A Journey to Health and Wellness

This picture of Steve and me came up on my Facebook memories from 2 years ago. It struck me, seeing it in full color, the difference between what we looked like then and what we look like now.

I remember thinking at this point that we were both doing good, or at least better. I had been walking almost daily and had already lost 20 pounds. We had dropped red meat and rich desserts and we ate out only once a week. But we’d hit a standstill on our weight and my husband’s blood work, which meant he was still required to take cholesterol and blood pressure medications daily, and he was considered a diabetic and teetered on the line of needing medication for it. According to the revered food pyramid and the almighty voices of medical reason, we were playing by the rules. Eating what they recommended, getting plenty of exercise. And yet, we felt terrible and couldn’t find healthy no matter how much we exercised. Or how much white meat chicken and eggs we ate.

I went back through my FitBit app this morning and looked up how much I was walking during that time. I was averaging 90,000 steps a week. That’s over 40 miles a week. So, I wasn’t just sitting around being lazy and I wasn’t eating fast food and garbage. And yet I felt awful. This made me realize, after a literal lifetime of fighting this battle, that I may be looking at the whole thing all wrong. That maybe all I’d been taught about food was wrong.

I started a food journal. And I started researching food. Food intolerances, allergies, the food industry itself. And finally, what the healthiest people on the planet eat. Those who rarely see heart disease, strokes or cancers. And more specifically, what they don’t eat.

I was not looking for some overnight sensation with a quick answer. It became a journey with the only destination being health and wellness. Not a number on a scale or an size in clothing. Not a get-thin-quick fad diet or a new form of exercise with a promise or my money back. It was a search to find the healthiest version of ourselves. And the hope that we could beat the genetic odds which were pretty terrifying in both my family or my husband’s.

We’ve both lost 40 pounds since this photos was take two years ago. But now, I average 35,000 steps a week and they are leisurely strolls with the dog and kids. I do gentle yoga on occasion, once every week or two. Exercise has become about honoring my body, not beating it up because it isn’t what I want it to be.

And our blood work? My husband is no longer considered diabetic. We both have stellar blood pressure and our cholesterol is so low that it’s less than what is optimal or average for a 10 year old child. It’s so good that neither of our doctors sees numbers that good come across their desks. And best of all, we feel amazing. No more aches and pains and arthritis and stomach issues and fatigue and allergies and crazy mood swings. No more prescriptions with side effects. And best of all, we feel better than we ever have. Which is amazing since we are turning 44 and 49 years old this summer.

Our diets are simple foods now, yet never boring. We always have way more food dishes we want to try than meals to eat them. But they are made up of simple whole food plants. Fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, lentils. We relearned how to cook and love our food more than ever. We never have the feeling of being overfill or unsatisfied. I literally wouldn’t go back to eating the standard American diet no matter how much you paid me.

What we don’t eat is packaged foods, processed sugar, eggs, meat, dairy, or any kind of processed oils.

It sounds extreme me to most people. But Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, one of the most informative and inspiring doctors I’ve found in this journey, says, “Some people think plant-based diet, whole foods diet is extreme. Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme.”

This quote really hits home to me, since my mother had this exact procedure done after a massive heart attack when she was 54 years old. And the first symptom of heart problems is often a heart attack, which results in death half the time. Compared to all of that, eating plants seems simple. Not extreme.

I woke up to that old picture today and felt thankful. For what we’ve learned, for how we’ve grown and changed, and for how we have changed our lives. It could’ve so easily gone the direction of clinging to the standard American diet. I’m so thankful it didn’t.

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Our Lincoln

Our little Lincoln has been telling us for many months now, “I’m a girl.” If we say the word boy, Lincoln emphatically starts yelling, “I not a boy! I’m a GIRL!”

For a long time, we thought the desire for Frozen dolls, purple shoes, pink sparkly shirts, Rainbow Brite and all the unicorn love was a phase. But then we realized it’s an ongoing 2 1/2 year phase that has grown significantly stronger over time.

When Lincoln started using words to tell us, “I’m a girl,” and asking for only girl clothes and toys and shoes, we listened.

Why did we listen to a child who is not quite 4 years old, you ask?

Because in all my years of babysitting and working at a daycare and being a mom, I’ve never had to correct a kid on their gender. I’ve had to correct them not to bite, how to share, to not climb inappropriately on bookshelves, and how to use their voices. But never about their gender. Did anyone ever have to correct you on that? Or your kids? Or did you always know without being taught?

We are listening to Lincoln because at least 41% of kids with gender dysphoria will eventually try to take their own life. And as many as 75% will self-mutilate in some way. And those statistics are too big and too tragic to ignore. Especially since kids who are supported and allowed to freely express who they are have the same low statistics for self-harm as cisgender kids. And we want to give Lincoln the best chance we can to be happy and healthy, like every other kid.

We listened because the therapist that we see who specializes in gender-creative kids said that Lincoln has all the signs they watch for in transgender children. And that being supportive will do nothing but help Lincoln find her way, but that NOT honoring Lincoln in this will certainly cause shame and harm. And that nothing we are doing can’t be undone, should Lincoln suddenly “grow out of” this. Lincoln has been full of surprises thus far so we are as anxious as anyone to see how this plays out.

For now, Lincoln will be presenting as a girl in whatever clothes she sees fit, and we will be using she/her/hers pronouns. This seems the safest and more respectful course of action for our child. And the one recommended by experts in this field.

It should not matter to our friendships what kind of genitalia my child has beneath their clothes. I hardly see how it relates to our relationships. But we do understand that for some people, this may be too big and inundating a concept for you to want to deal with. Or even to explain to your own children. We do hope those friends will listen to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychology Association, and many other institutions that have studied transgender and gender-creative kids, where there are plenty of resources and data to prove that gender dysphoria is real and cannot be changed or influenced, only supported (or not supported).

I’ve always felt that it’s good to know who your friends are, and who your friends aren’t. If you do some research and/or respectfully talk with us and still cannot be supportive, we’d like to say thank you for the past we’ve shared but we respectfully ask you to politely leave our lives. The world is harsh enough and our first priority is our children and helping them feel loved and accepted as they are. If you are unable to do that, we understand, but then it’s best that we part ways.

What we hope, though, is that our friends and family are willing to learn and journey with us, to support Lincoln in whatever way she chooses to express herself as she ages, and be a supportive village for us as we make this world more accepting place for all of us.

We are absolutely humbled and grateful for the amazing love and support that we have received from our closest friends and family that we’ve felt close enough to share this with as we’ve been learning (and struggling to make sense of it all). When things got hard and scary, the people who truly love and support us as -exactly we are- have risen to the surface and been here and for that we are thankful and blessed.

If you are looking for more information, the documentary Gender Revolution with Katie Couric is an excellent resource and available on Netflix. I’m also attaching a link recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics which gives some very clear answers to questions that most people ask. Sadly, most people don’t know anything about gender until they have a reason to. This was also true about us. We are still learning, too.

We truly hope that all of you will open your hearts and minds, learn with us and stay along for the ride.

https://assets2.hrc.org/files/documents/SupportingCaringforTransChildren.pdf

A Glimpse of My Mom

I wake up each day and check Facebook memories, looking for a glimpse of my mother. And it is a glimpse, because as mothers we don’t put ourselves front and center. We hang back and take care of it all. It’s hard to be in the pictures when you are always the one taking them. Or in the kitchen doing dishes. But that’s mother’s for you, the magical fairies that get the impossible done day in and day out, most of us without thanks or praise, or help, even though we deserve it.

I wish I’d taken more pictures of my mother. But special occasions get hectic, and moms are always in the kitchen cooking, or someone already went home so we just don’t bother making the effort. And on ordinary days, the complaint may be that our hair isn’t right or we aren’t happy with our body or we didn’t do our makeup. There is always a reason to not take a picture.

And then we start to age. And our mothers age too and eventually die. And suddenly we realize that we spent 20 years in the background making life happen. And someday someone will look for pictures of us and only find glimpses. If the passing of a parent teaches us anything, it is of our own mortality.

Today is my mother’s birthday. She would’ve been 72. I still miss her fiercely but I would say that I’ve gotten more used to her absence. That alone is its own blessing. But I still wish I’d taken more pictures. I hope I can change this for my own children.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I know you are always right here inside of me, but I still look for you everywhere I go. ❤️

It’s Not About The Flag

 

It’s not about the flag. Or the anthem.

All of you are so stuck on the flag and the anthem. But that is just the road sign. It’s pointing the way to the real problem. But you’re all over here stuck on the road sign, screaming and yelling at it like it’ll change something.

I’ve been to your house for games and you talk incessantly through the whole anthem. Your brothers use the time to load up on food and go to the bathroom before kickoff. I see beer, and people excited about football like it’s a religion. There are always potato chips but no one is ever standing with a bunch of honor or respect. And no one making a big deal about it either.

Most people are sitting when the anthem plays. In fact, I have yet to see a living room full of people standing for the anthem, although I’m sure one of you yahoos will come here and argue me that you stand for it every damn time. And that’s great.  Good for you. But don’t believe that this is the qualifier as to whether you are a good American. Or a good human being. Standing in front of a flag while the anthem plays actually has zero to do with the kind of person you are.

Everyone’s relationship with the flag, and the anthem, is going to be unique and different. Because those things are just representations of how we feel about America, and of course, our place in it. So we are all going to have varying relationships with this country based on how we were raised and the courses our lives have taken. Just like how we worship and pray is unique for each of us, even if we all label ourselves with the same religion. 

Because these are very personal things. These are deeply-seeded, heart and soul subjects and we get especially defensive when someone touches us there.  Which is why it is so important to discern what is our business and what is someone else’s business.

It is not my business that they guy next to me goes to buy nacho cheese fries for $18 during Disney On Ice’s national anthem.

It is not my business if you pray sitting or standing. Or what name you have for your God. That is your business. Not mine.

So when a black Christian football player reverently took a knee on the field instead of standing, I took notice. Not at his relationship with the flag, because that is just the road sign, and his business.  Instead, I concentrated on the more interesting message of what he was trying to convey.

Not everyone in this country feels the same way about the flag and the anthem (and this country) because not everyone is being treated fairly. And the anthem is the perfect time and place because it is an expression of our relationship with America. 

Shame on us for wanting people to pretend this country is perfectly fine, for our own comfort and peace of mind. And when will the timing be right to get angry that our own citizens are being murdered by the police and treated like second class citizens? It seems that most American’s would like to go on pretending that racism is over. But this has been going on for centuries, shape-shifting along the way to suit society’s fears.  And if you don’t believe these things, you simply aren’t doing enough reading or educating yourself. You are not paying attention or you are willfully ignoring what it is like to be a person of color in America. And I get it that no one likes to get called out but it doesn’t make it any less true.

I do not know what it is like to be a person of color in America. And I cannot know, not ever. So it is certainly not my place to judge what kind of relationship someone should have with their flag, or anthem. And I have no business policing how someone should feel about their country. 

I do feel like it’s my place to be respectful and listen when someone has something to say, especially something I can’t understand because I’ve never lived it.

And a few more things…

Look up flag codes. You’ll find nothing about kneeling, but probably a bunch of flag code violations in your closet. So, you know, respect and all that.

No soldiers are ever injured in the kneeling during the anthem. It is WARS that kill soldiers, not kneeling. Do not confuse the two as they have nothing to do with each other. I’m not sure who started this bizarre rumor but soldiers are not injured by kneeling. 

Lastly, if we HAVE TO stand for the anthem, we are no longer a democracy. If you don’t believe me, look up the rules they had on such things for Nazi Germany.

 

 

 

The Temptation to Hate Mother’s Day

 

The truth is that it could be very tempting for me to despise Mother’s Day.

I never thought that I would miss my mother this much. She had so many actual life-and-death scares through the years so I was fully aware that our time was limited. And I knew I’d miss her, but I miss her in ways I didn’t expect.

I was going to tour Lincoln’s preschool and I thought that if my mom was still here, I would’ve picked her up, all dressed up and excited, and taken her with us. She would’ve wanted to see it. And Lincoln would’ve spent the tour holding her hand while I talked and learned about the school.

Or when Brice has a concert or a school picnic or Shining Star week, I think about how if she was here, we would’ve needed to pick her up and arrive extra early and get a seat where she could see. She liked getting to places as the doors opened. I no longer arrive early, I realize now.  I did that for my mom.

Or when I run errands, I think of how she always ran errands with me, and sat in the van with the kids for the quick stops so I didn’t have to drag them in and out. She could always placate them with suckers that she kept stocked in her purse at all times. Even though she never ate suckers. The supply was for these exact moments when her grandbabies needed one.

I think of all these things that happen that I want to tell her. Things that surprise me or make me scared or mad. And sometimes, I end up telling no one else because the only place it seems right to put it is with my mom.

And now, it’s Mother’s Day. If she was here, I would’ve asked what she wanted to eat and I would’ve made that and a bunch of other things she liked. And I’d get her something she’d been wanting or talking about or I’d take her shopping. And it would be days or a week of organizing to make the day special for her. And she did the same thing right back for me. Fittingly, it was our day.

And now, on Mother’s Day, I don’t really have anywhere to put that. The truth is, Mother’s Day can be kind of a shitty day for the motherless among us. It’s a really big reminder of what you don’t have anymore.

I’ve been wracking my brain all week, trying to remember my mom’s last Mother’s Day. And all I remember is being huge pregnant with Lincoln. And my mom in Brice’s room, reading to him from the book “I’ll Love You Forever.”

You know that sappy-ass book?

I went to check on them and found my mom reading through her tears. Tears just rolling right down her face as she read.  Brice didn’t seem to notice and wanted her to keep going. She looked up at me, covered Brice’s ears and said, “I hate this fucking book.”

In case you were wondering where I got my mouth.

And I started to cry (because I was 9 months pregnant, remember) and I went and hugged her and then we laughed. But that’s all I can remember from that Mother’s Day.

I knew it would be her last. I can’t believe that I didn’t try to keep and preserve every single memory, but in truth, I can’t remember what we ate or much of anything.

If there is any moral to this somewhat sad story, it’s that these creatures that we call “mothers” are not ours forever. They will most likely leave this earth before we do. And when they do, you won’t be able to bake them any more cakes or buy them any more necklaces.

So, if you are lucky enough to still have your mom, make her feel special this Mother’s Day. No matter what. Because I guarantee you there will be a time that you wish you still could.

                                                                              I am so close, I may look distant.

                                                                So completely mixed with you, I may look separate.

                                                                            So out in the open, I appear hidden. 

                                                                  So silent, because I am constantly talking to you. 

                                                                                                   -Rumi

The Crabapple Tree

 

 

Two years ago, I learned that I had a crabapple tree in my backyard.

I mean, I knew there was a tree there. I saw it and everything. But I had no idea what kind of tree it was, and in truth, I thought it looked kind of sickly the autumn that we moved into the house. It was tucked into the corner of the lot, butting up against a big power pole. It didn’t look like much, so except to think it might need to be cut down and we’ll see, I didn’t think about the tree at all.

Probably because on top of moving into our lovely old home that autumn, my mom fell and broke her pelvis, and I sent a kid across the country for college. And my mom died and life felt so hard that winter. I remember bits and pieces of that time. Trying to come out from under the grief of my mom’s passing like some heavy blanket that I couldn’t bring myself to crawl out of.

But the spring came and the grass turned green and there were tulips growing up out of the leaf piles, like little everyday miracles. And life felt like something that maybe I could join in again. I felt like I was taking brand new steps each day, learning how to live in a world without a mother.

Just when I felt like I had my footing, we learned that my 7-year-old niece, Riley, had a brain tumor. And that she would need operations on her brain, and chemo and radiation. We didn’t know for how long or what the outcome would be. I only knew that one of my very favorite people in the world had a brain tumor. And I could not wrap my mind around how a little kid could get cancer.

It was probably the darkest time I remember. Trying to find some answer or hope in a world that clearly had a sniper in every tree, threatening to take out everyone that I loved the most. It was easy to spot every single possible pitfall that could befall any one of us.

What was hard to find hope or reason in any of it.

Then one day I went outside with the dog and we were doing one of our many walks around the yard to get her to poop. And there was suddenly the most beautiful flowering tree. I had not noticed the buds. I did not know it was coming. I was too caught up in sadness to see much of anything.

But it was there anyway. A big tree full of pink flowers, so open and perfect and lovely that I could not name them anything but hope. Because pink is my niece Riley’s favorite color. Because I really needed some little miracle to bloom out of nowhere. And it did.

I stood out by that tree – day after day- for weeks, until the last blooms fell. I got attached to it in some way that one normally wouldn’t feel about a tree. Because for me, it isn’t just a tree. It is the thing that reminds me that there is always hope. And always beauty.

But hope and beauty are not something we find when we are chasing them. They are always right here.

It is only when we are ready to see them that they will appear to us.

I still love my tree. Proving to me again and again that there is always something waiting to come forward and bloom with hope, even when you are at your darkest and you don’t expect it.

The Little Pea Shirt

 

The shirt that Lincoln is wearing? My mom and I bought it for Georgia, 18 years ago this week.

We were all living in Colorado at the time, but it was mud season -when there is snow and mud but no work- so we hightailed it to California to see some family. We packed Georgia, who was almost 3, and Holly who was 9 months old, into the car and we drove out to San Diego.

We went to some cute outdoor shopping area while we were there and found these simple little shirts at the Baby Gap. We got one for both Georgia and Holly, because they were soft and sweet and simple. Through the years, all of my kids have worn these two little t-shirts.

I was digging in bins last weekend for 3T clothes for Lincoln and I found the Little Pea shirt. Again. It’s been 19 years and it still resurfaces to fit the next kid.

Like magic, Lincoln fell in love with it when I found it. He immediately put it on over his dinosaur shirt. Even though it isn’t pink or purple or covered in Frozen characters or any other of the things that make Lincoln agree to wear shirts.

There are so many things that have changed over these 19 years. So many different homes and parts of my life. The girls are grown and in college and out of the house. I am married with two boys and we own a lovely home. The dogs and cats have passed away and been replaced with new ones. My mom is not here with us to shop for cute t-shirts.

But the pieces of our past seem to refuse to be buried completely. They resurface, exactly when they will fit, to be loved again. ❤️