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I got in line and studied the menu, deciding on a Chai Latte and waiting my turn. 

I listened to the young woman in front of me order an herbal tea. “Wait, do you guys have coffee? Just regular coffee?” she asked. Her clothing was dirty and she was wearing too many layers for even this cool morning.

The barista looked up from the register with a small smile and said, “Yeah, we have coffee.”

“Okay, can you make it sweet?” She mirrored his smile and I saw how pretty she was. Maybe 20 years old, she clutched a plastic bag with what I assumed were her only possessions. Or maybe simply the most important ones.

“Sure, hot or iced?” he asked.

“No ice, just regular hot coffee. Sweet.”

The barista grabbed a cup and began marking it with her order. The older woman standing in front of her smiled and waited to pay, and I realized she was planning to buy this young woman’s drink. Once the older woman’s order was rung up, she said, “Oh, I'm getting hers, too.”

The barista waved his hand and said, “Oh no, we’ve got it. Thank you for your kindness.”

And that was it. The generosity of one woman became a gift from Starbucks instead.

So today, when I woke up too late and had to rush through our morning routine, when I feel a bit overwhelmed and under-motivated, suddenly I am warmed by a simple act of giving.

I am reminded to be kind. Do good. Love others, even in their mess, even in the smallest of ways. It will always matter. And the rest—the hurt, the overwhelm, the craziness and difficulty—will begin to feel a little…less. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sugar, You Have No Power Over Me

Sugar by Moyen Brenn is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Thanks to a little nudge from my sister-in-law, I started a 21 Day Sugar Detox five days ago. 

I wasn't well prepared, but I was motivated. My diet has been less than stellar for, oh, four years-ish. Basically, since I was pregnant with my oldest little one I've been choosing to give in to every craving that comes along. 

Not the best way to stay healthy--during pregnancy or otherwise. 

So when my SIL asked if I wanted to join her in giving up sugar, and pretty much all carbs, I said "Hell yes!" Okay, I wasn't quite that excited, but I did say I'd give it an honest go. 

The first four days were easy. Like so easy that I thought, Why didn't I do this sooner?!? Who needs sugar?

Then I woke up this morning and all I could think of was toast and bagels and lightly sweetened cereal. I was tired of eggs. I wanted my Sunday chocolate croissant from the Farmer's Market, for god's sake!

But I'm plugging my way through the day, snacking on turkey slices and cheese sticks and carrots. I know I can do this. I know I'll feel better once I get through this first week. I know there's a light at the end of the tunnel. 

I also know that I may only be a few days into this study of my self, but my choice to lose the sugar has already taught me a few things. 

1. Cravings will pass. I probably knew this already, somewhere in the back of my sugar-addicted brain, but I'm remembering that when a craving strikes it will eventually go away. It's not going to stick around forever and if I can get past that initial drive to locate chocolate at all costs, I can make it through the day/week/month. 

2. I eat for all the wrong reasons. When I eliminated the option to munch on whatever I wanted throughout the day, it became abundantly clear that much of what I was eating was not for nourishment. I wasn't eating because I was hungry. I was eating out of habit, to stave off boredom or to deal with stress. Not all the time, but often. 

3. Treats are meant to be treats. Until this detox, I'd basically stopped saying no to treats like ice cream and chips and cookies. If they were around, or I was craving them, I'd eat them. After not having any sweets or other junk for a few days, my mind has cleared a bit and I've realized that I don't have to give those things up forever. But when I do have them, they should be a treat. Not something I eat every day or night just because that's my routine. 

They may seem like simple lessons, and this detox may seem like an extreme measure to learn them, but sometimes we (or at least *I*) need a strong kick in the pants to change track. Removing nearly all carbs from my diet for three weeks won't be simple, and it's obviously not a permanent fix, but I'm positive it will readjust my perspective on food and change some of my eating habits for the better. Until I get completely back on track, I can remind myself when I'm jonesing for potato chips that I'm choosing to be a healthier version of me. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

So This is 40...

40 Austin's 13th Birthday 2012-Edit by Meredith Bell is licensed under CC BY 2.0
I hadn't been thinking much about it. It's honestly been the last thing on my mind. But this month, I turned 40. The big 4-0.

I'm suddenly at mid-life and now that it's really hitting me, I'm freaking out! Sure, I've done a lot in my 40 years. But what have I really accomplished? What do I still want to do? Will I ever realize those dreams I keep talking about?

I've traveled, but I want to travel more. I want to see new places, experience new cultures and show my children how big the world really is.

I've built relationships that have lasted through some tough times and I've lost some friends along the way, too. I want to continue to nourish those friendships and connections that are meaningful. And I want to release the ones that hurt too much or are too exhausting to manage.

I got married, I became a mother and together with Hubby I created a family. I want to continue to build that family by investing time and energy into it. I want to be present in their presence and I want to feed not just their bellies but their souls.

I've written, but not enough for my liking. I want to invest time in my passion. I want to write things that touch the hearts of others. I want use my writing to connect with new friends and change lives in both the biggest and smallest ways.

I've learned something new--about life, love, myself, the world--with every passing day and year. I want to continue to learn each day, knowing that with every lesson comes the responsibility to teach others.

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I've loved and I've been unkind. I want to love more, to have compassion for those that need it and kindness toward even the most unkind I encounter. I want to rise above the reactions of others and trust that if I act out of love and kindness my life will also be filled with love and kindness.

I've lost weight and I've gained it again (thanks to two back-to-back pregnancies and the choice to give in to every. single. craving.). I want to create a life of healthy habits again and find that balance between obsession and resignation. I will choose foods and activities that nourish me. I will take the time I need to care for myself, as well as my family. And if all that results in a smaller waistline, I'll take that, too.

If I accomplish even a few of these things in the next 40 years, I think I'll have done well in my time on this Earth. Here's to 40 more!

Friday, January 01, 2016

Expanding in 2016

HK 2016 Countdown by Calvin YC is licensed under CC BY 2.0
It’s noon on January 1, 2016 and I’m sitting in the Odyssey with my lap desk crammed between my belly and the steering wheel, working on my first blog post in who knows how long while the Jellybean snores quietly behind me. 

I don’t even dare look at the date on my last post for fear I’ll start beating myself up for my lack of consistency, my lack of focus, my lack of commitment, my inability to use my time wisely. Frankly, all that beating takes too much time and energy.

So I’m sitting here. Writing. Even though there are a million other things I could be doing. Even though I'm worried no one is reading anymore. Even though I'm SO tired and would like to close my eyes and start snoring quietly, too.

It’s hard to keep coming back to the blank page, but this year I’m doing it. I’m making my creative pursuits a priority. I'm done making excuses and I'm ready to be the writer I keep saying I am.

With that in mind, my word for 2016--my mantra, if you will--is EXPAND. This year I will:

Expand my boarders. 
I’ll push through the walls I’ve built out of fear and pursue the dreams I’ve been forming in my mind. I’ll find growth in choosing to see boarders as flexible and transparent.

Expand my creativity. 
I’ll write, take pictures, color in coloring books, read, visit art museums and learn from other artists. And I’ll learn from my children as they revel in their own creativity before anyone tells them to be grown and serious.

Expand my vision. 
I’ll dream bigger and let my imagination run wild. I’ll write down goals, create vision boards and live with my eyes wide open, looking for opportunities to take more chances and make more space for successes.

Expand my yoga practice. 
I’ll get on my mat and I’ll sit in stillness. I’ll be present and I’ll share my heart with my family, my friends and with new acquaintances.

Now that I’ve shared a bit about my goals for 2016, I’d love to hear what your goals are for the year. What is your word for 2016? What will you do to make this year your best year yet?

Monday, July 06, 2015

What I've Been Writing (When I've Been Able to Write)

"Multitasker, Duplo-Thinkpad" by Thomas Angermann is licensed under CC BY 2.0
I'm aiming to blog more frequently, and I suppose I have to start somewhere. So here I am.

I've said it before, and I'm saying it again: I have a million ideas for blog posts, but finding the time to think them through and type them up is a challenge, to say the least. When you're raising a freelance business along side a family, especially when that family includes two Littles under three, getting anything other than the necessities done is a miracle. (I don't use that term lightly here. I truly believe it's miraculous when I manage to clean the bathroom before it's a disgusting mess that demands cleaning.)

Right now, I have fifteen minutes to write this post. I'm squeezing blogging in between three hours of freelance work and a long list of household tasks I hope to get done before picking up the boys at the sitter. Fifteen minutes doesn't leave room for much thought or editing, but it's enough to get things started. It's enough to move myself forward and to begin. I may not finish in that time, but I'm making progress, and that's better than letting this site sit stagnant while I wish and hope for time to write more, blog more, do more.

Right now, my life is revolving around the mantra: What You Can, When You Can. If you're a busy gal (or guy) who's trying to make any sort of life changes and you haven't heard this mantra, or don't know about the #wycwyc (wick-wick) movement, you should definitely check it out. (I have more to say about this later, but for now, this will have to suffice.)

Speaking of freelance work (I know, worst segue ever!): I've been blogging for The Penny Hoarder and am loving the opportunity to write about ways that SAHMs and WAHMs can make and save more money. Those are topics that I'm pretty passionate about these days, as we live on a limited budget ourselves and are trying to make a move into a bigger house in a better neighborhood. If you're interested in what I've been writing, or just want tips on saving money (or making more of it), check out the pieces I've published so far:

In addition to blogging for other sites, I'm doing some technical writing and editing, along with a bit of virtual assistant-style work for a content management consultant. It's a good variety for right now and I enjoy each job for different reasons. 

And with that, my time is up. The kitchen calls, with it's dirty dishes and floor that needs mopping. With any luck (er, I mean, lots of planning) I'll be back soon with another post. Until then:

Where can you free up a little time to do the things you REALLY want to do? What can you start NOW, right this minute? What can you make a little progress on, even if you know you won't finish?

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